'It was rewarding to build something that people from the community enjoyed and learned from'

Wynne Williams-Ceci

Psychology & Robert S. Harrison College Scholar
Ithaca, N.Y.

What was your favorite class and why? 

Psychology at the Sciencenter, which I took Fall of my junior year, taught by Michael Goldstein and Khena Swallow. We worked hands-on to create exhibits for the local Sciencenter that would teach children about psychology and neuroscience, with several rounds of prototyping. It was really rewarding to conceive of an idea and then build it into something that people from the community enjoyed and learned from. 

person near Golden Gate Bridge

What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?         

I started in Fall of 2020 during Covid, meaning that my class had a difficult transition into college. We did not have in-person club fests, orientation events, freshman convocation, dorm events, etc., and we were all nervous that we wouldn’t end up liking it at Cornell. But I had one in-person class at the time, and I quickly grew to like the two people assigned to sit near me. The first week of class, we decided to meet and eat dinner on the rocks outside Clara Dickson Hall together, and this was the first time that I realized I would make lifelong friends at Cornell even with the obstacles create by Covid. I am still extremely close to both of these people, and we often talk about this happy memory.

What are the most valuable skills you gained from your Arts & Sciences education?  

A&S has enabled me to become a scholar with freedom to pursue my passions and interests. A&S embodies the essence of a liberal arts education, allowing students to think empirically, question constructively and understand deeply. I have had so many wonderful professors in my four years here who have encouraged me to engage with course material at a high level. The most important skill I have learned is how to be a critical thinker. Especially in our polarized world today, people should take everything with a grain of salt, whether it be spotting misinformation in the media or questioning research methods of a published study. I am grateful that my A&S education has taught me to be a contributing member of society with an open mind and room for learning new things.       

person singing

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

From my very first day on campus I have been a singer at Cornell! I was president of the Cornell Chorus and also served in multiple leadership roles for both the Chorus and our sister a cappella group, After Eight, and I have always tried to give back to groups that gave me so much. I’ve also had fun being in a Chamber Choir, taking private voice lessons in the music department, and exploring musicianship through other courses.

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

I am most proud of my independent research as a College Scholar at Cornell, titled “How race, gender, and political polarization influence support of politicians and their health policies.” Starting in freshman year spring, I developed the research idea and started carrying out the first of a series of three experiments on over 800 participants, which I finished in fall 2023. These experiments have formed my honors thesis, and I am proud of the initiative I took to pursue large-scale research without experience, and I am extremely grateful to the professors who helped me get here and guided me at every point along the way.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?     

During fall of my freshman year, I was diagnosed with a serious, Stage 4 disease. I had to miss the beginning of spring semester due to having extensive emergency surgery, and my life for the following year and a half consisted of doctors’ appointments, surgical procedures and extraordinary physical challenges. Obviously, this experience had a major impact on how my Cornell education unfolded, and has fundamentally changed my life in many ways. However, I am also grateful because this experience led me to join the College Scholar Program to pursue research on understanding and improving communication of information about health and wellbeing, ultimately shaping my interests and passions.

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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Wynne Williams-Ceci