'I yearned for a knowledge that extended beyond my familiarity'

Andy Maghacot

Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and Literatures in English
Allentown, Pa.

Why did you choose Cornell?

Growing up in a neighborhood in which I was always the minority, I yearned for a knowledge that extended beyond my familiarity. Cornell University's Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program is a pioneer in queer studies, and I knew the program's classes would not only introduce me to intersectional feminism but also to my own identity.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of?

girl in front of ivy-covered wall

Imagine my sophomore year self, bawling my eyes out in my professor's office. Leading up to this point, my K-12 teachers have always told me, "Your writing is good as always." I thrived when I wrote, as if writing came easy to me. This statement followed me into college, resulting in me majoring in literatures in English. When I took Literatures in English I (an introductory course for the major), reality hit me hard. After receiving a C on my first essay for the class, I felt like a failure. I doubted not only my ability to major in literatures in English but also my ability to write at a college level. All of this uncertainty terrified me, and I needed help. I garnered enough courage to speak to my professor for the class, Rayna Kalas. I expected harsh criticism; I did not expect compassion, which was the reality. Professor Kalas helped me realize that becoming a better writer, especially an analytical writer, is a lifelong process. She challenged me to leave behind the phrase, "Your writing is good as always" and to always feel immense pride in my improvement. Professor Kalas cultivated my growth and my self-confidence. When I received an A on my final essay for Literatures in English I, I was over the moon and felt so proud of myself — I celebrated my improvement.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

Jane Juffer, without a doubt, positively influenced my Cornell education the most. I first met Professor Juffer in her class, "Kids Rule! Children's Popular Culture" during the spring semester of my sophomore year. She then became my major advisor for both literatures in English and feminist, gender, & sexuality studies and my senior honors thesis advisor. I quickly discovered her dedication to her students and her compassion toward everyone she meets. After I came out as non-binary and started going by "Andy" in my emails (without officially telling anyone of my name change), Professor Juffer noticed right away and referred to me as "Andy" without hesitation. It was a small action, but it meant the world to me. Every conversation with Professor Juffer (both in person and virtually) was filled with genuine kindness and sincerity. She became a safe space for me to be vulnerable about my mental health, and she also became one of my biggest supporters as I figured out my post-graduate plans. I look up to Professor Juffer so much, and I am beyond grateful to call her my mentor.

What are your plans for next year?

Starting in Fall 2022, I will attend Teachers College, Columbia University; I will pursue a master's degree in elementary inclusive education, as well as an Initial Certification (New York) in Childhood Education and Teaching Students with Disabilities for grades 1-6.


Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2022.

More News from A&S