Statistics expert, social justice advocate, and Jazzercise pro—learn a little more about Cindy van Es, professor of practice at the Dyson School.
Q: What would your autobiography be called?
A: I Can’t Believe She’s a Stat Teacher
Q: If you had to describe your life using a movie or TV show, what would it be?
A: There is no TV show that I can think of that’s about a “crazy math teacher who takes trips to Africa.”
Q: If you were an animated character, who would you be and why?
A: I would be Dumbo the flying elephant because I do things that people don’t expect me to do, and I love elephants. I admire them because they have compassion, they take care of the herd, and they are magical creatures.
I chose Dumbo because he can fly, and he is not the elephant you’d expect him to be. Because I’m interested in diversity issues and I teach statistics, I am not what people expect me to be. I like to work in Africa, and I also taught a men of color class. There are so many things that I do that are unexpected.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a professor?
A: I knew I wanted to be math teacher since I was eight years old. I have loved math since I was a child, and I love working with students. That’s so dorky… but I own it.
Q: What do you like best about teaching at Cornell?
A: I love the students and the challenge of being around young, interesting minds. I like being part of Dyson so that I can give students a different perspective on life. My definition of success is typically different from theirs, and I think it’s important that they see my definition too.
Q: What do you like to do for fun in Ithaca?
A: Dancing! I love to swing dance! I love any kind of dancing and listening to Motown music. I also go to Jazzercise for fun—it’s like old-lady dancing. I also like to go out to those dinners where you have a five course meal with wine pairings and listen to all kind of interesting stories.
Q: What is your favorite memory from growing up?
A: I liked playing mini golf with my father. On Fridays, we would always go out to dinner, go to the movies, and play mini golf. I had a lot of fun with my dad.
Q: If you could teach anything other than statistics and diversity courses, what would you teach?
A: Philosophy. I really enjoyed taking philosophy classes in college because it was mentally stimulating—I double-majored in philosophy.
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would that be and why?
A: The power to stop corruption. I’ve done work in Africa and other parts of the world and I’ve met some amazing people who are held back by a system of corruption. If the corruption wasn’t there, the government could do things that would allow people to move ahead.
Q: What is a fun fact about you?
A: I like to bake. When my kids were small, I used to make special effect cakes, like Halloween cakes with burning eyes, volcano cakes that exploded with lava, or even spaceship cakes with smoke coming out. I also always danced and had fun while I baked—my kitchen is a place where I dance a lot.
Cindy van Es is a professor of practice in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. She has a PhD in Statistics from Iowa State University and joined Cornell in 1988. She teaches three courses in the undergraduate business program: Introductory Statistics, Business Statistics, and Impact Learning: South Africa.
Her general area of interest is statistical education, with a focus on business applications. Her research focuses on the impact of race and gender on learning in statistics courses. She currently serves as director of Undergraduate Studies. In this position, she provides leadership and supervision on activities within the undergraduate program, focusing specifically on implementation of the undergraduate curriculum and review of academic policies. She has served as director of the Dyson Business Inclusion and Diversity Program, which has the strategic goal of providing all undergraduate students the opportunity to be exposed to the theory and practices of intercultural and international management, while supporting affinity groups (women, minorities, first generation, and LGBT students) through specialized programming.