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What would compel a 40-something owner of an already successful small business to return to school for an M.B.A. at Ithaca College?
Heather Lane, owner of Purity Ice Cream—a well-known and loved institution in Ithaca and the central New York area—had her reasons: “I had plateaued at Purity. I couldn’t beat my best day’s sales,” she says.
Heather always urged IC students on her staff to finish their degrees but was embarrassed she never finished her own. After taking the final classes needed to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology with the University at Buffalo, she was inspired to scoop up an M.B.A. at Ithaca to boost her business.
“I didn’t understand how transferable the theoretical knowledge was until I entered the program, and then it just became this great game: what can I change next at Purity?”
Heather made operational adjustments, which included changing the way customers move through her store and the location of the cash registers. She also modified the prices of certain products.
Then she tackled the human resources side of the business and created a series of videos so that staffers could understand the nuances of making a great sundae or a smooth milkshake, and even how to mop the floor correctly.
Changes like these and others are what helped Heather eventually beat her best day's sales by 40 percent. She credits that growth to her education at IC.
“The M.B.A. program really pushed me to analyze my operation, make sense of it, and do it better,” Heather says.
>> More on this story: "Ice Cream Social" - The Ithacan
When it came time for Rochelle Frankson to choose a college, her mother had a suggestion for her: Ithaca College. Her mom had heard about Ithaca during an informational meeting for parents. Rochelle is from Jamaica, and the meeting was part of a program to prepare families to apply to American schools.
“She heard the name Ithaca College enough for her to remember and tell me, ‘Apply to that one.’ A lot of good things were said in the meeting about IC,” Rochelle says.
As a chemistry major, Rochelle discovered an interest in medicine. She contemplated pre-med studies, but her interests led elsewhere. “I was falling more and more in love with the science of medicine, not the actual practice of it. When I heard about pharmacology, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Rochelle’s inclination toward pharmacology led to lab internships during which she used X-ray and computer analyses to see how certain acids bonded to a protein known as histone-deacetylase-8, and how those acids stopped or slowed activity in the protein through crystallization. Research shows that the protein is overactive in cases of colon and prostate cancer, and their goal in the lab was to identify potential acid “inhibitors” that other researchers could someday use in developing new cancer treatments.
In the spring of her senior year, Rochelle traveled to New Orleans to attend an American Chemical Society conference with classmates and professors from IC’s chemistry department. A big take-away for Rochelle was a talk about the lack of basic scientific knowledge among the general population and why it’s important for scientists to help keep the public informed.
“You’re doing this research to eventually help other people. You have to translate it for the nonscientific community.”
Rochelle also found time to be a student leadership consultant with the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs and was involved with Service Saturdays. “I love creating events or just being in an office or doing little tasks that are ultimately helping the wider community.”
After graduating, Rochelle went into a Ph.D. program at Indiana University. She compared departing IC to leaving family and described the chemistry department as “very close-knit” among the students and teachers.
“I expected the professor-student relationship to only be professional. But they actually have a vested interest in you as a person.”
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