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The College of Arts Sciences

Lydia Mrowiec: 'I have had a passion for prison activism for many years.'

April 27, 2017

Lydia Mrowiec


Chicago, IL

What is your main extracurricular activity? Why is it important to you?

One of the main extracurricular activities I have been involved in during my time at Cornell has been a club called Art Beyond Cornell. Art Beyond Cornell focuses on prison activism with a specific focus on incarcerated youth. As a club, we go on weekly visits to a juvenile detention center in upstate New York that houses young men ages 15-21. During these visits we facilitate collaborative art projects with the young men. These projects range in media and style. At the end of the year, we put on an art show so the Cornell community can see our work and create awareness of incarceration of youth. Through art projects we are able to form bonds, become mentors, and provide personal development for both the young men and students. I joined this club my first semester as a freshman and have been involved all four years of my time at Cornell. Since my junior year I have also been the co-president of the organization. I have had a passion for prison activism for many years as well as art so it was great to find a club that allowed me to combine both my passions in a meaningful way. Art Beyond Cornell has allowed me to not only be a leader on the Cornell campus, but also to form incredible connections in the community surrounding Cornell.

What, if any, research projects did you participate in at Cornell?

During my time in Nepal, I carried out independent ethnographic research in a village in the south of Nepal. I studied the tattoo practices of a group of people called the Tharus. Traditionally the Tharu women were required to be tattooed before marriage, but over time this practice has decreased. I was interested in these tattoo practices in relation to Tharu women’s bodily agency and identity, generational change and social change. I conducted in-person, semi-structured interviews with women and men of various ages. All my research was conducted independently in Nepali and later translated into English. I am currently using this research to complete my honor’s thesis in anthropology.

What do you value about your liberal arts education?

My liberal arts education has allowed me to be a well-rounded individual. I have gained an understanding and appreciation for all areas of study. As an anthropologist I have learned that all disciplines can be applied to almost any aspect of life. People often ask me what I plan to do with my major and the answer is anything! Anthropology can be applied to so many different career fields.