'To my own surprise, I discovered new interests of mine'

Sydney Bednar

Information Science
Greenwich, Conn.

What was your favorite class and why?

I took INFO 3450: Human-Computer-Interaction Design with Prof. Gilly Leshed, and it was my first exposure to user-centered design. We spent the semester learning about design principles and ethics and then applying that to our own semester-long group projects where we were tasked with designing a technology that solves a social problem. My group created an application to help people quit vaping. This project required us to conduct user interviews, as well as complete other outside research before settling on a design, which helped ensure that we properly responded to user needs. I loved this class because it was challenging but also very applicable. The skills I gained over the course of that semester have been incredibly useful in my job as a product designer, as well as in many of my other classes at Cornell.

group of women taking selfie

What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you?

The Cornell Women’s Varsity Squash team became my family the day I arrived at Cornell. Being a student-athlete has defined my Cornell experience, and I am so grateful for all that I have learned from my teammates and coaches these past four years. These incredible women are not only some of my best friends, but they are also my mentors and support system. Being a captain for the past two years has been both challenging and rewarding. Staying motivated after our season got cancelled due to the pandemic was not easy, but I am proud of how much our team has grown and improved, and I know that the relationships I have formed will last long after graduation.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

This is not a specific memory, but more of a common occurrence. I live in a house in

woman outside

Collegetown this year with 10 of my friends, and our porch has become our favorite hangout spot. Some of the times that I treasure the most are the beautiful sunny days when my roommates and I are sitting on couches out on the porch playing Code Names or paint by numbers or just listening to music. On these days, our neighbors will even walk across their yard to join us, and the next thing we know, we’ve all been sitting out there for hours. I know that when I look back at my time at Cornell, I will always cherish the simplicity of our porch days. It is so special to live in a community where I truly feel comfortable going up to anyone’s doorstep!

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?

Being in the College of Arts & Sciences taught me how to step outside of my comfort zone. We are often tempted to only take classes that we know we will succeed in, but A&S challenged me to explore different subjects, teaching styles and perspectives. To my own surprise, I even discovered new interests of mine. One valuable skill that I gained was the ability to synthesize all of this information by finding connections between my classes. In my web design class, I often found myself recalling concepts from my visual studies and art history courses. In networks, I used what I had learned in my game theory class as a conceptual model. As I reflect on my A&S education, I am able to find a real-world application for each of my classes, and I feel that I am graduating with a more open mind.

person skiing

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

I am currently working on my senior thesis with Professor Matthew Wilkens using text mining processes to analyze online eating disorder communities. I believe that looking into these communities can help us better understand the experiences of and better treat those who are struggling with an eating disorder. Throughout my research, I have been able to integrate what I’ve learned in both my data science and design courses to create work that I am incredibly passionate about. On top of that, this process has challenged me to be honest with myself about my own preconceptions about eating disorders and to analyze the data from a very human perspective. I am proud of all of the computational and qualitative work I have done, and I hope that my contribution can help us uncover where the gaps are in current eating disorder treatment.


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 2023.

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Sydney Bednar