'I discovered my major by taking classes that I found fascinating'

Maggie Sandler

American Studies
Greenwich, Conn.

What was your favorite class and why?  

My favorite class was Contemporary Television with Prof. Samantha Sheppard, which I took my freshman year. Not only did I love the subject matter (I have wanted to work in television nearly my entire life), but also, I had already taken a class with Dr. Sheppard the semester before and absolutely loved having her as a professor. I learned so much from this course about the industry's evolution and history and enjoyed analyzing a variety of fascinating shows. This class furthered my appreciation for the topic and fostered my interest in television scholarship as well. I was fortunate to have Dr. Sheppard as my advisor and thesis advisor.

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?         

person holding medal from running a marathon

After I ran the New York City Marathon, one of my friends surprised me with a trip (outside of Ithaca) to fulfill another life dream: milking a cow! We went to a creamery nearby, and it was really special to take advantage of the unique agricultural activities surrounding Cornell. It was such an exciting experience and one that I will cherish forever.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of?

This year, I have been working on my senior honors thesis in American studies, which has been a very special project for me. What started as a binge-watch this summer became an academic exploration into the transformative political and cultural implications of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While it was definitely a challenging undertaking, I can honestly say I enjoyed every step of the process. 

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell? 

Before Cornell, I frequently doubted myself inside of the classroom. Over my time here, I have learned not to get discouraged when I am overwhelmed with a challenging assignment. I now feel confident in my abilities to approach any task with self-assurance and deliver a product that I am truly proud of. Furthermore, I feel comfortable enough to advocate for myself and ask questions, which has been a super critical component of my success at Cornell.

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

Take advantage of everything you can! Especially in Arts & Sciences, you are given the opportunity to explore so many interesting classes, which you can use to fulfill your distribution requirements. I didn't even know that American studies (my major) existed before coming to Cornell, but I discovered the major by taking classes that I found fascinating and even unique. I also took computer science and linguistics for the first time and really enjoyed those subjects. Outside of the classroom, Cornell is such a large and exciting place. Explore as much of the campus as possible and take advantage of such rare opportunities as going to the Cornell Dairy Bar, attending a hotel school event or even just walking around the vet school (I love studying there).

Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2024.

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Maggie Sandler