AMST Student Feature: Lelani Gorham

Lelani Gorham applied to Cornell as a Government major. However, it wasn’t until after coming to Cornell she realized that American Studies was a possible course of study. 

Her serendipitous path towards the AMST major began when taking courses related to Government. 

“While I was taking my government course load, a lot of the courses were cross listed with American Studies,” she states. 

During the spring of her sophomore year, she took a course within the AMST department, called Descent and Protest in U.S. History, which opened her eyes to what the major entailed. 

After declaring the major, she took Black Speculative Fiction and Intro to African American Literature under Professor Derrick R. Spires, who she describes as “integral” and a “great mentor” to her understanding of various AMST related topics. 

Outside of the classroom, Gorham leads organizations such as B.O.S.S. (Building Ourselves Through Sisterhood and Service) and Black Ivy Pre Law Society. She also takes part in the Arts & Sciences Ambassador Program to help prospective and incoming students learn more about Cornell’s liberal arts education, which she has been a part of for years. 

As a Government and American Studies Double major—and Law & Society, Africana Studies, and Inequality Studies triple minor—Gorham finds herself always finding herself learning something new. 

“There’s just so many different classes within the major…it really does immerse you in American studies and American history,” she emphasizes. She notes the class Indigenous North America where she learned about the Native population not only across America but specifically in Ithaca. 

This past summer, she was able to practice AMST skills and content while studying for the LSAT. In addition to her studies, she worked with National Digital Inclusion Alliance in collaboration with her local library. 

“We focused on digital inclusion and digital equity in helping people improve their digital skills,” she says. 

Although Gorham doesn’t know how many gap years she will take upon graduation, she anticipates going to law school.


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Lelani Gorham