Warrior-Scholar Project 2020 Cornell University Cohort Spotlight: Mack Fina and Tyler Stark

Mack Fina, U.S. Army veteran


Mack Fina

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

Before WSP, the last educational experience I had was a semester at my local community college in 2013. The professors were great, but I lacked the foundational academic skills that would have helped me excel, and I did not feel confident as a student, which led to me enlisting in the Army. 


Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

My week with WSP was the first time I participated in any virtual learning, and it was excellent. It was a unique opportunity for me to work out any kinks and get some practice in a virtual environment before I start classes online this fall, so I'm glad I had the opportunity to participate.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was excited to participate in WSP this summer because I was looking forward to practicing academic skills like analytical reading and writing, and after the isolation that COVID has imposed, it was refreshing to talk to new people. 

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

We spent a lot of time reading and annotating, which really helped me retain the information and reference it later. I also feel like being in an academic environment like WSP where we were discussing readings and talking about our essays was helpful just to get reacclimated to learning in general. 

What was your favorite session, and why?

My favorite session was with Professor Kim Todt discussing what the United States was like when the Declaration of Independence was written. She was engaged with us and prepared, and what I thought was a valuable takeaway was thinking about the context of what we were reading during its writing. 

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP?

It's impossible for me to pick a favorite. The fellows I had were all incredibly engaged and caring, and I was blown away by how amazing the writing tutors and professors were. Every person involved was willing to take the time to talk to us, help us with whatever we were working on, and they all contributed to a fantastic experience which has absolutely made a difference for me. 

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

WSP was a very intense and challenging week, but I made it through! If I can do that, I'm sure I'll do just fine at school. 

Tyler Stark, active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps


Tyler Stark

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

My educational experience was very minimal prior to WSP. I have been to a couple of military courses, but they are vastly different in comparison to an academic environment. Unfortunately, I started WSP with absolutely no college experience so my confidence in all academics was nonexistent. Going through the humanities course definitely instilled a substantial amount of confidence in me in my ability to write and read analytically. These are what I consider my weakest academic subjects, and the fact that I'm actually confident in writing an essay or reading a piece of text and then having an analytical conversation about it astounds me, and I can't thank WSP enough for that.

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

I have never partaken in any online classes before WSP, but I would like to note that WSP had absolutely no hiccups. This is the first year that WSP has gone virtual, yet it seemed to me that this is how it's always been due to the fluidity and lack of confusion amongst the students, fellows, and professors.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was excited to be a part of WSP because I knew that if I wanted to have a successful transition to college, WSP was the place to start. I had a prior roommate who attended the course and he said it was life-changing, so I knew I had to take it. After reading more into it, I found that WSP brought real professors to lecture you...for free. I knew that this would be a perfect way to brush up on what I've forgotten since high school and even build upon it. How could you not be excited?

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

The most important attributes that WSP strengthened for me were writing and analytical reading. Writing is especially important because I will have to be writing several essays for the schools I will be applying to. I know now that I can professionally articulate a well thought out, persuasive piece of writing presented in a way that is efficient. If I hadn't taken WSP, I have a feeling that my application essays would be atrocious. Analytical reading will definitely be helpful once I'm in college and have to begin reading as a part of a class, but it also has had an effect on my everyday reading. I take my time now and even annotate books that I'm reading for fun just so that I can retain what I'm reading a lot better. Lastly, the amount of transitional information that I learned is unreal. Transitioning into college and out of the military simultaneously gave me anxiety just thinking about it. Between the de-greening classes and talking to the fellows, admissions counselors, professors, and alumni, every single question I had was answered and I know exactly what I have to do and what is expected of me if I want to get into a good college and pursue a degree.

What was your favorite session, and why?

My favorite lesson was not really a lesson, but the final essay. It was something that was assigned the first day, and it seemed like it was going to be extremely difficult, and possibly something I wouldn't even finish. Throughout the week, I progressively learned more and more that helped me develop and mold my essay into something that I didn't expect from myself. It was stressful, but very rewarding getting to see what I've been able to create.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP?

All of the fellows during WSP Cornell 2020 were awesome. I personally had a closer relationship with Michael because of our interest in the STEM field. He gave me an absurd amount of information regarding what I want to major in and a ton of tips that are actionable and extremely helpful.

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student? WSP has most definitely made a lasting impact on my confidence as I roll back into the academic scene. I just started taking two classes at a community college and I am more than confident that I will do great in those classes. WSP surrounded me with great fellows, students, and professors that instilled the fact that though I may have been out of the classroom for a while, I’m still just as, if not more, capable of doing well if I apply myself.   

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