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College of Arts and Sciences

Kimberly Cardenas: 'I chose Cornell because of the doors that it would open for me and my family.'

April 26, 2017

Kimberly Cardenas


La Puente, CA

Why did you choose Cornell?

As the first one in my family to receive a bachelor's degree, I chose Cornell because of the doors that it would open for me and my family. At Cornell, I would be able to do great things that would have been virtually impossible at home because of limited resources, like study abroad at prestigious universities, conduct cutting-edge research with faculty and make friends from all over the world and with different life experiences. I knew that by coming here I would change my family's history.

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

My senior year, I worked on a project on Latino immigrant students and their political participation. Under the department of Mexican-American Studies at The University of Arizona, I designed a survey and conducted semi-structured interviews asking Latino immigrant students at different educational trajectories about their experiences with racism since coming to the United States. In the fall, I worked with Prof. Sergio Garcia-Rios from the government department. We used the 2006 Latino National Survey to determine whether Latino students were more likely to engage civically after experiencing discrimination. We found that they were more likely, which has important implications for understanding the needs of Latino students in universities. In understanding why and how they become civically engaged inside and outside academic institutions, we can address the enrollment and retention rates for Latinx students nationwide.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

I wouldn't have had it any other way. I really appreciated being able to take courses in multi/trans/interdisciplinary ways. For example, one of the courses that I enjoyed taking was History of the Universe. I also liked calculus. I personally like the language requirement because I was able to speak French fluently and study abroad. I think that not being restricted to a certain curriculum is really important in that one can truly, truly explore courses that are a little wild. You'd be surprised how you can find your passion in this way. I think it is super important to developing critical thinking.

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

Don't be shy. You deserve to be here because you worked hard and you were admitted. Go to office hours often, even if you don't have particular questions to ask. Professors often want to get to know you and have conversations with you, too. Similarly, start thinking about one or two things you want to get out of your education, and construct your coursework around this.