Chatting with the 18 sophomores newly chosen for the College Scholar program in the College of Arts and Sciences is a little like riding a roller coaster with a teenager who’s never been on one before. They’re a little nervous about the ups and downs, but so excited to get moving.
And all of them feel pretty blessed to have the opportunity to study something they care about deeply.
“When I went to my high school guidance counselor, I told her that I loved baking and I loved Spanish and I said, ‘What can I do with that?’” said Amelia Clute ’22, who has fashioned a College Scholar project focused on food, identity, culture and language. “Now I’m studying something that I feel so deeply passionate about and something I chose.”
The College Scholars, chosen after a rigorous application process, plan their own interdisciplinary curriculum around a topic that doesn’t fit into a traditional major. They also research and complete independent projects beyond the traditional senior honors thesis, with the help of faculty advisory committees they create along the way.
“The new students wrote exciting, innovative research proposals, and they come from a wide array of interesting backgrounds,” said program director Michael Goldstein, associate professor of psychology. “I’m looking forward to working with them in our spring seminar and helping them develop their ideas.”
Some perks for them? They don’t need to follow certain A&S academic requirements. They have access to special funding for research, travel and conferences. And they join 30 other A&S College Scholars as an intellectual and social community. The sophomores meet weekly in Goldstein’s College Scholar Seminar to develop their interdisciplinary research skills and refine their research ideas.
They also meet with the juniors and seniors in informal gatherings to discuss their projects and get to know each other.
“Hearing the ways that people bring out their themes and their ideas, the most unexpected things come up and overlap,” Emma Goldenthal ’22 said. “Being a part of a group of people who are similarly motivated, and seeing the value in interdisciplinary studies, I’m excited for that part of the program.”
Goldenthal will study the issue of climate change through the lenses of cognitive science, environmental science and communication, with a focus on how language and narrative can shape our beliefs and perceptions.
Most College Scholars say they chose the program because their interests are so varied that they have a hard time selecting just one or two majors.
That was certainly the case for Aliou Gambrel ’22, who entered Cornell as a fine arts student in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, but had several professors who noticed his curiosity in multiple areas and encouraged him to broaden his studies.
One professor said, “you are always pushing us to think outside of just art,“ Gambrel recalled. So he printed out every major he could consider at Cornell and stumbled across College Scholar, realizing it would allow him to combine his many interests, so he switched from AAP to A&S.
His project will include classes in Africana studies, economics, languages, architecture, linguistics and gender studies as he examines the factors shaping irregular migration in western and central African countries.
Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.