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College of Arts and Sciences

Renee Williamson: ‘The biggest gift Cornell has given me is its language programs’

May 3, 2019

Renee Williamson

Italian & Psychology

Worcester, MA

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

The biggest gift Cornell has given me is its language programs. I always wanted to be able to speak another language, and freshman fall I signed up for Italian I, not knowing where that journey would take me. I have spent more time in Italy than I have at home since coming to Cornell, and ended up adding it as a major. Some of my favorite classes have been in the Italian department, where I have been exposed to new ideas and literature and have had my critical thinking honed in two languages. I also started studying Arabic my sophomore year, expanding my world even further and allowing me to experience Ramadan and Eid in Jordan last summer. I also do research in the Laboratory for Rational Decision Making, and that experience has given me skills in data analysis and other research skills which I have really enjoyed acquiring. Research has also allowed me to think about the world from an analytical perspective and to realize that my ideas are valid and sometimes really good.

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

I am a part of the leadership of Cru, a Christian fellowship on campus. I play cajon in the worship band and I help plan events and make others feel welcome as a part of the community team. I grew up in a Christian family and my dad was a pastor but I felt coming to Cornell was my chance to shed the faith it was assumed I had. Having the opportunity to explore, I was drawn back to Christianity in the end and my faith has become my own faith, not the faith of my dad or family. Cru gave me the space to explore my faith and gave me a sincere community to encourage me in it. Thanks to Cru I had the opportunity to help tutor high school students in South Africa with the Mamelodi Initiative, to help them succeed on the matriculation exam, and I have had the opportunity to volunteer at Second Wind Cottages, building homes for the homeless. I am also involved in the Christian community beyond Cru, as I have written for Claritas, Cornell's journal of Christian thought, and I attend a local church.

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

It's okay to fail. It hurts like hell but you learn a lot from it and are better off after it. So take chances, try for opportunities you think are beyond your reach, do something out of your comfort zone, and see what happens.