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.
Born in Ghana, West Africa, Piko Ewoodzie ’06 began learning about vastly different social structures when his family moved to the United States—first living in a small town in the Midwest and then in the South Bronx in New York City.
“My life’s story has been trying to understand different kinds of worlds,” says Piko. “Every time we went to a new place, it was a new chance for me to try to make sense of a new social world—new friends, new hierarchies, new definitions of what is cool and what is not cool.”
Knowing he wanted to study sociology, Piko discovered the opportunity to understand how different societies work on an even deeper level at Ithaca College. As part of the pioneering class of IC’s Martin Luther King Scholar Program, Piko was given the chance to travel, research global issues, and make an impact on how others see the world.
“Every year [in the MLK program] you design a project. You think about a research question, you go out of the country, you talk to people, you find answers, and then you come back and present to the school.”
With the MLK program, Piko went to Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica to learn what issues people face in other parts of the world. In a particularly eye-opening experience in Costa Rica, Piko spent a week with kids who were playing together at a gym. The children were from different areas, but they had a common connection. “Toward the end of the week we realized that these kids know each other because they live on the only land their families can afford, and every six months their houses get flooded. It just blew us away.”
Since graduation, Piko has continued to research sociological issues as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. For his dissertation, Piko went to Jackson, Mississippi, to examine how African Americans of different socioeconomic backgrounds acquire, prepare, and consume what they eat. He lived with people to discuss and experience their relationships with food firsthand—doing the same type of work he did as an MLK scholar at IC.
In addition to his research, Piko is teaching sociology at Kenyon College, inspiring a new generation of students to examine global issues. “I think both in the classroom and outside the classroom—really all of what I’m doing now—is just a continuation of the things I did at Ithaca.
“I want to teach college students how to get excited about the complications of the world.”
>> More on this story: The Martin Luther King Scholar Program
Life after graduation can take a lot of twists. Julie Perng’s degree in organizational communication from Ithaca College is a long way from the Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics she’s pursuing. But her journey into that field began as a member of the Martin Luther King Scholar Program at IC.
“The MLK program changed my life and who I am profoundly,” Julie says. “It was a huge part of my college experience.”
Julie’s path began with a journey to Brazil, her first international trip as an MLK scholar. Her social justice research—a key part of the MLK program—was on homophobia; from there she took a broader interest in social issues. As a sophomore, she received funding to attend a conference on LGBT issues. At that conference she met some people concerned with fair trade, which became a new passion.
Julie went on to found a fair-trade club on campus, and she focused the final two years of her MLK program research on trade. The next major twist in Julie’s route to her Ph.D. was a Fulbright scholarship to study in China.
Julie spent three years in China, first researching rural-to-urban migration and ecotourism and then working for the Nature Conservancy—making use of her communications degree. Later she moved back to the United States and began working with various federal agencies as part of a project management and consulting firm.
“My company funded graduate work, so I started taking classes in applied economics because I knew that’s where I wanted to go.” She is focusing her thesis on ecotourism and recently conducted exploratory research in Costa Rica, a country she had visited before with the MLK program.
“I really need to understand the history of tourism in Costa Rica. I also need to understand other aspects of the country that will be important for my analysis and the methodologies I want to use.”
Julie credits the interdisciplinary focus of the MLK program—and Ithaca College—with providing perspectives that come in handy despite the fact that economics is perceived as being all about numbers.
“In the end, even though I’m doing economics, math, and statistics, I still have to explain the human element to my stories.”
And though her academic background isn’t the same as others in her new field, she doesn’t see that as a setback.
“Ithaca College began my road to where I am today. I had a winding path to get where I am, but I’m tackling everything, even when I have limitations. I’m prepared in terms of doing research and writing and independent thinking.”
>> More on this story: Ithaca College recognized as a top producer of Fulbright students
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