Alum Flourish in Cornell STEM

3 Mavericks studying in the competitive STEM program credit their Montrose grounding with their success.
Bella Rinaldi ‘19 is a senior computer science major in the Cornell Engineering school and loves working in data analysis in the sports world, which she calls her “first passion.” Neha  Sunkara ‘21 is also studying computer science and hopes to work in the software industry. Sofia Conte ‘19 earned an undergrad degree in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell in December, and in May she will earn her Masters in the same subject, concentrating in digital systems and computer architecture. She plans to work as a digital systems engineer designing and creating digital hardware after graduating. 

Both Bella and Neha found their love for computer science while at Montrose, while taking the school’s award-winning AP Computer Science classes. “I actually hated computer science when I was young,” Neha said. “I had big plans of studying astrophysics, and so when Montrose hosted Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Rainer Weiss as a speaker, I asked him what I needed to do to stand out in the field. He told me to study computer science.” 

After taking her first CS class at Montrose, she fell in love with the subject. “If it weren’t for speaking with Rainer Weiss, I might never have sought out the CS program at Cornell.”

“In my math and Latin classes at Montrose, I always enjoyed feeling like I was solving a puzzle,” says Bella. “When I took AP Computer Science, it was that and more: I could make anything out of code. That was very powerful to me - I loved the puzzle aspect of it.”

All three young alumnae credit Montrose with enabling them to engage in their STEM subjects with thoughtfulness. “Montrose teachers taught me the median ‘virtue’ or balance between abstract theory and applied concepts,” says Bella. “Now, how I relate things and connect and synthesize concepts has become a force of habit because of how I was taught. Connecting abstract details with the concrete big picture has become a subconscious practice that I attribute to the way I was taught at Montrose.” 

Neha emphasizes that the habits of character she learned at Montrose strengthen her desire to make a difference in people’s daily lives in her computer science work. She explains, “In science and especially computer science, we should care deeply about ethics, data leaks, and companies abusing their power. Maintaining the integrity, character, and ethics I learned at Montrose is so important.”

Within their first weeks at Cornell, all three girls found themselves continuing habits Montrose helped them form, which led them to excel in their STEM subjects.

“In my freshman acclimation course, one message they kept driving home was how to have a growth mindset,” says Bella. “For me, this was already second nature, as Montrose instilled in me tenacity in everything I do.” 

“Going to office hours frequently was a habit I learned at Montrose, and it has helped me build relationships with professors and TAs in an environment that can be isolating,” Neha adds. “When I’ve gotten a poor grade, my growth mindset didn’t stop me there. I knew I could push myself to do better, and I did do better. That’s something Montrose taught me.” 

Sofia concurs: “My Montrose background definitely helped me the first year of college. I remembered that Montrose had challenged me academically, and through that, I was prepared for how to handle the workload and how to bounce back from a bad grade. I entirely attribute my writing skills to my humanities classes at Montrose. And all the AP classes I took were definitely helpful in fulfilling all my undergraduate requirements and starting my Masters early.”