Tobin finds synergy in history, English majors

Everything is a learning experience. That’s how Caitlin Tobin, a senior majoring in history and English literature at Cornell College, sees her life. 

“I have had classes outside of my major that I thought would not be applicable to my larger work, but I quickly learned that I could take away certain skills from every class and put them to use in other areas of my life,” Tobin says. “Thinking this way has also helped me expand my view of activities and things that I should try. If you learn something new from each experience, it makes you want to experience a lot more.”

C. TobinTobin knew she wanted to study English long before she came to Cornell. It was her favorite subject in high school but she never considered majoring in history. At least, not until her first history course at Cornell with Professor of History Phil Lucas. In high school, Tobin struggled with the content and exams in her history classes, so she surprised herself when she realized she did want to major in history.

“Studying history and English side by side at Cornell is a neat experience because the classes often overlap in their content area and time periods,” Tobin says. “It helps me see a full picture of what was going on at that time, and how events of the era influenced the literature that was created.” 

The interdisciplinary nature of a liberal arts education lends itself to making connections across fields of study as long as you stay open to each new experience and class as Tobin does. 

Tobin’s Senior Seminar course, taught by Professor of English and Creative Writing Kirilka Stavreva, encouraged the class of English majors to reflect on their journeys while at Cornell. 

“We looked at past work that we did and spent a lot of time thinking about what writing means to each of us and how our unique paths have led us to where we are,” Tobin says. “It was so interesting to see all these incredibly creative and intelligent people from different backgrounds who share a love of literature and writing come together for three and a half weeks to discover our identities as writers. Having this class and experience made me feel more reassured about my future path and capabilities as a writer.”

Tobin sees college as a time for personal reflection in addition to receiving an education. 

“For me, this meant examining my identity as an individual with a physical disability,” Tobin says. “I am so grateful to have the chance to come to college and spend time in the supportive academic environment that Cornell and my professors have provided. At the same time, it is bittersweet because I know that other people in my situation are not given the chance to pursue higher education, even though they are fully capable. I hope that I can show everyone that people with disabilities deserve a space in academic institutions, and are essential to conversations about diversity and inclusion.”

Tobin’s future plans include graduate school in library science thanks in part to her advisor, Professor of English and Creative Writing Michelle Mouton, who suggested she consider it as an option. She’s leaning toward specializing in archives and children’s literature. 

“I have always loved books, researching, and learning! I can’t imagine a better career for myself,” Tobin says. “It will allow me to spend the rest of my life learning and helping other people.”