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College of Arts and Sciences

Ryan Stommel: ‘I will embark on a journey to become the first person in history to visit every country in the world multiple times’

May 3, 2019

Ryan Stommel

History of Art & Archaeology

Fond du Lac, WI

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

The research skills I developed during my time at Cornell will be extremely valuable if I end up continuing my education and pursuing a career in academia. This year I worked on an honors thesis with an Etruscan cinerary urn in the shape of a sarcophagus from the collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum. The project involved multidisciplinary methodological approaches, drawing from the piece’s iconography, provenance, find context, epigraphy, and material properties to argue that more attention must be given to these commonly overlooked works of material culture.

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

I spend the majority of my time outside of class interning in two curatorial departments at the Johnson Museum. Through these positions I get behind-the-scenes access to the very objects that link us to people of different times and cultures. Being able to both hold a piece of history in my hands and understand the historical significance behind it elicits an incomparable sense of euphoria, which makes all the hard work that has brought me to this point worth it.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of, either inside the classroom or otherwise?

This past summer, I traveled to 50 countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, working on a project to raise awareness for the refugee crisis. This was possible through multiple grants, including the Cornell Commitment and the Arts & Sciences Summer Experience Grant. I was able to break a personal travel record while using the opportunities available to me through Cornell to do some good.

What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I will be taking the next two years off to continue my travels. This September I will embark on a journey to become the first person in history to visit every country in the world multiple times, as well as the youngest person to set foot in every nation at least once. After this, I will either return to graduate school to study technical art history and learn how to scientifically analyze works of art, or I will take more time off from school to get experience in the world of galleries and the art market. Ten years from now I see myself finishing up a Ph.D. in art history while continuing to steadily grow my collections of African tribal art and Australian Aboriginal paintings.