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.
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.”
It’s an awards-season cliché, but it really is an honor just to be nominated. Becky Hall knows: she was among the 217 quarterfinalists for the inaugural Grammy Award for music education—selected from more than 30,000 nominees.
Becky, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Ithaca College School of Music, couldn’t escape the honor. After stifling an attempt by students to nominate her (“I said, ‘No, no. Please don’t do that. There are so many more deserving teachers!’”), she later found out that a colleague had submitted her name. A few months later, she received an email notifying her that she was in the quarterfinals.
“I was speechless. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.” And though she wasn’t among the 25 who made it to the semifinals, the commitment and passion that earned her the nomination—as well as a 2010–11 Teacher of the Year Award from her district—is what matters most. She learned these qualities growing up and honed them at Ithaca College.
“[IC] taught me discipline. It taught me to be organized in my way of living, in my presentation of thoughts. The professors truly are the example of lifelong learners: always going to conferences, always reading up on the latest techniques, strategies, philosophies. As a teacher, I try to do that as well.”
When she decided to earn her master’s degree while teaching full-time at the school she attended as a child, Becky enrolled in IC’s graduate summer music program. The program gives current music teachers the opportunity to earn their master’s degree in three summers.
“I wanted to get better educated in my field—to understand the philosophies, theories, and practice of music. Ithaca was the best place to do that.”
Her dedication to teaching didn’t earn a Grammy, but her reward is being able to inspire students to strive for their best. “I didn’t grow up with much, and I didn’t have confidence. But luckily I found music, I stayed dedicated to it, and I went to one of the best schools for music. Now I’m living the dream. I get to teach music. I perform on the weekends and at night, wherever and whenever I can. I tell them, ‘If I can do it, then you can, too.’”
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