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.
Computer science and history are not commonly paired in the classroom. But at Ithaca College, professors Ali Erkan and Michael Smith have begun a collaboration that may help improve the way students learn.
The project began because of computer science professor Ali Erkan’s curiosity. He wanted to look at how students use wikis—websites developed collaboratively by a community of users who can add and delete information—so he could research and create a visual map of the way the students make connections between ideas. He asked himself, If students produce things that can be visualized as structures, will that allow us to understand understanding itself?
“I think computer science allows you to develop the tools to work on that question—but then you need a context,” Ali says. “I thought the humanities would be the best context to explore, and I had to find the right person to work with.”
Ali had just the person in mind—a history professor he had met during a bus ride in Ithaca a couple years earlier and had since interacted with on the IC campus. He emailed Michael Smith to share his idea.
“The fact that Ithaca, both as an institution and a community, is small enough that you can have these kinds of interpersonal connections that can then become more formal collaborations is something I really value,” Michael says. “In some ways I’m an odd choice because I’m a little bit of a digital skeptic, but when Ali approached me with this idea of using wikis as a way of representing knowledge—that you could kind of lift up the hood and see some structures in there—I was intrigued.”
Ali and Michael have been working with students in both their fields to further explore the project’s questions. They created a grant proposal and received a digital humanities start-up grant from the National Endowment for Humanities. They hope that by gaining understanding of how thought connections are formed, they can eventually help students improve how they research and learn.
Ithaca College has given them the support they need to make the project a success. “It is a teaching-oriented institution, so we’re encouraged to be innovative and emphasize teaching excellence in all sorts of ways. So this is a way to remain active as scholars and at the same time improve what happens in our classroom,” says Michael.
“There’s no quota for the amount of papers you have to write or the amount of money you have to bring in. Those things are in place at other institutions so that there’s more research productivity, but I think it ends up being a hindrance on the research,” Ali says. “We both feel liberated by not operating under those constraints, so we can simply follow our curiosity, and that becomes our optimum point of operation. Because we are curious, we are productive.”
>> More on this story: Untangling the Web
When financial accounts are hacked and money trails need to be followed, Rachel Hart goes into action. Rachel works as a global banking operations analyst, investigating cases of fraud for the wealth management arm of a leading financial institution on Wall Street.
“My team processes individual fraud claims and monitors global fraud activity daily. We focus on average and high net-worth individual accounts, but we also support a number of small businesses and subsidiaries of larger corporations. Our clients are domestic and international, which is both interesting and challenging,” she explains.
Rachel is a graduate of Ithaca College’s School of Business, but if you’d told her in high school she’d end up working in finance, she might have looked at you funny.
“I took AP economics as a senior in high school, and I actually hated it. I didn’t have a great experience,” Rachel says. Despite that, the international business program at IC caught her eye. She says she fell in love with the program during her very first semester.
“Being in the program and joining clubs in the business school really helped me discover how much I wanted to be in finance and business,” Rachel says.
She credits the hands-on experiences emphasized at Ithaca College for helping to prepare her for her career.
“I learned a lot in my classes, but being able to apply that to something more tangible made it really stick,” Rachel adds. “Being able to use what I learned in my finance classes in the investment club, and then eventually in the real-time portfolio management class, really helped me understand all of the theories we learned in the classroom, put that knowledge to use, and feel like a capable employee.”
Opportunities to apply your education in campus organizations and through internships are central to the Ithaca College experience.
“These opportunities teach you so many skills that a lot of students don’t get to build in other universities, especially in larger ones where you might get lost in the shuffle,” Rachel says.
More on this story: Financial Management Association and Investment Club
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