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.
Before Mike Severo came to Ithaca College, his life was focused mainly on music. As a talented boy soprano, he had performed with stars like Bruce Springsteen and Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall. When his voice changed, so did his musical direction. He transitioned to piano and percussion and continued to grow his skills.
But when it came time to choose a major, Mike made the big decision to move away from a career in music. At a college with a nationally known music school, he knew he'd have exciting musical opportunities, so he wanted to focus on another area for his profession--he just wasn't sure what it would be.
"One of my friends had told me about the flexibility of the Exploratory Program," Mike explains. "There's an emphasis on growing organically with the school and developing where you think you can derive the most value."
The program gives students up to four semesters to take courses in various areas of study to find the best fit for their career. As a freshman, Mike took a seminar about math and music, and through his passion for music he discovered a strength in math that led him in a whole new direction. His faculty adviser helped him decide what courses to take from there. "The best thing about advisers is that if you have goals, they can help you plan so that you can achieve those goals."
Mike focused his path on finance and accounting, and secured an internship at FBR, a leading investment bank. During his senior year, he led a team of his peers to victory in the Adirondack Cup competition by achieving the greatest return on a hypothetical million-dollar investment portfolio. Ithaca College bested undergraduate and graduate students from 17 other colleges and universities in New England and New York, including Hofstra University, SUNY Plattsburgh, Clarkson University, and SUNY Stony Brook. (You can read more about Mike leading his team to success in the Ithacan.)
Mike is excited about his future in finance as he approaches graduation, and he will continue to enjoy a musical life outside of work. He is confident that the Exploratory Program helped him make the right choices. "Sometimes life pushes you in a direction, and you end up in a place you never thought you'd be--but you find yourself loving it."
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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.”
>> More on this story: "Alum's Bravery Earns Notice" - Fuse
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