Meet our Liberal Studies graduates - Eli Cooper
Individualized Major: Human Rights
Minors in Social Change, Race and Gender Studies, Sociology
Double-majored in Political Science, minor in LGBTQ Studies
Graduation year: 2022
Next Steps: Harvard Law School
How did your Individualized Major through the Liberal Studies Program prepare you for your next steps after graduation?
The Individualized Major has set me up for everything that I have aspired to do. The Individualized Major allowed me to take a hand-crafted path of study focused on protecting and supporting Human Rights at a Domestic and International level. It also allowed me to take on internships and other opportunities that let me put that knowledge into practice during my undergraduate career. These experiences have undoubtedly prepared me to take on Human Rights Law as I pursue further study at Harvard Law School. Without the Individualized Major I would not have had many of the opportunities that defined my undergraduate career.
Most memorable class you took as an undergrad? Why?
One of my most memorable classes that I took as an undergrad has to be U.S. Social Justice Movements of the 20th Century taught by Dr. Fosl! As the name suggests the class focuses on most of the major Social Justice movements and how they are still progressing today. No social justice movement truly ever ends, they evolve and move forward to address even more problems. The history of social justice movements is an incredibly interesting topic of study, and it was my first Graduate level course that I took at the University, so it was also academically challenging. What made the class so memorable was that the students in the course were given the ability to research and learn about these social justice movements, laying the foundation by themselves in their own areas of expertise. Then, Dr. Fosl would add a more in-depth understanding through her teaching and in-class activities. I also still find myself relying on the knowledge gained from this class in my other avenues of study.
What is the most thrilling or adventurous thing you've ever done?
While I am absolutely an adrenaline junky when it comes to theme parks, my perfect combination of thrilling and adventurous has to be when I'm able to go on long-distance hikes in new locations. My favorite example of this that adds a bit of comedy has to be my trip to Mont Sainte-Odile, a beautiful monastery in France. I was on a trip with the Brown Fellows Program and we had a designated "structured free day" where we had a few options of where to go on our own. One of the options was Mont Sainte-Odile and it was the option most hyped up by Andrew Grubb, our advisor. The Monastery is on top of a mountain so we travelled to the town that it looms over where we would then hike to the top of the mountain and take the bus back to where we were staying in Strasbourg. The first half of the plan went very smoothly, we had a wonderful hike and the monastery was beautiful. Unfortunately, we were able to mess up the second half of the plan. The bus schedule that we were running off of was for a different day and we mistakenly were sat waiting for our bus to arrive in 20 minutes when the final bus of the day left the parking lot of the monastery. After realizing that we had the wrong bus schedule and noticing that there were no more buses we trekked off down the mountain, doubling the hiking distance that we expected. After a few calls to our mentor Dr. Pam Yankeelov and a few failed calls to some taxi services we had jokingly resigned ourselves to walking the six hours back to Strasbourg on foot. Luckily, we found some locals that were able to drive us to a train station a few towns over that was still operating and we were able to get tickets back to Strasbourg.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you're committed to in your work and life? Tell me about them.
There are so many people in my life that I could talk about for this question. I have been blessed by friends, family, and mentors that have done so much for me and have helped me shape my path. When it comes to my time at the University, I would be amiss to not talk about Dr. Pam Yankeelov. Pam has been my mentor before my first day at the University. She is my Brown Fellows Program class mentor which I can only imagine the job description reading "be the unofficial UofL mom for 10 students." Outside of the snacks and fun meetings she had with my entire cohort, she has gone above and beyond to ensure our individual success. She was able to connect each one of us with multiple individuals in our desired field within the first semester of us attending the University and has continue to present us with opportunities as our interests and passions change and grow. She never shied away from giving advice and tough love and she has truly pushed me to be the best student that I could be because she believed I could be better. Her laugh is infectious, she has one of the biggest hearts at the University, and words can't properly describe the lasting impact that she has add on every single one of us, including me.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don't know that I would classify it as a "guilty" pleasure, but I'm absolutely obsessed with the Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision is a competition where countries select and artist and a new original song to compete against other European nations. It's typically camp, has a few legitimate contenders, and is one of the most interesting reflections of European International Relations and culture.
Advice for current Individualized Majors?
My advice for current Individualized Majors is to not be afraid to change your program to fit exactly what you want it to be! The best part of being able to create this major is the choice that it brings you to craft an experience that will be impactful and useful for you moving forward. If your passions and interests change or you realize that a certain aspect of your plan isn't working the way you thought, adjust your plan! My individualized major gave me everything that I wanted and every class that I took for it was preparing me for what I eventually wanted to do. The reason for that is because I wasn't afraid to try to make something new work!