Overcoming adversity through passion

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Randi Ringnes transforms a serious condition into serious success.

It is instilled within us at a young age to follow our dreams. Regardless of our ambitions, we are often told that if we possess enough passion for what we want, we can attain anything.

But the truth is, sometimes passion can only take us so far. Sometimes extra motivation and support are essential to not just overcoming adversity, but to succeeding and reaching our dreams. Randi Ringnes, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art history, knows this all too well.

Transcending the course material

Ringnes has always been fascinated by various works of art, and by how different art periods reflect the time and inspire new generations of artists. This fascination was one of the driving forces that led Ringnes to pursue a career abroad as a museum professional.

“From my first year of college, I knew I wanted to major in art history and find a way to make a career out of it,” Ringnes says. “After adding Museum Studies as my minor and being able to see first-hand the variety of career options in museums, I knew I wanted to be a museum professional. I enjoy working with people and studying art history, and it seemed like a great way to blend the two.”

Recognized for her hard work, Ringnes was asked to present at the Undergraduate Symposium during her final two years at the university. During her junior year, Ringnes gave a presentation on kiln (ceramics) technology in Japanese culture, and this past year, she discussed the connection between Islamic and Greco-Roman art. Ringnes explains that presenting at the symposium provided an additional opportunity to be part of the university community and express her passion for art history.

“It was just such a great opportunity to learn,” Ringnes says. “I really enjoyed the research and seeing this strong continuity of scientific knowledge and how it’s reflected in the art.”

One minor setback

For a while, however, Ringnes wasn’t sure if she’d be able to present at the Symposium, or even attend university at the highest level.

Prior to the start of her junior year, Ringnes was diagnosed with Chiari malformation, a condition resulting from an overgrown brain stem that causes compression or herniation of the brain. This condition leaves the victim dizzy, nauseous, and even potentially paralyzed. 

After she was diagnosed, Ringnes underwent surgery and worked through physical therapy for the better part of the next year. Despite the intensity of her rehabilitation, Ringnes didn’t allow her condition to stop her from reaching her goals. Instead, she continued to pursue a degree in her major and her three minors—museum, religious, and Asian studies—all while earning a 3.93 GPA. 

Though the stress of balancing her efforts was at times almost unbearable, Ringnes knew how important her future goals were, and found solace in her support system within the university community.

“When I was feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I would just remember how much I loved my major and would focus on my career goals,” Ringnes says. “It wasn’t too hard to stay dedicated to a degree I am so passionate about, especially when surrounded by supportive faculty and fellow students.” 

A future abroad

Ringnes success didn’t stop in the classroom; she also served as vice president for the university’s Art History Society, where she ran the club’s affairs while tutoring lower-level students within the art history program. She also moonlighted as a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for Religions 150, the introductory course within the program, and as a student worker in Special Collections and Archives at Cline Library.

Now that she’s graduated, Ringnes can reap the rewards of her hard work and academic preparation; after recently being selected as the outstanding senior in her department, Ringnes’ next move is travelling overseas, as she has been accepted at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute in Florence, Italy. There, she plans to obtain a master’s degree in museum studies.

Ringnes explains that her past experiences have helped her prepare for anything that may come in her future.

“I feel like I’ve really been prepared for my future endeavors,” Ringnes says. “It’s definitely been great having all of this one-on-one contact with professors, and the jobs I’ve been offered here have really been beneficial in learning, not just about art history, but about the way the real world works.”