'I learned that my interests in history and finance are not mutually exclusive'

Skyler Risom

New Canaan, Conn.

What was your favorite class and why?

HIST 3081 Stability and Crisis: Capitalism and Democracy, 1870 to the Present, taught by Professor Nicholas Mulder, felt like the culmination of my passion for studying history. In the first lectures, I vividly recall my excitement to be in this class in my final year as a history major, just weeks after the conclusion of my summer internship in finance. Prof. Mulder’s expertise in both fields bridged regions and time periods to study economic crises through financial institutions, governments and consumers. Each class challenged me to apply frameworks to analyze the evolution of market phenomena and regulations, diving into the corners of history that had always caught my attention. Ever since my childhood spent reading historical fiction, learning about ancient civilizations and studying global trade companies, I have been drawn to the stories and systems embedded in history. In Prof. Mulder’s class, I thought to myself: this synthesis of knowledge is why I chose Cornell, and why I chose the history major – and I am beyond fortunate to be pursuing my lifelong interests at the university level.  

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

person standing wearing grad stoll

Throughout my four years in the Cornell Finance Club, I have grown confident that my humanities skills – particularly research, persuasive writing and presentation – uniquely equip me to understand markets and pursue a career in financial services. Through stock pitch competitions, new member education and serving as vice president of recruitment, I learned that my interests in history and finance are not mutually exclusive. The club was my most meaningful mentorship experience at Cornell, giving me the confidence to pursue my internship and ultimately my full-time career. 

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?         

Entering Cornell during the pandemic, I felt lucky to explore new corners of the university with my longtime passion for running. As I developed a path across North Campus, the Arts Quad and the bridge over Fall Creek, I grew in excitement for future in-person instruction and love for my new home. Running through campus would become a habit I maintained throughout my Cornell experience, a familiar constant throughout the whir of assignments, commitments and interviews. In my final year, running has allowed me to reflect on the many stages through which I have traveled my familiar route. While the starting and ending points may have changed slightly over the years – across North Campus to Collegetown – the core of my path has remained the same. Each time I run past the clock tower, through the Vet School facilities and by Schoellkopf Stadium, I marvel at how fortunate I am to enjoy the scenery, fresh air and friendly community. My friends have often teased me for running through the crowded streets rather than secluded and peaceful park trails. However, my four years’ worth of memories of running through an awe-inspiring campus embody the dynamism of the Cornell community. As new buildings are erected and new faces arrive, I have been lucky to bask in the same sense of curiosity and energy still coursing through campus.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?     

I am very fortunate to have parents who encourage me to explore my passions and interests, placing my health and happiness above all. Whenever they visit campus, their awe of the university and the scope of its facilities humbles and motivates me to stay curious about all that I can learn. While my academic journey was my own, they inspired me to prioritize exploration outside of the classroom, like taking the PE class Walking Tours and even trying out for the polo team (evidently a one-time endeavor). I also have often thought of my fathers’ parents, World War II immigrants, when I reflect on the opportunities afforded to me at such a storied and prestigious institution. Their journey and service to the United States has been a consistent inspiration for my studies in history and lifelong pride to be a student at the “first American university.”

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

Know yourself! You are your most meaningful and effective advocate, and only you understand how to make the most of each day. You should soak up every moment of living just steps away from your friends, so find out when you are most productive and free up time to focus on yourself. More than anything, I have learned that we have nothing without our physical and mental health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go for a walk outside, even just for a few minutes. If you’re cramming for an exam, remember that you need to sleep to actually memorize the information you just reviewed. Go to the dining hall, try every café on campus, and make it a habit to have every meal you can with another person. Leaving Cornell, I am proudest of the relationships I developed, and I will treasure all that I learned from my community. It is up to you to prioritize staying in the present. As they say, life comes from you – not at you. Remember that your education is not just in the classroom, but through learning to make an impact within your community.

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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Skyler Risom