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Madison Pearsall of La Grange, Ill., studied information science, systems and technology
Why did you choose Cornell?
For the opportunity to pursue academics and the gymnastics team.
Main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?
Varsity gymnastics team - I've been a student-athlete my whole life, and continuing gymnastics in college was a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. The girls on the team have been my closest friends at Cornell, and they are a large part of what makes it so important to me. As a support system, there's none better, and together we've been through it all.
While at Cornell, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?
The balance I've found between athletics and academics and having been named an ESPN the Magazine Second-Team Academic All American in 2010 and a four-semester member of the 400 Club for student-athletes with at least one semester with a 4.0 GPA. And I'm an NCAA Regional Qualifier and six-time USAG All American between the events of vault, floor, uneven bars and the all around. Beyond the gym I'm very proud of the community service work the gymnastics team does. We often work with the kids of Big Brother Big Sister, and, through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, we have 'adopted' a young girl with a brain tumor and made her an honorary member of our team. She has marched with us at meets and hangs with the team whenever she can.
Your most profound turning point while at Cornell?
One night junior year I was invited out with some friends and ended up making a bunch of new ones at what became an early morning celebratory breakfast of bagels and champagne. There were athletes and Greeks, researchers and presidents of clubs doing amazing things I hadn't even heard of. I don't think it was really until then that I began to recognize the breadth of Cornell.
Did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?
I'd say that the most profound change of interest I had while at Cornell was in figuring out what exactly my interests are. It took time to accept that it's not being good at everything that's important but finding what really excites you that matters. For me, it's solving problems, being given pieces of a puzzle and putting them together.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I've accepted a position with the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in Chicago. The consulting position will give me exposure to various industries and ways of thinking. I want to keep learning and solving problems wherever I can.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
In 2009, Cornell became the first non-scholarship school to win the USAG Collegiate National Championship for gymnastics. It's what we work for all year long. I, personally, had my career high all-around score that day, which became the third highest score in Cornell history. Similarly, the score I received on uneven bars, another career high, helped to drive my average score up to lead the team in that event. At the end of the meet, we were sitting down waiting for the winners to be announced. They said fourth place, third place ... we were still waiting. Then they announced it: 'Your 2009 National champions, Cornell University.' Everyone went wild; we had no idea we had won. It's one of the most exciting moments I can remember. There's nothing better than a team coming together at the right instant and feeling all your hard work and sacrifice pay off.