Ivy Envy

I completely blame my Dad (may he rest in peace) for my interest in the Ivy League (most recently piqued by this New Yorker column on Ivy League percentages in presidential administrations). A classic Korean immigrant, my Dad was obsessed with Harvard. In fact, my parents settled in Belmont (a suburb next to Cambridge) so that all 7 of their kids could live at home and be but a short bus ride to Harvard (unfortunately, he went 0 for 7 on that dream). I wasn’t a good enough high school student to consider the Ivy’s for college, but by the time I finished my Master’s I was, and was accepted to several schools – including Cornell – for my Ph.D.

But then I was faced with a problem. Should I follow my (or rather, my father’s?) Ivy envy to Cornell, even though I was warned by multiple faculty members and students that my potential advisor was crazy, had an intellectual property lawsuit waged against her (by a former disgruntled graduate student), and that I should be prepared to change advisors (and fields entirely) if I came to Cornell? Was I tempting fate to walk into that situation with those famous suicide gorges nearby? Was it worth suffering 4-6 years of academic torture to attempt to validate my intellect with an Ivy League pedigree?

I ended up heading to Queen’s University in Canada, where the advisor seemed (and ended up being) the perfect fit, the tuition was a pittance, and my Master’s would actually count for something (at Cornell, they would have made me start over again). When I told my Dad about my decision, he hung up the phone on me and didn’t talk to me for 3 weeks. It wasn’t until sometime told him that Queen’s was considered the “Harvard of the North” (disputable, what with McGill and University of Toronto, but whatever…) that he perked up and started talking to me again.

Ivy envy apparently runs deep.