Class of 2012
Don’t tell Nicholas Booker-Tandy ’12 there is something he can’t do.
“My first semester here, my advisor, Dale Grossman ’72, told me that I couldn’t get a 3.5 [grade-point average], says Booker-Tandy, an applied economics and management major with a focus on marketing in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
After earning a 4.0 GPA during his first semester, Booker-Tandy walked into Grossman’s office and placed his transcript on her desk.
“She started cracking up,” he recalls. “Then she said, ‘the only place you go from here is down.’ I was like, ‘Oh, she’s challenging me again.’”
If she was challenging him, then it worked. A Dyson Scholar, a Cornell Tradition Fellow, a Pete Knowles Scholar, a Mortar Board Honor Society member, and a student-athlete, Booker-Tandy maintained a 4.0 GPA during his three years at Cornell. “I don’t like to settle for anything less than an A in any class,” he says.
As a result of his drive and initiative, he was selected from 180 students in the Department of Applied Economics and Management to participate in the Dyson School’s two-year inclusive leadership program, Business Opportunities in Leadership and Diversity (BOLD). The program’s emphasis on diversity attracted him, Booker-Tandy says, in large part because of his experiences growing up in the melting pot of Pompano Beach, Florida, and touring as a singer and dancer in a hip hop group, Hip Hop Kidz, in Singapore.
He was also one of 200 students selected from a nationwide pool of candidates for Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), an 18-month intensive career development program for minority college students. It is an experience that Booker-Tandy credits with preparing him for an internship last summer in the Direct Sales Media and Entertainment division of Google, Inc.
When the Big Red football program approached him when he was a high school student, he says he knew very little about the Ivy League.
He spent his first year of higher education at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, but transferred to Cornell after his freshman year. NCAA regulations would not permit Booker-Tandy to play for the Big Red gridiron squad his first year at Cornell, and although he missed playing, he says the year gave him the opportunity to “really grasp … the academic aspect of everything, and learn just how the system works here at Cornell.”
Interacting with the Cornell community as “something more than a student-athlete” was a valuable experience, he says. He worked in the Public Service Center and volunteered at Ithaca’s Human Rights Commission, helping the agency digitize its records. Then, as a member of the football team, Booker-Tandy participated in Big Red Reader, a program that sends Cornell student-athletes into local schools to read aloud to children.
When Booker-Tandy joined the Big Red football team in 2010, he made an immediate impact. Since then he’s ranked among the team’s leaders in rushing and receiving and was a second-team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America selection. For the 2011 season he moved to cornerback from running back and became a major contributor to the team’s defense.
That same year, Booker-Tandy and Shane Savage ’12, an All-American wide receiver for Cornell, co-founded the League of Extraordinary Athletics.
“Here’s the thing. We spend so much time with our respective sport and with academics, we don’t have time to prepare ourselves professionally, until it’s almost too late,” Booker-Tandy says. “You see guys scrambling at the last second to go to an informational interview, or asking for resume help for things that are coming up.” The league, a professional development program for these athletes, would help prepare them for life after college.
Currently, Booker-Tandy is an intern in the Office of Supply Management Services in Cornell’s Division of Financial Affairs, and he is considering future career choices. “I may possibly work at Google, or do some consulting for a few years, but I am going to get my MBA,” he says.
With a father who is a professional jazz musician and a mother who is a vocal teacher, Booker-Tandy always considered music an important part of his life. He has played oboe, French horn, clarinet, and tenor and alto saxophone, although he claims to be proficient in only the last three.
“I’m really interested in sports and music, so I’d like some kind of strategic planning position for one of the leagues or a sports agency, something along those lines,” he says. “Ten years from now? Hopefully, I’ll have a family and possibly two kids. Perhaps I’ll be running my own company.”
He also sees possibilities with the League of Extraordinary Athletics. “If it becomes national, that could be something that we could run with,” he says.