Sara Schroer: 'I wanted to find a college that truly cared about undergraduate education with strong faculty-student relationships.'

May 3, 2017

Sara Schroer

Psychology

Boxford, Massachusetts

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell because of the school’s strong dedication to both research and undergraduate education. When I visited campus, I was impressed by the passion of the students and faculty alike. Although Cornell is a relatively large institution, I got the sense that it was very easy to find one’s niche here. Coming from a small boarding school, I wanted to find a college that truly cared about undergraduate education with strong faculty-student relationships. Cornell offered that, without having to sacrifice the vast resources available at larger schools.

What was your most profound turning point at Cornell?

The major turning point of my Cornell career came early – in the middle of freshman year. I began Cornell in a different college than Arts & Sciences and was set on becoming a medical doctor. My first semester, I took the famously large Intro to Psychology lecture course to fulfill a distribution requirement. Prof. Mike Goldstein gave a guest lecture and, hearing this enthusiastic man talk about the role of experience shaping development and rat pups in space, I knew I needed to learn from him. That spring, I enrolled in his Developmental Psychology course and learned about the mechanisms of development. Within the first two weeks of class, Mike advertised research assistant positions in his lab. Ignoring the warnings of "freshman don’t get research," I applied and have worked in the B.A.B.Y. Lab ever since. By the end of my freshman year, I was applying into the College of Arts and Sciences to study psychology and was dropping pre-med to become “pre-PhD.” I had found my true passion – research.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?

My Cornell experience has been wonderful, but my most treasured academic memories are the amazing colloquium speakers Cornell invites. I have listened to and met giants in the field – Michael Meaney, Karen Adolph, Frans de Waal – as well as the shakers who are changing the future of psychology. As an undergraduate, the opportunity to interact and engage with these powerful voices is a wonderful privilege. Nothing compares to eating lunch with researchers whose work I have read again and again, and having them tell me they think my own research is exciting.

What do you value most about your liberal arts education?

I appreciated the opportunity to learn from faculty with incredibly diverse backgrounds and perspectives – an anthropologist who studies chimpanzees, chemists and microbiologists, a historian and expert on Mesopotamia, a former high school teacher, a medical doctor turned Spanish instructor and psychologists that study animal behavior, infant development and consciousness. Although liberal arts distribution requirements can be frustrating, they provide a way to engage in fields both similar and distant from your own. I was exposed to new ways of thinking critically and very different approaches to problem solving. My writing also improved, too.

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