Ithaca College Will Make You Ready
With a vibrant community, professors who inspire, and the hands-on experience you need to dive into your field with confidence.
Five months after graduating from Ithaca, Tom Healy was working with the search and rescue team in California’s Yosemite National Park when he got a call that a woman had fallen and fractured her leg on Half Dome, one of Yosemite’s iconic peaks.
When Tom and his team partner reached the woman, they knew it wouldn’t be an ordinary rescue. “She needed to be medevaced off the top,” he recalls. “And a storm was coming in, and we were in a very bad place.”
An avid hiker and rock climber, Tom chose Ithaca because it offered a major—outdoor adventure leadership—that could prepare him for situations like this, blending theory with wilderness immersion so that he could put classroom learning into practice.
“You learn that the consequences of your decisions are very important,” he says. “It definitely gives you more tools in your bag for life.”
The storm hit so close that Tom’s partner felt electric shocks through the metal frame of his backpack, and another hiker’s hair stood on end. “What I learned in my classes at Ithaca is to remain calm,” Tom says. “You have to have the coolest head in the group.”
As the weather grew increasingly violent, Tom helped the woman safely aboard the rescue helicopter and then led the other hikers to safety as lightning struck around them. “If we hadn’t gone up there and gotten her off the mountain,” he says, “she definitely would have died.”
Tom got a letter from the National Park Service commending him on his bravery and a heartfelt thank-you from the woman whose life he saved. “The letter of thanks I received from the injured hiker was worth all the effort,” he says.
Now Tom is studying in an advanced paramedics program so that he can return to Yosemite as a full-time employee. “Ithaca College made me ready to adapt to any situation.”
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College should prepare you for life after graduation, whether you go into the workforce or—as Elitsa Stoyanova did—enter a prestigious Ph.D. program in developmental biology and embryology. Thanks to three-and-a-half years of actual lab work as an undergraduate at Ithaca College, Elitsa will be able to dive right into serious research as a graduate student.
IC affords science students opportunities that larger institutions tend to reserve for graduate students. “It can be really hard to get into a lab and actually do research and not just wash the glassware,” Elitsa says of her peers’ experiences in programs at other universities. “So a lot of kids who are very talented wind up going to grad school with only a couple of months—maybe a year—of research experience.”
Elitsa worked with assistant professor Ian Woods who’s examining the genetics behind anxiety in zebrafish (the animals share a similar genetic structure to humans). This work could someday lead to better, more nuanced treatments for anxiety and depression.
“Ian has been fantastic. I owe my grad school success to him. He gave me great advice on how to write my personal statement, how to talk to my interviewer, what questions to ask. He has been really insightful about what it is to be a Ph.D. student in these times.”
As a junior, Elitsa gave a presentation at the 245th American Chemical Society national meeting in New Orleans, sharing what she’d learned about enzymes that make bacteria undetectable to host immune systems. She also worked in assistant professor Catherine Malele’s lab—forging a connection that helped Elitsa land a summer internship with the University of Pennsylvania’s Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.
“I honestly think the entire science faculty [at Ithaca College] is phenomenal. They have all inspired me in a way.”
Elitsa chose Rockefeller University for graduate school because the program let her use her extensive experience right away. Since she’s already versed in basic lab techniques, she can focus on loftier goals. “I want to be able to think on my own and ask the right questions. I want to find a mentor who will give me enough freedom to explore my ideas. I want to be in charge of where the project is going—that is how you learn to be a scientist.”
>> More on this story: Beneath the Surface
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