There is true beauty in art, and a sense of accomplishment that comes from transforming creative energy into a finished work. But for Parkersburg, W.Va. native Samantha Shimer, what started as a path toward a degree in the arts shifted once she began to chip away at what meaning lay beneath the surface.
“During my freshman year, I felt most inspired by the conversations in my intro to art history course,” she said. “We discussed the politics of society that were conveyed in the works of art, and I quickly realized that I needed to change my major. I needed to be in an environment where I could talk about the social and political issues that inspired so many creative masterpieces.”
The International Studies Department became that space for her.
While a major in international studies helps students develop transferrable skills that are valued by employers, such as analysis, writing and knowledge of other cultures and languages, Shimer found herself intrigued by the opportunity to work in the fields of national security, international development, diplomacy, and environmental conservations, just to name a few.
“An awareness that women and girls are often most affected by faulty policies and laws” focused Shimer’s interests in human rights and development. “A major in women’s and gender studies means challenging all of the social constructs around you and learning about the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality and expression,” she said.
From doing research about stereotypes in social media to creating a short documentary on gender segregation in schools, the “opportunities provided me with a foundation to build upon in my graduate studies.”
As she wraps up her time at WVU, Shimer reflected fondly on all the memories she made and experiences she had chapter secretary of the Model United Nations Club, an Eberly College Student Ambassador and chapter vice president of the WVU Chapter of Young Democrats of America, among other student activities.
“My college experience has instilled an increased amount of confidence in myself and my abilities,” she said. “I attribute this confidence boost to being challenged within the classroom. Because my professors have pushed me to understand complex concepts, I’m now more confident conveying my thoughts and problem solving.”
Her one regret? Not participating in intramural sports.
“Team sports were a central part of my childhood and teenage years, and I think participating in intramural sports in college would have been a nice way to make friends outside my major or social circle.
Shimer will next head to graduate school at the University of Maryland and she hopes to work for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.