Persistence, courage propel Lohmann ’20 toward her dreams

Olivia Lohmann '20Hometown: Houghton, Michigan

Degree: B.S.S. with a psychology specialist major and an art history minor

College is a time of discovery. Although Olivia Lohmann ’20 never wavered from her plan to major in psychology, she discovered an affinity to art history after taking a course on a whim. Because the block plan made it possible, she enrolled in two more back-to-back art history classes and declared an art history minor. 

Professor of Art History Chris Penn-Goetsch then introduced her to a blossoming field of study that links two of her areas of interest: memory care and engaging with artwork. 

“She lit my inspiration ablaze by suggesting I try to obtain an internship with an art museum that had implemented memory care-centered programming. By having Chris believe in my abilities as a student, I was able to navigate the process of securing an internship with confidence in myself and what I had to offer,” Lohmann says. 

While researching internships Lohmann found an intriguing  conference in Seattle, Washington, put on by the Frye Art Museum’s creative aging programs. With funding from Student Senate, Cornell’s Rise Up program for first-generation students, and a Frye scholarship, she attended the 2018 Perspectives on Memory conference. Making the most of her visit, she connected in person with the director of the Frye’s creative aging department, Mary Jane Knecht, to discuss internship possibilities.

Olivia Lohmann takes notes during an intergenerational art program at the Frye Museum of Art.
Olivia Lohmann takes notes during an intergenerational art program at the Frye Museum of Art.

A year later she was serving a funded Cornell Fellowship with the Frye’s creative aging programs offering adults living with dementia a chance to engage in creative lifelong learning. 

“Olivia is proof that with personal drive, a commitment to education, and the flexibility of the Cornell teaching schedule, you can focus your studies and launch into a career after graduation,” says Assistant Professor of Psychology Steven Neese, one of several people who nominated Lohmann for this profile.

Looking back, Lohmann says the internship was one of her most outstanding academic achievements.

“I am incredibly proud of my Cornell Fellowship with the Frye Art Museum,” she says, “The process of obtaining this internship took a great deal of persistence and courage.”

Lohmann’s Cornell Fellowship blog documents her growth and discoveries over that two-month experience. 

“I was terrified to leave and start this internship, but I did it,” she wrote in her blog. “I am proud that I summoned the courage to leave my comfort zone behind and venture into an unknown city by myself. I am proud of the work I did while I have been here. I am proud of how well I learned the public transit system. I am proud of the boldness that I gave myself permission to embrace. I am proud of my strength, I am proud of my ability to love, I am proud of my desire to learn and to help. I know in my bones that I have an abundance of undertakings ahead of me, this is only the beginning.”

Her Frye fellowship came less than six months after the sudden death of her father in May of her junior year. Her summer had been filled with arrangements surrounding his business and his home, hosting a celebration of his life, and maintaining two jobs. Next were two of the most difficult classes of her Cornell career, followed by packing for Seattle. She barely had time to grieve, she says, but her Cornell family supported her.

Olivia Lohmann '20“Through this tragedy, I have been filled with so much light. My friends from Cornell have been my legs when I couldn’t stand and my voice when I couldn’t speak. I am endlessly grateful for the support and grace that I have been offered by my immediate friends, classmates, and faculty,” she says.  

One of her outlets has been the slam poetry club on campus, Lyrically Inclined, for which she served as secretary and treasurer for three years. She cites her involvement with Cornell’s Intercultural Life office as a crucial piece of her personal development, and an important resource for white students and students of color alike.

Now that she has graduated, Lohmann plans to take the time she needed after her father’s death.

“During my fellowship last fall I realized how imperative the act of self care is when your career is centered around providing to the public. I know that much of my life will be dedicated to helping others, and in order to best do this I need to ensure that I am operating from my highest good,” she says.

She and her Cornell roommate, Kimberly Cuevas, plan to create a nonprofit within five years to improve public health and quality of life across the city of Camden, New Jersey. Lohmann also plans to pursue graduate study in an applied field of psychology and obtain a license to practice in order to improve people’s quality of life.

And, in part because of the block plan, she very likely will accomplish those goals.

“Through my engagement with One Course At A Time,” she says, “I have developed an internal clock that I know will propel my future pursuits forward with the swiftness of completing a semester in 18 days.”