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Communication and Digital Media

Student Voices

  • Ryen Cunningham '20

Ryen Cunningham ’20


Zion, Illinois


Great Ideas, Communication



Favorite spot on campus

“I really like my room.”

At 8-years-old, Ryen Cunningham knew she wanted to study philosophy and Spanish. Now at Carthage, Ryen has excelled in her studies and continues to take advantage of the many opportunities offered through her majors.

With Carthage’s small class sizes and involved faculty, Ryen has been able to work closely with the professors in her majors, specifically Prof. Seemee Ali and Prof. Michael McShane. “They have made me more assertive, more confident, and more powerful as a scholar, and as a person. Because of them, I am not afraid to ask or answer tough questions.”

Also minoring in Spanish, Ryen has had the opportunity to attend a J-Term study tour to Guatemala. On the study tour, she was able to experience Guatemalan culture while also improving her language skills immensely. In the future, Ryen hopes to create documentaries revolving around Spanish-speaking countries and their cultures.

Career goal

“I am hoping to produce documentaries in Spanish-speaking countries and edit films after I graduate from Carthage.”

Favorite professor

Dr. Seemee Ali and Dr. Michael McShane are two professors who have been mentors to me ever since my freshman year at this college. They have both inspired me and my fellow colleagues to take on life’s challenges. They have made me more assertive, more confident, and more powerful as a scholar, and as a person. Because of them, I am not afraid to ask or answer tough questions. Their classes have always opened vast windows of knowledge and opportunities that show a different manner of thinking.”

Favorite class

“My favorite class at Carthage has been my seminar in Renaissance Thought with Dr. Ali and Dr. McShane. We focused on Boccaccio and read his book as if we were investigators solving a mystery. What I took away from this class is that things are not always what they seem. They might even be the complete opposite of how they appear.”

Toughest class

“The toughest class at Carthage so far has been my Foundations in American Thought class. It is tough because politics are not my strong suit. However, the class is always filled with interesting and controversial discussion.”

Opportunities at Carthage

“For my 2018 J-Term study tour, I went on a Spanish immersion trip to Guatemala. It was the best experience of my life. I was able to become more fluent in my Spanish, as well as grow closer to my group and the people living in Nuevo Horizonte.”

Campus involvement

“I am the technical director of WAVE Radio here at Carthage.”

Favorite moments at Carthage

“My favorite Carthage moments are when I can hang out with my friends and have philosophical discussions.”

Biggest surprise so far?

“My biggest surprise has been how many true friends I have made on this journey.”

What would your 8-year-old self think of you now?

“My 8-year-old self wanted to study philosophy and Spanish, so I think she would be proud of me.”

Advice for other students considering your major

“Because of my Great Ideas major, I have become well-read and well-versed in writing. I have also been able to apply my knowledge from the Great Ideas courses into my other fields of study and enhance them.”


Madeline Paakkonen ’21
  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2019), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has been named a top producer of Fulbright Fellows three years running. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …