Viera headed to the Fashion Institute of Technology

Kristal Viera ’16 knows a thing or two about culture and travel. She has set off on many adventures to learn and explore during her time at Cornell College. In fact, she has made it her mission to gain new experiences by researching new topics in far-away places and meeting new people along the way. Viera has been to Italy, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala. The senior from Massachusetts says her biggest accomplishment was getting a Cornell Fellowship to go to Puerto Rico for art history research.

Kristal Viera ’16 is going to New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She will take part in the Art Market Program, which is a program for art business.

Viera’s inspiration comes from the women in her life who have achieved higher education, including her mother, grandmother, aunt, and Cornell College professors. This senior credits Art History Professor Ellen Hoobler with having a big influence on her choices by showing her the world of options in the realm of art history.

After graduation, Viera plans to go to New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She will take part in the Art Market Program, which is a program for art business. No matter what she does and where she travels, Viera is ready for her next adventure.

Q: What Cornell experiences prepared you for graduate school at the Fashion Institute of Technology?
A: I think my Cornell Fellowship to Puerto Rico to do original research for an art history thesis paper prepared me and gave me an edge over other applicants. The thesis paper, which turned out to be 134 pages, was the biggest and most complex thing I have ever done. Depending on how it is received, I am looking for a way to publish it.  It would be the first academic paper written on the subject in English and the first paper that disagrees and challenges the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico’s views on the subject.

My management experience and how much I have worked have also helped. My classes at Cornell, especially Senior Seminar and a trip to Italy, allowed me to travel, do research, and helped me figure out what to do after graduation. The schools were impressed by my work experience, the variety of art history classes I took, how much I traveled, and the excellent recommendations they got from my boss and professors.

Q: Who was your Cornell mentor?
A: I would say Ellen Hoobler has had the biggest influence, although, Chris Penn-Goetsch is right up there, as well, because she is the one who taught my First Year Seminar, influenced me to change my major, and has been advising me ever since.

Ellen, however, is the one who showed me all the other amazing things that I could do with art history. Her classes incorporated interesting activities with technology and information about other art institutions. Many of the classes I took with Ellen were also about art outside of Europe and the United State of America. Ellen made me aware of the Fellows program, pushed me to write this amazing thesis on Puerto Rican art, has helped me all the way, and most importantly, showed me other possibilities open to an art history major.

Our trip to Chicago for Senior Seminar last year really opened my eyes to all the things I could do that weren’t college Ph.D. based, such as working in private collection, decorations, auction houses, and business. Ellen pushed me toward internship opportunities and encouraged me to apply to graduate programs right away instead of waiting a year. She made me okay with the idea of leaving the academic world and going for a graduate program in business. Chris has been equally supportive over the last three years as my advisor and has been a great help in finding classes that fit me.

Q: How did One Course At A Time impact your education?
A: It allowed me to go deeper into subjects and allowed me to focus all my attention and energy on one thing versus five or more, which really gave me a lot more depth and knowledge than the traditional survey or lecture class. One Course also allowed me to have classes outside of Iowa or the classroom, meaning we could go on day trips to museums in Madison, Chicago, Des Moines, and Iowa City. I have also traveled a lot during my time here and lived in Chicago, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, and Italy for a block or two. I visited Belize for two weeks, which was unrelated to a campus program, but possible due to the flexibility of the the Block Plan.

Q: What activities were you involved in at Cornell?
A: I am a part of Lambda Alpha Anthropology Honor Society. I have also been a student manager at Bon Appétit, as well as a part time employee for the last three years. I did two years at Cornell’s phonathon, as well, to raise money for the college’s annual fund. These work experiences taught me how to manage my time between school and work. They also put me in leadership positions, strengthened my work ethic, improved my time management skills, and taught me how to work hard.

I also established financial independence and don’t have to rely on anyone else to pay my bills.  It taught me that hard work pays off and is one of the things graduate schools were impressed about because they believed that, although I was younger than their average student, I would be able to handle their curriculum. They were impressed that I had so much semi-professional work experience.

Q: What do you most value about your Cornell education?
A: I value the experiences and the small environment that fostered my interest in travel, culture, and art history.

Q: Why did you choose Cornell?
A: Cornell was the furthest school from home, which was really important to me because I wanted to establish independence away from family and friends. Cornell also gave the best financial aid package.

Q: Is there someone else who has inspired you?
A: My mother, aunt, and grandma inspire me—all women who went to college despite the odds against them. My mother moved to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico to go to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, never visiting or knowing much English. Recently, she decided to go back to school and will be receiving her M.A. degree in nonprofit management this May, completing the program on time, despite being a mother, wife, and working full time. My grandmother was very young when she had my mother and two uncles. She was divorced and managed to get her GED and go to college for computer programming. She now works for the government. My aunt is also amazing for putting herself through college and becoming a teacher in Puerto Rico. She is not even 60 and is already enjoying retirement.

Q: What have been your most meaningful experiences beyond the classroom?
A: A lot of the times after an out-of-state class ended, my teachers were always willing to let me leave the group a few days early and stay as long as I wanted by myself to further experience the country. For example, in Italy, after the majority of the class had left, I stayed the entire fourth week of the block and all of spring break. In Guatemala I was able to go early and take weekends to explore the country. I traveled, alone, to Guatemala in August-October 2015 where I did a one-on-one class learning Spanish through our partnership program with Sisai Spanish school. The block schedule also gave me the flexibility to travel to Belize. Then, during the Chicago classes where we stayed at the McLennan Center, Ellen let us have free roam after our day was done – provided we were responsible, and did all of our homework.

Q: What is your favorite study spot?
A: That changes year to year. At one point, it was Law Hall, all the way at the top in the classroom with no windows. Then one year, I had a single in Dows Hall with a lot of sunlight and an amazing view. My most recent favorite spot is the Merner study room where the chairs are super comfortable. There is enough room to spread out all of my papers and other stuff.

Q: What is a random fact you’ve learned through your major?
A: Friday is purgatory day where the Virgin Mary goes down and feeds those souls trapped in purgatory with her breast milk. She also breastfeeds those who doubt her. I’m not sure if she still does this, but for a long time in all my classes with Chris, we would celebrate purgatory Fridays learning some odd fact and giving us gifts such as beads, pendants, donuts, cake, purgatory cards/saint cards, and fact sheets.

Q: What is the theme of your life? How do all of your interests tie together?
A: My theme is traveling and culture. Everything I do is to gain new experiences through travel, meeting new people, and learning about them. Anthropology and art history have given me many opportunities to do this both inside and outside of the classroom, opening up opportunities to explore the world.