Michelle Fleurantin: 'Learn from your experiences, keep a level head, and say yes to new opportunities.'

April 12, 2017

Michelle Fleurantin

American Studies & Sociology

Westampton, NJ

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most? How or why?

Professor Sabine Haenni was one of the most significant influencers of my Cornell education. Before taking her Introduction to American Studies course, I struggled to find a major that encapsulated my academic interests. I sought a field that challenged its students to take a multifaceted approach to every issue; a field in which I could incorporate law, history, race/ethnic studies, women and gender studies and the social sciences. Professor Haenni introduced me to American studies and convinced me of its importance at our university despite its small size. She showed me how American Studies would provide me with an interdisciplinary education that would change my world view and prepare me to be a well-rounded problem-solver. 

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

I once believed the ultimate factor deciding one's career was one's academic major. I remember sitting in Dean Chad Coates' office freshman year and sharing my concerns regarding how to decide on a major before I knew what career I wished to pursue, when he gave me some great words of advice — "Your major is not your career." He proceeded to explain his journey and made me realize that not only does my major not determine my career, but that I could also pursue several careers in my lifetime. My mindset has since changed. I now feel as though nothing is impossible and that I can pursue what I am passionate about regardless of my major. This has only led me to valuable opportunities. 

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

During my time at Cornell, I've realized that I cannot plan every step of my life. I know it sounds like an obvious fact of life, but it is easy for young, ambitious students to get wrapped up in their meticulously planned career paths. I walked into Cornell thinking I would study a certain major, work for specific organizations and embark on a particular path upon graduation. While I did achieve many of the goals I set for myself, my college career had several unexpected turns. There were classes in which I did not earn the grade I wanted; there were internships I did not get. However, Cornell is a place where you will be exposed to opportunities you had not previously considered. So when things do not go as planned, don't panic. Simply learn from your experiences, keep a level head, and say yes to new opportunities. By doing so, you'll find your own success and with time everything will fall into place. 

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