Our Students. Our Story. #UMKCGoingPlaces

Photo and video by Brandon Parigo, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Cara Nordengren is a Nelson-Atkins Scholar

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Art History and Criminal Justice and Criminology majors, Psychology minor | College of Arts and Sciences | 2019

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa, which is a suburb of Des Moines. I graduated from Dowling Catholic High School.

How have your college programs inspired you?

Art History helped me realize that you can make what you love your job. Art has always had a very calming influence on my life. Before I was an Art History major I would go to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to de-stress. So when I started taking art history classes it was like the clouds parted. I would spend extra time studying without even realizing it because I just really loved looking at and learning about art.

CJC has been great because there’s so many different people who major in Criminal Justice, every one of those people comes to the program with a different approach to the law and how/if policies should be enforced.

What got you into your fields of study?

When I originally chose criminal justice, I wanted to help people and be able to make a difference in our world. There are so many problems with the current criminal justice system and I wanted to be able to have a hand in fixing it. I still have every intention of doing so, just through charity and volunteer work and the like.

I took Introduction to Art History, Art History 110 with Dr. Robert Cohon. I just fell in love with it. It was one of the best classes I’d ever taken. And studying never felt like a chore for that class because I just really enjoyed doing it. I carry a lot of stress in my life. I’m a very high-stress person. It’s just the way I am. Art is just so calming, and I’m never stressed when I’m working on art. I really took the right class at the right time.

What do you do as a Nelson-Atkins Scholar?

I’m doing independent research in the Nelson on the special exhibition that just came through, Luxury: Treasures of the Roman Empire. And I’m doing work with the permanent collections and then research about Roman glass and Roman marble and carbon techniques.

Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?

I’ve learned that I don’t do well with nothing to do. I have to be doing something the more mentally engaging the better, whether that’s homework, actual work, or something else. Which is probably why I’m a double major with a minor — that keeps me busy enough that I don’t get bored.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

You have to do what you love or it’s not worth the effort.

What do you feel like you contribute to UMKC?

I hope a positive attitude and a welcoming face. I try to be really friendly and helpful. I work for Res Life. I’m a desk attendant. So part of my job is just being super friendly to people.

What do you want your legacy to be after graduation day?

Positivity – I think that’s what I’d like my legacy to be. Positivity and community.

I would love to become an art curator. Being able to bring the world of fine arts to more people. I feel like people get intimidated about art. I want people to be able to have more of an access to art. Art just has such a calming influence on my life. I feel like more people should be able to have access to that. I’d also love to travel more and see the world and learn about people. I love learning, so getting to know how different parts of the world work and how different people think would be great.

How do you feel UMKC will help you achieve your goals?

Definitely the people here. Most everyone that I’ve interacted with has been really helpful and out to make sure that you really succeed. Also giving me introductions and access to the right people. Because where I’m at in my life right now I definitely would not be if I hadn’t come to UMKC and taken the right classes and shook hands with the right people. Connections.

What is one word that best describes you?

Driven. I have always felt like there was something more I could be doing, or a way I could be doing better. Even when I have a lot to do, as soon as I finish one thing my first thought is: what’s next?

What’s your favorite social media channel and why?

I’m a big fan of Snapchat; it lets me see what my friends are doing throughout the day as if I’m there with them without actually being there.

What’s your favorite spot to eat in Kansas City?

A little Vietnamese restaurant at the City Market called Hien Vuong Restaurant. It’s got somewhere between 20 and 30 seats and they make the most incredible authentic Vietnamese food.

What motto do you live by?

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” – a quote by Frida Kahlo

What excites you?

Learning. I love learning new things and meeting new people and seeing how different portions of the world work. I get really excited about art. Learning on a macro level and then art on a micro level.


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