A collage of two photos (clockwise): 1) Carolyn Vaca posing for a photo 2) Washington Square Park on a sunny day


At NYU, Liberal Studies students spend the first two years of their college career exploring. They experience every opportunity of a liberal studies curriculum in a global context. And because of the small, seminar-style courses that are a hallmark of the program, they engage deeply with each subject and create a strong academic community with their classmates. Then, after their sophomore year, students choose a major from among NYU’s many schools and programs. Many opt to continue into Global Liberal Studies.

For students like Carolyn Vaca, Global Liberal Studies’ interdisciplinary approach to the examination of world cultures through literature, the arts, philosophy, politics, and history is a perfect fit. “From a young age, I was fascinated with culture and religion. That is why I initially thought I wanted to study international relations in college,” she explains. “But through Global Liberal Studies, I can think more on a cultural and philosophical level about different communities.”

Connecting With Every Interest Through Course Work

Starting out in Liberal Studies gave Carolyn the freedom to learn about the communities that matter to her—and their intersections. “I am Colombian, and know that my future career will involve serving my Latine/Hispanic community. I found courses that helped me see it through an academic lens,” she says. “In addition, I have always been in love with Middle Eastern culture. So to learn about, and eventually immerse myself into it, I started taking Arabic. It’s a very beautiful language. Finally, I am also a part of the Queer community, and found courses that engage with gender and sexuality.”

Many of these courses investigate the intersection of these communities, and are run by the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. Consequently, Carolyn declared a second major in Social and Cultural Analysis with a focus on Latine and gender and sexuality studies. She is also continuing to learn Arabic, and plans to study abroad at NYU Abu Dhabi. “There, my goal is to further my skills in Arabic and immerse myself in Middle Eastern culture. I hope to learn more about international legal studies and, hopefully, intersections of gender and sexuality with Middle Eastern culture,” she says.

Bringing it All Together in Her Concentration

In Global Liberal Studies, you can specialize in one of six concentrations ranging from art, text and media, to sustainability, health, and the environment. You’ll also spend a year abroad in the NYU Global Network to tap into new perspectives. As Carolyn confirmed her desire to advocate for her communities, she landed on a concentration in law, ethics, history and religion. She also decided to join NYU’s prelaw program.

The path to her decision was not a straight line. “I knew I wanted to have a career that would involve serving the public, especially those that tended to be silenced and underrepresented like queer or PoC communities,” says Carolyn. “I thought about law or working in the non-profit sector after graduation. However, I do have many interests. I entertained the idea of switching my majoring to screen writing, philosophy, or even becoming a prehealth student.”

A collage of two images (clockwise): 1) A professional headshot of Carolyn Vaca 2) NYU flags hanging from a building
Focusing on the Future

Ultimately, she decided that Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in law, ethics, history, and religion would lay a foundation for a meaningful career. “I realized that studying law would open doors to more career paths than I could ever imagine. I could work for a non-profit as a legal representative. Or, I could be a lawyer in charge of corporate social responsibility,” she explains. “Being someone that likes challenges, it felt like a perfect fit.”

She’s still keeping her options open for the future. But her goal is to find a career that serves at the intersection of the communities she is passionate about. “My dream job would be an attorney at a nonprofit that provides legal protection for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers and refugee status seekers across the world.”

Go Global From Day One

If Liberal Studies or Global Liberal Studies feels right for you, consider studying abroad your first year. First year students in Liberal Studies have the opportunity to start their NYU education at one of our sites in Florence, London, Madrid, Paris, or Washington, DC. It’s a unique opportunity to maximize your global education at NYU.

Cat has been telling NYU stories for nearly 10 years with NYU’s University Relations and Public Affairs Office of Marketing Communications and is constantly inspired by what the people of this community make real. She’s also a proud alum of the NYU MFA program in creative writing, and runs a literary magazine in her free time. When she needs to get away from words, she does work in her neighborhood gardens and parks.