Cori Kolb walks to classes on campus but is unable to carry heavy books, climb steps easily or engage in sports.
However, her ongoing medical challenges haven’t stopped her from earning RIT’s Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship Award and an accounting degree from Saunders College of Business last May, or her gig as a soprano singer and business director of Encore, RIT’s all-female a cappella vocal ensemble.
And she’s not done yet. Kolb plans to continue her studies at Saunders College’s one-year MBA program this fall and hopes to take the CPA exam after graduating in May 2014.
Kolb says she was diagnosed with a muscle disease at age 4, but it wasn’t until after earning her high school diploma and moving to San Francisco with her mother, Mary Ann Kolb, that she learned she was suffering from limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.
“My mom is like my rock,” says Kolb. “It’s been a struggle for me physically and I don’t know if I would have gotten this far in school without her support. She is my best advocate.”
Kolb initially went to Los Medanos Community College in California to pursue a singing career. “The college is best known for their music education program,” says Kolb, who hails from Rochester but has family roots in County Cork, Ireland. “I love to sing and I was in the church children’s choir at age 4 and won a singing competition at an Irish Festival when I was only 7 years old.”
At Los Medanos, Kolb tutored music and English and earned three associate degrees, but decided her dream of becoming a vocal performance artist would be physically exhausting and not provide the permanence of a steady income.
“I found I had an aptitude for accounting and when I was looking to transfer in 2011, I saw that RIT had one of the top accounting schools in New York state. And it also had video gaming, which I like—plus I felt the pull to be back in my own hometown.”
The past two years at RIT, Kolb maintained a 3.8 average, was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society and worked as an internal auditor at the Office of Institute Audit, Compliance and Advisement.
“Cori performed extremely well during her co-op,” says Steven Morse, assistant vice president of IACA. “She was able to juggle many projects at once while building a very good rapport with her clients. All of us at IACA will miss her being part of our team.”
And although Kolb wasn’t planning to get too involved with campus life, she auditioned and earned a spot in the 14-member Encore A Cappella group. “We are one of six a cappella groups at RIT and practice at least six hours a week, often more.”
Kolb says she can sing all kinds of music—from opera, ballads and jazz, to songs from popular R&B artists such as Alicia Keys. Her goal is to sing the National Anthem at commencement when she graduates from the MBA program next year.
“I’ll have to ask Dean dt ogilvie about that,” she adds with a wide smile. “I hope she says yes.”