Ithaca College Will Make You Ready
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Some day in the not-so-distant future, as cities expand and climate change continues, Andreas Jonathan will be working to strike a balance between urban growth and environmentalism. “We’re living in a world that is very quickly urbanizing. There are a lot of mega-cities continuing to grow, and I think cities will be the battleground for sustainability in the future,” Andreas says.
As a freshman at Ithaca College, Andreas was drawn to the environmental studies program. “There was a course called Environmental Sentinels, where the purpose was to discover what you’re trying to save. We had class at night in the natural lands where we were blindfolded and had to get back to campus just by listening. It made me think about my place in the natural world.”
Andreas also felt a calling he hadn’t yet fully identified. “I needed something to complement what I was learning, so I could channel my desire for a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive society.”
Luckily at Ithaca he had mentors to help him find the right program. "It’s been very easy for me to find people who care about my future. I learned about architectural studies by speaking with professors in the art history department.”
As a sophomore, Andreas secured an internship with the Institute for Urban Design in New York City. He joined the institute’s project team for the Venice International Architecture Biennale, an event where architects and designers from around the world showcase themed designs. The U.S. theme was “spontaneous interventions”—designing to solve urban problems and create new opportunities for the public.
“What I love most about architecture is that it's so much more than building and construction. There’s history, theory, stakeholder relations, and social and environmental consequences,” Andreas says. “It struck me that anyone working in design professions must constantly be balancing, learning.”
For Andreas, learning to strike that delicate balance began with the conversations he had with mentors at IC. He plans to extend his knowledge of design beyond graduation as he pursues dual master’s degrees in architecture and city planning followed by a Ph.D.
“When I was little and was asked, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I didn’t really know. But I knew there was this scar on the world that needed to be fixed. Then I started falling in love with architecture, city design, and social justice. It was what I always planned on doing before I even knew what it was.”
Adeesha Ekanayake grew up in Sri Lanka, an island nation off the coast of India. When political tensions closed the university he was attending, he wanted a more stable educational environment. So he flew 9,000 miles away from home to go to Ithaca College.
“Sri Lanka is a small country,” he said. “Getting off the plane at JFK, I’d never seen such scale. I felt cut off from my moorings.”
Fortunately, he’d enrolled in Ithaca College’s HOME program, a multicultural housing arrangement for international students. “The best thing I did was keep my door open. I met a lot of international students as homesick as I was. Plus, we were serious about our studies. We clicked. We got over our culture shock.”
A computer science major, Adeesha and three other students came up with an idea for an app that can scan garments in clothing stores to show negative environmental impacts regarding how the clothes were made. The team decided to enter their idea in the Business Idea Competition held by the college’s School of Business—and finished first in the software category. The team enjoyed splitting the $5,000 prize, but it was the “idea” part of the competition that sparked Adeesha’s passion for research.
“I helped a faculty member with her research, and she encouraged me to start projects of my own. At a lot of larger institutions, you wouldn’t get a chance to spend time with your professors and get to know them personally. At IC, that’s a given.”
Another one of Adeesha’s projects is a video game for physical therapy patients. Exercises recorded by the therapist are performed by a virtual figure on a Microsoft Kinect system. Appearing as a second figure, the patient is challenged to mimic the virtual one. The more accurately the exercise is performed, the more points the patient earns.
Adeesha also worked with assistant professor of computer science Doug Turnbull on MeUse, an Internet radio recommender. When a listener uses MeUse to search for an artist, it recommends three Internet radio stations and provides information to help the user choose. A paper on the project was accepted for presentation at the 14th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference.
“I’d originally planned going back to Sri Lanka after graduation, but there are too many employment and research opportunities in the U.S. to pass up, and IC opened my eyes to them.”
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