I want to be successful after college, but I also realize that we have to find our own version of success. The only way for me to do that is to pursue what I’m passionate about, so that’s the path I’m following at Bucknell.
Though she wasn't sure what shape her college years would take, Cheyanne Stunger '22's plan coming to Bucknell was fairly simple: major in something that would guarantee a direct path to a job. That's what initially led her to participate in the Discovery Residential College, one of Bucknell's nine living-learning communities that helps students explore the transformative power of STEM disciplines. Little did Stunger know it would be the exact experience she needed to journey back to her first and truest passion: artistic expression.
"That program taught me a lot about myself, the biggest lesson being that although I had a huge appreciation for STEM, I was neglecting what I love," says Stunger, a double-major in art & art history and political science. "Art has been such an important part of my life since childhood, and I've always wanted to pursue a career where I could be surrounded by it on a daily basis."
Growing up in Argyle, N.Y., there was hardly a moment when Stunger wasn't sketching or painting in her free time. Capturing the natural beauty of the rural landscape on canvas quickly became a favorite pastime and a welcome break from the rigors of high school, where Stunger could often be found in the art room during free periods. Soon, she began taking advantage of every opportunity to immerse herself in the art world, from participating in competitions and local portfolio reviews to spending hours perusing local museums.
Still, Stunger admits she couldn't quite see where a future in art education would lead. Since coming to Bucknell, she's discovered a supportive community of peers, teachers and mentors who have empowered her to hold fast to her passions — and shown her that a fulfilling career in the field she loves is more than possible if you work for it.
One of those mentors is Samek Art Museum Director Rick Rinehart, who advises Stunger through the GenFirst! Mentoring Program. The program helps form connections between first-generation students and faculty and staff who were the first in their families to graduate from college.
"The conversations I've had with people like Rick at Bucknell have been really encouraging," Stunger says. "Hearing the stories of why others choose to persevere in art has shown me that it's more than possible. You can put in the hard work and get where you want to go in the field if you're determined."
Now, she's diving deep in art history courses that give her an up-close look at expression through the ages, from the Renaissance to 20th-century Surrealism. As a recently selected fellow through Bucknell's Humanities Center, Stunger will soon launch an in-depth art history research project under guidance from Professor Christiane Andersson, art history, as well as help organize on-campus events as a member of the Student Humanities Council.
But even more than recommitting to her passions, Stunger has uncovered unique ways to expand her interest in social sciences alongside art history. A second major in political science not only gives her a broader understanding of cultures and politics of the past, but also sharpens her critical thinking and analysis skills. With an eye toward exploring a career in art law, Stunger says the flexibility to define her own path at Bucknell is one of the things she appreciates most.
"I've been able to strike a balance between creativity and hard, critical study, and that's what's really great about the liberal arts education at Bucknell," she says. "Most importantly, I now understand that doing what might seem 'practical' doesn't equal enthusiasm or even success. I'm so thankful for the chance to pursue what I love here."