Renaud pursues plans to become museum curator

Sara Renaud ’18 is already headed down the path to her dream job as a museum curator. Starting in the fall of 2018, she’ll be pursuing a master’s in museum & artefact studies at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

Renaud majored in medieval and early modern studies, which she knew she wanted to study from day one on the Hilltop. She didn’t know, however, was how her interests would grow and develop at Cornell College. She became passionate about social justice issues through her classes and activities.

The senior from Ankeny, Iowa, volunteered with an organization that provides free legal services for immigrants (Justice For Our Neighbors), got involved with Eyes of the World, joined Beta Psi Eta, held an internship at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and traveled abroad twice. 

Sara Renaud '18
Sara Renaud ’18

“There are two things I value most from my Cornell education, one from my time in the classroom, and one from outside,” Renaud said. “The lessons I learned in doing research, engaging with the material, and discussing the questions raised in class taught me skills in how to be the best scholar I can: think critically, ask the hard questions, and go above and beyond. Outside the classroom, I loved the community engagement I was able to achieve. The hands-on experience I got in learning how to better my community and the lives around me was invaluable. Learning how to apply that to my career choice, was an unexpected, but welcomed, addition to my education.”

She says she’d tell future Cornellians that this school will push them in ways they could never have foreseen, which will make them better scholars, community members, and people. 

Q: What activities, clubs, organizations, were you involved in at Cornell and how did they add to your education and enjoyment of Cornell?

A: I’ve been involved in many things on campus. I’ve been an active member of Spiritual Life since my first year. I also joined Beta Psi Eta my first year and have held several leadership positions within the group in the years since (Treasurer, Artistic Director, Service and Philanthropy Chair, Sisterhood Chair, and Greek Council Representative). This year, I also became actively involved in Eyes of the World, which is a student organization that acts as a support group for international and native students by providing multicultural experiences on and off campus. These activities have allowed me to discover so many different aspects of culture and to expand my knowledge while being actively involved in the community.

Q: What is your biggest academic accomplishment?

A: My biggest academic accomplishment is the extended research project I did over the course of my senior year which culminated in my senior capstone paper: “Christine de Pizan’s Authority in Writing ‘City of Ladies’.” I was able to present my paper at Cornell’s Student Symposium.

Q: What Cornell experiences prepared you for post-Cornell plans?

A: My internship at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art helped to prepare me for the program at Durham University, and in fact was what influenced me to pursue a degree in museum studies. The Cornell off-campus courses to Italy and France that I participated in, I believe, will aid me in adjusting to living life abroad.

Q: Who was your Cornell mentor, or what person on campus had the biggest impact on you?

A: I can’t say I have a single Cornell mentor, as there have been several people who have had a large impact on me. I would probably have to say that my three academic advisors, Christina Penn-Goetsch, Michelle Herder, and Devan Baty, all have had a significant impact on my time here at Cornell. Chris taught me that it is okay to be passionate about the unconventional and to show that excitement. Michelle taught me to think outside the box when it comes to asking questions about history and to push my scholarly abilities to the limit. Devan showed me that it’s not always the conventional path that needs to be taken, but the one you choose. Each of these strong, educated, passionate women have been role models to me and what I hope to accomplish.

Q: How did One Course At A Time impact your education?

A: I loved the One Course At A Time program because it allowed me to focus on my education and goals first and foremost. The connections I was able to gain with my professors, and not just be a number to them, was important to me. Also, the way we are able to engage with a subject on an in-depth level is beyond what I could have expected and hoped for.

Q: Why did you choose Cornell?

A: I was first looking for a school that had a Department of Medieval & Early Modern Studies as a major, since I knew from the beginning that is what I wanted to study. When I came across Cornell, and One Course At A Time, I was really intrigued. When I learned more about the small class sizes and visited campus, I could just see myself here.

Q: Is there someone else who has inspired you?

A: My friend and role model, Janae Nelson ’13. She is both a Cornell alumna and an alumna of Beta Psi Eta. She has shown me how much it’s possible to keep the connections you have made already, but still grow and change as a person after college. She is confident and poised but still knows how to have fun. She is just an all-around inspiration to me.

Q: Did you participate in ASB or another service opportunity?  

A: During my senior year, I became involved as a volunteer for Justice for Our Neighbors. JFON is an organization that provides free legal services for immigrants. My time with them has opened my eyes to how difficult it is to be an immigrant in the United States. I mostly worked as an intake volunteer, but my skills in French also allowed me to be a translator on occasion.

Q: Which part of campus has special meaning for you?

A: Cole Library has a special place in my heart. I worked there all three years of my time on campus, in multiple different offices. Sometimes I would say that I practically lived in the library.

Q: What is a random fact you’ve learned through your major?

A: Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess, supposedly killed 650 people in Hungary between 1590–1609 but was only charged with 80 murders.

Q: What surprised you most about your time at Cornell?

A: What surprised me the most about my time here was how passionate I would become about social justice issues, especially concerning gender equality and minorities.