Art history, literature and religion: the essence of presidential scholar and senior Hannah Schmidt

An art history and English literature major from Putnam Valley, N.Y., senior Hannah Schmidt's years at Geneseo have represented the seamless union of her childhood interests and adult curiosities.

Schmidt said she grew up "surrounded by books and art" because both of her parents came from diverse creative backgrounds. When it came down to choosing a discipline, it was effortless.

"I've always been an English major," Schmidt said. "When I was in middle school, my dad read my brother and I The Great Gatsby … I remember thinking, ‘Books aren't just interesting, they're also really beautiful.'"

Schmidt cited her "fond memories as a five-year-old flipping through a coffee table children's art book" as one of the reasons she became an art history major, though her work as a docent for an Anne Frank House exhibit during her senior year of high school was also inspirational.

"I loved the sharing experience that was going on – the interaction between the guide, the visitor and what was actually being presented."

"I see both literature and art as art, two beautiful creative expressions," Schmidt said, stressing the interplay between the disciplines as her favorite aspect of her coursework. With a concentration in Renaissance and medieval studies, Schmidt loves how "text and images go so hand-in-hand during their development in this period."

Schmidt is also president of English Club and Newman Catholic Community. She DJs a big band show for WGSU, helps to organize the on-campus galleries, loves dance and poetry and has a penchant for second-hand clothes and antique jewelry.

Schmidt was also named one of the 2011-12 presidential scholars. "I feel really privileged that I'm lumped in with such an incredible group of people," she said. "It's been very humbling, but also an incredible ego trip." She remembered wanting to be one as a freshman: "It's another reason I'm an incredible snob," she joked. "It's nice because I feel like I don't deserve it."

While English Club allows her to relate to likeminded literature nerds, Schmidt said her faith and Newman have been fundamental in molding her Geneseo experience.

"Even though [Newman] is a religious group, it's really chill," Schmidt said. She added that Mike Sauter, director of campus ministry, has influenced her greatly. "I would probably be some emotional shell of a person without him."

"Being Catholic is the best thing I ever did for my undergraduate education … my majors affirm my religion while my religion affirms my majors," Schmidt explained. "It's been the backbone … [and] provided a really nice foundation that I can build on."

Schmidt said that her faith was also involved with one of the most integral parts of her time at Geneseo: her class on Dante with professors Ron Herzman and William Cook during her sophomore year.

"That blew my mind from January up until May," she said. "It was pivotal both academically and religiously."

She has since done ongoing research with Herzman and has taken a history class on medieval city-states with Cook in Italy. All have inspired her senior thesis: Sandro Botticelli's illuminated manuscript of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Schmidt is uncertain of what's next, but she's currently applying to two graduate schools for art history overseas, as well as an internship with Christie's Auction House in London. "I'm not really sure where I'm going to be next year," she said, though eventually she "would really love to be a stay-at-home mom with a part-time job in a museum or as an adjunct professor."

"I'm ready to move on, but I know that I'm really going to miss [Geneseo]," Schmidt said. Looking back, she reflected, "I realize how blessed I've been."