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A lot of people dream of traveling the world. Not many dream of educating it. Shannon Burns came to Ithaca College with an interest in multicultural music education, which led her to an exciting future teaching and learning about music across the globe.
Shannon’s international travels began with a class she took during her senior year at Ithaca College. "I’ve always been interested in other people’s cultures and the impact that music has, but it really came into focus while I was studying African drumming and dance at Ithaca," says Shannon. Assisting in class was the School of Music’s artist in residence, Sulley Imoro. At the end of the semester, Shannon spent four weeks in Ghana with Imoro, studying the music and dance of another culture.
Spending time abroad sparked Shannon’s desire to compare Irish and African music, and to explore music as a tool for bridging cultural gaps. When she learned of the School of Music’s ties to Ireland’s University of Limerick, she applied to the master’s program in ethnomusicology there and was accepted.
After completing her master’s degree, Shannon was recruited by the University of Limerick to teach music theory to undergraduate students. She and some friends also launched a music center in the local community. The purpose of the center is to "make music more accessible, whether it’s through providing scholarships, production fees, or an instrument bank," she says.
Pursuing music education in Ireland wasn’t the last stop for Shannon—she recently returned to Africa on a volunteer trip to Mozambique. "My experience with African drumming and dance at Ithaca and in Ghana helped me bond with people in Mozambique—talking about dance, dancing, or singing with them.
"Visiting Africa again reaffirmed for me how important music is to the overall being and how it is a medium through which people can connect and experience life, regardless of language barriers," Shannon says.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar Program at Ithaca College uses the phrase “citizenship and service in the global community,” and that’s exactly the spirit of connection and commitment that attracted Greta Hardware.
“[The MLK program] gave me a different perspective others in my major didn’t have,” she says. “It inspired me to explore classes on social justice issues and do research outside my major but still integrate the business world and look at it from a different perspective.”
For example, Greta used several international trips built into the MLK Scholar Program to research free-trade agreements between the United States and countries she visited—South Korea, Costa Rica, Spain, and Morocco. During her junior year, the accounting and finance major had the opportunity to present her findings at IC’s Whalen Academic Symposium, where students present research projects to the campus community.
“When I was in South Korea, there were real-time discussions about free trade, and we saw protests at the U.S. embassy. It was a very real experience. [The overseas trips] helped me realize I want an international experience, that I like learning about different perspectives. That stuck with me.”
The international component was one reason she joined the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers after graduation. “I found out you could do tours in different offices around the world. I knew I wanted to work at a PWC office in another country for an extended amount of time.” Greta’s done a two-month stint in Sydney, Australia, and hopes to land a longer stint in a Spanish-speaking country.
She was also drawn by PWC’s community involvement, an important aspect of life for Greta. She’s been involved in programs that teach school children the importance of financial management, done cancer walks, and assisted with community service projects as fundamental as painting at local schools.
PWC offered her a job after college based on her performance during a summer internship with the firm, and Greta credits her education with helping prepare her.
“The School of Business puts you in a professional environment, which simulates the real world. Presentations, student organizations in which you play a professional role conducting activities in your field, internships in the industries that interest you, contact with recent alumni—you get a real-world perspective on what it’s going to be like after college.”
>> More on this story: MLK Scholar Program
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