Julie Locker: 'There are no failures; there are successes and there are learnings'

May 24, 2016

Julie Locker

Performing & Media Arts

Dayton, OH

What is your main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?

My main extracurricular activity is simultaneously my main curricular activity, and that is theatre. For the most part I act in plays and musicals at the Schwartz and at Risley, but I've also stage managed, crewed and worked in the Schwartz costume shop. Acting is important to me because it's how I learn about myself, other people and human nature in general. It's made me more empathetic. I've used performance to tell my stories and other peoples' stories, shedding light on important topics such as mental illness, race and violence against women/LGBTQ individuals. The plays that I've done have changed my perspectives on life and on the people around me, and I hope that they've changed the audiences in the same way. They've put me in touch with my emotions, and I hope put the audience in touch with their emotions too. To me, nothing helps one be a good person and a good friend more than understanding the self and others, and theatre helps you do that.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

After deciding that biology wasn't right for me, I became a math and PMA double major, but math didn't seem right either. I was a junior and profoundly depressed, aimless and hopeless. I began thinking about dropping the math major and majoring only in performing & media arts, but that felt almost treasonous. How would I ever be successful? Then I had an epiphany: I had no sense of what success meant to me. "Success" meant going into math or science because... why? Because someone else had told me that was the only way to make money? Because money and success are synonyms? But none of that is true, and what's the point in being that version of success if I wasn't happy doing it? I realized that I, as a hard-working person with a degree from Cornell, would be able to find a job that put food on the table and a roof over my head no matter what my major was, but that I would never be truly happy unless I pursued my dream. Someone said to me, "There are no failures; there are successes, and there are learnings." Maybe my dream won't pan out, but even if it doesn't, I plan to learn from it and make my life what I want it to be.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

My liberal arts education has taught me to think critically and to understand myself and other people. I'm very happy that I took a lot of science and math because I've developed such an appreciation for life and the universe, and because that type of thinking helps me understand modern science questions that are applicable to my life, whereas the type of thinking that I've developed in my English and performing arts classes helps me understand and critique topical social, cultural and political issues and teaches me to be a better person and friend. I'm so glad I studied a language because my conversational Spanish comes in handy in daily life. In other words, my liberal arts education has made me learn about and love, life, the universe and everything.

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