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.
In high school, I considered myself a pretty good student. Most of my friends took the same classes I did and knew they wanted to be biomedical engineers, environmental scientists, or doctors someday. I was confident in my abilities and had plenty of ideas about my interests, but I wasn’t prepared at 18 to make what I thought was a huge choice. When I was looking for colleges, I wanted a school that acknowledged that it takes time and experience to make that decision. Ithaca College’s Exploratory Program offered me just that.
The Exploratory Program provided me with so many resources. I took a course specifically designed to help college students discover their passions. My faculty advisor, Elizabeth Bleicher, asked me focused questions to reveal potential majors that might suit both my personality and abilities.
In high school I enjoyed physics, and I knew coming in that I wanted to take a college-level course on the subject. Professor Bleicher referred me to Professor Michael “Bodhi” Rogers. His passion is infectious. After completing the introductory class, I realized that I loved physics. I like the logic involved in it. It’s not about memorization—it’s about problem-solving in real life. That intellectual challenge is exactly what I was looking for in my college experience.
The enthusiasm of the people in the physics department also really impressed me. They’re totally dedicated to using a teaching style based on the most current research about how students best learn. I had a class in the performance-based physics classroom—a collaborative learning environment where the professor is in the center with projectors all around, and students are seated in groups so that they can discuss questions before answering. It was one of the most powerful educational experiences I have ever had.
By talking to my faculty advisor and professors, I learned what I can do with a physics major. I can be anything from an engineer to a lawyer or teacher. Educators in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) are in demand, and teaching is something I’m definitely interested in. Physics majors score well on law school entrance tests, and I accepted a summer internship working in the legal department of a technologies corporation. The idea that I could major in a subject that was really important, had a great job outlook, and would still let me do a variety of different things down the road really appealed to me.
I also visited Career Services as part of my exploration, and they helped me discover ways my preferences could be matched with potential careers. That led me to realize that I could actually pursue multiple interests. Now, not only am I a physics major, but I am also a business administration minor.
The Exploratory Program was the reason I came to Ithaca College. Though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I didn’t like calling myself “undecided” because I had decided that I wasn’t ready to choose a major yet. I wanted time to explore; I wanted guidance along the way—and that’s exactly what Ithaca gave me.
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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