Raven Schwam-Curtis '20
Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Why did you choose Cornell?
I wanted the freedom to explore different majors and Cornell offers a massive range of academic paths. I was never one of those kids who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, so having that flexibility was crucial.
What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?
Critical thinking skills for sure! Though I find myself in very niche majors and thus interacting with very particular kinds of knowledge, I can confidently say all of my classes have challenged me to think deeply. Critical thinking skills can be transferred to just about anything.
What is your main extracurricular activity and why is it important to you?
During all four years of my time at Cornell I have been on the executive board for the Building Ourselves Through Sisterhood and Service Peer Mentorship Program (B.O.S.S.). B.O.S.S. is an organization on campus that fosters mentorship among womxn of color and focuses on community service and mental health initiatives. There have been so many wonderful people in my life who have mentored me, and without them I certainly wouldn't be where I am today. Pouring into other womxn of color in this way and celebrating community have always been near and dear to my heart.
How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? What have you discovered about yourself?
Oh wow, I think the question with the shorter answer would be, "how have your beliefs or perspectives stayed the same?" I have changed drastically during my time at Cornell. When I arrived on campus as a freshman, I had a very traditional view of the world. I envisioned myself majoring in government, becoming a lawyer, marrying a man in my mid-20s and having a conventional family. This is not to say there's anything wrong with those desires, but I think I desired that because I didn't know I had other options. Fast forward to today: I'm openly queer, potentially not interested in marriage or having kids (?), a Black feminist, and pursuing my Ph.D. in in African American studies with a focus on Afro-Asian coalition building. Freshman Raven probably wouldn't even recognize me today!
If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?
Don't take yourself too seriously! You can be an exceptional student and still have a balanced life. Your books will be there when you get home.