Le Sueur, Minnesota
International Political Economy and Asian Studies
Back in high school, Cecilia Hernandez-Ruiz wasn’t sure that Carthage was the right college for her — but she very quickly found a community that is loving and supportive.
“What really solidified the decision for me was my first visit to Carthage,” she says. “It felt safe and welcoming, the lake was beautiful, and everyone smiled at me.”
Asian Studies Professor Mimi Yang was one of the first people Cecilia met on campus, and Prof. Yang helped finalize her decision. “She’s a small person, but she has a huge personality,” remarks Cecilia. “She helped me finalize my educational goals.”
It didn’t take Cecilia long to settle in. She is now president of the International Friendship Society, a former secretary of the Chinese Club, and a member of United Women of Color.
Her take-charge attitude has paid dividends.
For someone who is focused on being involved, IPE is the perfect arena.
“While IPE has given me technical skills to use in the workforce, the interdisciplinary nature of the field has given me a well-rounded background. I’ve taken classes in economics, politics, history and management; you really do become a well-rounded individual with a broader perspective on many topics.”
This summer, Cecilia will use these skills when she works with Speedway LLC as district manager trainee. This hands-on experience combined with what she’s learning in the classroom are already helping her transition into an international business setting.
“I love interacting with different cultures, and getting to understand different methods of conducting business,” explains Cecilia. “At some point in my life, I would like to head a non-profit organization that focuses on the socioeconomic empowerment of women in developing countries.”
“My friends have made me laugh until I’ve cried, the faculty have inspired me, and the general staff has been nothing but kind and helpful to me. I love feeling connected to people on campus!”
“I want to work in an international business setting. I love interacting with different cultures and getting to understand different methods of conducting business. At some point in my life, I would like to head a nonprofit organization that focuses on the socioeconomic empowerment of women in developing countries.”
How have Carthage faculty had an impact on your life or Carthage career?
“My favorite professor so far has been Professor Udry from the History Department. I took Issues in Ancient Chinese and Japanese Civilizations with him as a freshman. Although the topics of Chinese and Japanese history are not the happiest subjects to talk about, he did his best to present the topics as objectively and analytically as possible. Most people, when they think of China, think of America’s greatest economic competitor, socialism, and communism. He showed us a different China — a China that, despite inner turmoil and external forces, has managed to survive for thousands of years and whose history is actually quite tragic. He is a knowledgeable professor and his passion for his field of study is truly inspiring.”
“Apart from the language classes I have taken at Carthage, my favorite class was Introduction to International Relations with Professor Jeffrey Roberg. It was a hard class, but there were amazing people in the class and the topics of discussion were fascinating to talk about. It was fast-paced and challenging, but I learned so much from it.”
“I have been busy here at Carthage! I have worked as a resident assistant for two years; I am currently president of the International Friendship Society; and I recently got the position of co-vice president of human resources with Velocity Consulting. In the past, I have also been involved with Chinese Club (I was their secretary for a while), United Women of Color (member), and Student Government Representative (for IFS.) I also do my best to serve you a warm cup of coffee either at Starbucks or Seattle’s Best Coffee.”
“Philosophical Foundations of International Political Economy. It was brutal. I was a freshman in a class full of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I had no background in the workings of the political structure of our country, let alone of the international community. I almost quit my major after taking that class, but I didn’t. I think what made the class the most difficult was that it was my first time being unable to coast by in a subject. You had to do the readings, and if you really wanted to be on top of things, you had to do outside research. Professor Cyr did not just accept arbitrary comments; you were expected to defend your ideas and comments.”
Internships or on-campus employment
“I have not had any formal internships, but during my summers, I have worked with various small businesses in Minnesota to gain an understanding of a basic business structure. However, this summer I am set to work with Speedway LLC as their district manager trainee.”
Opportunities at Carthage
“Carthage has a large amount of resources available and it’s up to you to decide if you want to accept them or not. I more or less had an idea of what I wanted to major in and what skills I wanted to get out of my experience at Carthage, so I tailored my activities to fit in with my goal. Academically, I wanted to focus on a major that would enhance my critical thinking and analytical skills. My weaker skills I wanted to develop through the activities I participated in.”
Favorite moments and memories at Carthage
“Not so much moments, but what makes up the moments: and that has been the people. There have been great moments with faculty, friends, and staff. My friends have made me laugh until I’ve cried, the faculty have inspired me, and the general staff has been nothing but kind and helpful to me. I love feeling connected to people on campus!”
Favorite spot on campus
“My favorite spot on campus is the Clausen Center. I spend so much of my working, academic, and free time in the building, I might as well just buy myself a little tent and start living there (although I do think that’s kind of frowned upon.) I love the building because it houses a lot of the faculty I admire, it has a Starbucks, and I can usually find myself a comfortable spot in which to study. Not to mention, it’s the best looking building on campus.”
Biggest surprise so far
“How much I have changed. I’m an introvert, and like a true classic introvert, I’ve always been reserved and shy. But when I came to Carthage, that pretty much went out the window.”
What would your 8-year-old self think of you now?
“My 8-year old self would be a little confused. I had originally intended to go into environmental science or medicine, but at the last minute, I decided that was not for me. My 8-year old self would wonder why I was not trying to help the world by finding the cure for cancer or by planting new trees in the Amazon Forest. I would also think I was being a bore by studying politics and economics (what 8-year-old wants to talk about inelastic goods, taxes, and diplomacy?) To which I would say, ‘Wrong!’ This world is fascinating and we are living in a time where changes have an impact domestically and internationally. There is more than one way to help others, and I took a route that challenged me, but allowed me to incorporate my love of different cultures. So to my 8-year-old self I would say, ‘Judge me if you want, but I’m having fun.’”
Why should other students consider your major? What advice do you have for them?
“If you are interested in being a part of this changing world, do it! This major is not for the faint of heart. There will be times that you will want to rip every hair out of your head, and more than once, you will question why you went into this major. But IPE has so much to offer and it’s such a versatile major, it would be a shame to not take advantage of it. It’s an interdisciplinary course of study; essentially you can make it into whatever you want. I decided to make Asia and business my specialty, and because of the crossover of many of my classes, I was able to do so with relative ease. If you are going to choose this major, have a game plan. Think about your long-term goals and what you hope to accomplish during and after your time at Carthage. Of course your plans might change, or you might take this major on not exactly knowing what you want to do, but that’s ok! There are so many faculty members who will lend you a hand and who will work with you to set up a path because they really do want to see you succeed.”