Emily Cheng '18

Emily Cheng
  • Chemical Engineering

Why Cornell?
I was mostly applying to schools near my home in Tennessee when I heard about Cornell. At the time, I was looking for schools with well-renowned engineering programs, and Cornell certainly fit that description. Additionally, I sought a school that would allow me to interact with people from many different cultures and backgrounds. Because of timing and travel constraints, I actually matriculated to Cornell before I was able to visit. The risk that I took in deciding to attend without knowing much about Cornell turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

Leadership Positions Held at Cornell:
I am currently the Musical Director for my a cappella group, Less Than Three A Cappella. I have held a number of positions within that organization and have also been on the executive board the last three years for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Within SWE, I was the Director of Student Services for two years and am one of the outgoing co-Directors of Conference. I am currently the most senior member of the Thompson research group (MSE) and have been mentoring and training the new undergraduate and graduate students. During my time at Cornell, I have also been also a mentor for the CUEmpower Engineering Mentorship program, a piano teacher for the Cornell Piano Society, and a volunteer for elementary STEM outreach.

Major Accomplishments as a Leader:
My a cappella group is one of the youngest groups on campus, and I am honored to have been a part of its tremendous growth over the last few years. As a group open to all who identify as women, genderqueer, and/or nonbinary, we are committed to advertising to diverse audiences that are LGBTQ+ and/or of all cultures and backgrounds. With the help of the other members of the executive board, I led the group to grow from performing for dozens of audiences to a few hundred every semester.

In SWE, I led several fantastic teams to grow our monthly general body attendance by over 200%. Since SWE is the largest engineering student organization, it was important to me to create more social opportunities for our members to build lasting friendships, invoke a sense of belonging, and mentor younger students. I also spearheaded the creation of a major team-building event that raised money for the American Association of University Women. Working with my various student organizations and my research group has given me the opportunity to gain experience leading both large and small groups, and I am looking forward to working with more teams in my future career.

Advice for Future Student Leaders:
In my time here, I have found that the key to being an effective leader is knowing when to say no, how and when to delegate, and what the strengths and weaknesses of your members are. Every member of your team has the ability to contribute positively to your organization, and understanding how to help them find their place and feel included will not only bolster the effectiveness of your organization but also create stronger friendships. The most important lesson I have learned at Cornell is how to fail, and it has allowed me to understand myself so I can be both a better teammate and better leader to various organizations.

Post-Graduation Goals:
I will be working at Apple this summer as a Materials Engineering Research & Development Product Engineering intern in the thin films department. I will be returning in the fall to complete my Masters of Engineering in Materials Engineering (MSE). I plan to work in the electronics/tech industry in the future after completing my masters. Additionally, I would like to work with more nonprofit organizations in the future to support women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. Outside of engineering, I produce music professionally and would love to expand my repertoire and client base in that field once I graduate.

Favorite Olin Hall/ChemE Memory:
The CBE holiday party last semester was a lot of fun. It was great to see everyone dressed in their best party clothes and take a night off, and I enjoyed reminiscing with friends about how far we had come since sophomore year.

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