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Joanne Wang

Meet Joanne Wang

College: College of Arts and Sciences
Major: Biological Sciences with a concentration in Biochemistry
Year: 2024
Campus employment: Trail Running Physical Education Instructor, Cornell Outdoor Education (COE), and a Student Representative to the COE Board

Career Readiness Competencies gained:

  • Professionalism
  • Career & Self-Development
  • Equity & Inclusion
  • Leadership

Students work at campus jobs and internships ranging from office support to peer advisor to intramural referee -- many of which are hosted within Student & Campus Life. In the interview below, learn more about Joanne Wang, who is employed as a Trail Running Physical Education Instructor for Cornell Outdoor Education (COE) and serves as a Student Representative to the COE Board.

Out of all the opportunities on campus, why did you choose this one?

I love to run and as someone from Eugene, Oregon, which is also informally known as “Tracktown USA,” I decided to take the same trail running class I am currently teaching to fulfill my PE requirement in my freshman year, which was during the peak of COVID. Despite all my other classes being over Zoom, this class was in person and I loved it. My freshman year was not only isolating, but also very stressful, as I, and my classmates, all had to take on the challenges of adjusting to college life while dealing with COVID.

Thus, I looked forward to every trail running class because I not only got to be outside and explore Ithaca’s beautiful nature, but I also got to really connect with my classmates, who were usually from different places and in different majors. This class did wonders for my mental health. There is nothing better for the mind and the soul than spending time outdoors. Not only were the other students in my class super wonderful, but my instructors were also amazing. They were so kind and welcoming. My instructors really inspired and encouraged me to apply for a job at COE as a trail running instructor, which is why, along with my positive experience as a student, I decided to join the COE family.

After a semester of teaching trail running, my love for COE only grew. I knew I belonged there. I loved being surrounded by people who loved being active outdoors like me! It made me feel at home. So, when Mark Holton reached out with the opportunity to apply to be a Student Representative to the COE Board, I jumped at it. I wanted to become more involved in the COE community and make PE classes more accessible for all students.

Describe some of your responsibilities

As a trail running instructor, some of my responsibilities include training new instructors, planning each class (route planning, driving, choosing a location, etc.), teaching students how to be safe outdoors, teaching the importance of mental health and how being outside can benefit everyone’s mental health, teaching students trail running techniques, making sure to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment so all students can get to know each other better and feel safe, etc.

As a Student Representative to the COE Board, some of my responsibilities include attending Board meetings and providing a student voice in those meetings, advocating for students and COE staff needs, making COE classes more accessible for all students, being a bridge between students/staff and the Board, increasing COE outreach, helping to plan large COE community events etc.

What skills have you developed in your campus job?

Some skills I have developed through my job include leadership, organization, self-sufficiency, communication, critical thinking, open-mindedness, flexibility, and so much more.

- Professionalism: As a trail running instructor, I’ve learned how important it is to plan ahead and be organized. When you take students trail running at an off-campus location, it is critical that you have a concrete class plan, have prepared a route, and have comprehensive knowledge of the terrain because not only do you want to keep students engaged, but you also want to ensure their safety.

- Career & Self-Development: As a trail running instructor, I’ve learned CPR and first aid skills, which are required to be a COE instructor and are overall very useful life skills! As a student representative to the COE board, I’ve learned how to be both self-sufficient and creative because as a student representative, there aren’t really concrete tasks that you have to complete by a certain deadline. As a student representative, you are encouraged to come up with your own projects that enrich the COE community.

- Equity & Inclusion: As a trail running instructor, I’ve learned about the importance of flexibility when teaching a course that involves students of many different ability levels. While the trail running course does require that you are able to run for at least 50 continuous minutes, different people who take the trail running course have different running capabilities, so it is important to be flexible and structure the class to allow everyone to participate, regardless of how much experience they’ve had with trail running or running in general. As a student representative to the COE board, I’ve learned how to advocate for myself and others. Change does not occur without speaking up about the things that matter, and this is no different at COE.

- Leadership: As a student representative to the COE board, I’ve learned the importance of communication. When acting as a liaison between students, instructors, administration, and the Board, knowing how to communicate effectively is critical for making sure that all voices are heard and changes are made.

As a trail running instructor, I’ve learned how to speak effectively and clearly to a group. In order to ensure the highest quality of the class, it is very important to make sure the trail running students know where they are running, the relevant safety concerns, and fun facts about the nature around them!

What comes out of your position that most surprised you?

I think what has surprised me most through my teaching and involvement at COE is how much being outdoors and sharing that natural magic with others has done wonders for my personal and mental health. It really has been the highlight of my time here at Cornell.

What experiences or skills have you developed that you feel will help you down the road in your career?

I think one of the biggest skills I have developed that I feel will help me down the road in my career is the ability to foster an inclusive community and connection between people of all backgrounds. My trail running instructors, when I took the class freshman year, made a huge effort to make sure that we all knew each other’s names, and that is something that I have taken with me as I also teach the class now. I think something as simple as knowing each other’s names can do wonders in creating a safe space for students to make connections and grow. I hope to be able to foster a similar welcoming environment in my future career.

What advice do you have for other students interested in an on-campus job?

I would tell students to get involved in what they enjoy on-campus and then find jobs through those activities! Loving what you do is so important and working on something you are passionate about can make all the difference in the world for both you and those you are serving.