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The College of Arts Sciences

Senior Profile: Quinn Olsen '16

April 15, 2015

By: Agnes Shin, A&S Communications

Quinn Olsen ’16 is combining her interests in archaeology and engineering to complete a concurrent degree in Classics and civil engineering.

While this may seem like an odd (and surely unconventional) mix, Olsen says that the concurrent degree blends her interests together quite well. In high school, she’d enjoyed math and wanted to do engineering, but had also taken four years of Latin and loved her history classes.

So for Olsen, the dual degree program was the perfect solution.

Within the Classics major, Olsen is concentrating in classical civilization, taking courses in material culture, art, history, literature and the like.

Her favorite part about these classes, she says, is the hands-on aspect – which might be surprising to those unfamiliar with Classics courses. “I like getting my hands dirty and I like taking classes that are about things I can see and touch,” she said.

In her Introduction to Ancient Medicine course, for example, she’s had the opportunity to test plant extracts and see if they can treat bacterial or fungal infections. In her course on Roman Technology, she’s researched and built a scale model of catapults.

In others, she’s had the opportunity to play classical themed board games, compose plays about Greek symposiums, work on the Cornell plaster cast collection and watch and write a paper about the movie “300.”

“There are a lot of really cool, unusual classes … and you can really find something for everyone,” she said.  Olsen mentioned courses like Sages and Saints in the Ancient World, Drinking Through the Ages and Animals in Greek Literature and Thought.

At Cornell, Olsen has also taken language courses in Latin and Akkadian – which she’s used to read texts like the Code of Hammurabi and the Epic of Gilgamesh, in her other classes.

“The department is always offering new courses and asking students what courses they liked and what they want to see more of,” she said.

Outside of classes, Olsen is involved in Haven, the LGBTQ Student Union, through an asexual support group called Ace. As a facilitator, she helps create a safe space for individuals to talk about and share their experiences, by encouraging discussion or organizing activities like board games and cards.

Olsen is also an officer in her student run co-op. She is currently treasurer, but has also held the position of house manager, helping manage the daily activities of the house by organizing social activities, offering emotional support and arranging chores.

After graduating, Olsen will be working for a structural engineering company that focuses on new construction, renovation, adaptive use, and historical preservation.

As an entry level engineer, she hopes to work on the structural investigation/renovation/preservation side of the work. “They do a lot of work for higher education (including many buildings at Cornell) and since I'll be working in Boston, there are a lot of historic structures in need of repair,” she said.

“While the historic structures in Boston aren't nearly as old as what I have studied in Classics, I think it will be fun to combine my interests in history and in engineering and work on those types of projects … working in areas that may be near important historic sites that can also be impacted by archaeology.”  

Quinn Olsen