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.
When Karlita Bleam first began to research colleges, she had a few important factors in mind. She wanted a school with a top film studies program and one that also gave students the flexibility to pursue multiple interests.
“An important thing to me was being able to come to a school and not need to transfer if I decided to change focus,” she says.
When she arrived at IC, Karlita planned to study film and marketing, but during her sophomore year her horizons began to broaden. “I was taking this documentary film class at the same time I was taking a sociology class, and they just paired so well,” she explains.
Thus her new path was born: a dual major in sociology and cinema, with plans to eventually teach sociology at the collegiate level and present her research in documentary form.
“Once I figured it out, I was like, ‘Yes!’ Everything just clicked,” Karlita says.
Karlita has tailored her college experience to reflect her extracurricular interests, too. She is a tour guide for both the College and the Roy H. Park School of Communications, a residential adviser, cochair for a new peer mentoring program and, most recently, a teaching assistant. All of these positions have given her invaluable experience with time management, working with groups, mentoring, and teaching.
“This is what I was looking for: a school where I’d have multiple opportunities,” Karlita says. “One thing led to another and then another, and then to something that you never imagined.”
Computer science and history are not commonly paired in the classroom. But at Ithaca College, professors Ali Erkan and Michael Smith have begun a collaboration that may help improve the way students learn.
The project began because of computer science professor Ali Erkan’s curiosity. He wanted to look at how students use wikis—websites developed collaboratively by a community of users who can add and delete information—so he could research and create a visual map of the way the students make connections between ideas. He asked himself, If students produce things that can be visualized as structures, will that allow us to understand understanding itself?
“I think computer science allows you to develop the tools to work on that question—but then you need a context,” Ali says. “I thought the humanities would be the best context to explore, and I had to find the right person to work with.”
Ali had just the person in mind—a history professor he had met during a bus ride in Ithaca a couple years earlier and had since interacted with on the IC campus. He emailed Michael Smith to share his idea.
“The fact that Ithaca, both as an institution and a community, is small enough that you can have these kinds of interpersonal connections that can then become more formal collaborations is something I really value,” Michael says. “In some ways I’m an odd choice because I’m a little bit of a digital skeptic, but when Ali approached me with this idea of using wikis as a way of representing knowledge—that you could kind of lift up the hood and see some structures in there—I was intrigued.”
Ali and Michael have been working with students in both their fields to further explore the project’s questions. They created a grant proposal and received a digital humanities start-up grant from the National Endowment for Humanities. They hope that by gaining understanding of how thought connections are formed, they can eventually help students improve how they research and learn.
Ithaca College has given them the support they need to make the project a success. “It is a teaching-oriented institution, so we’re encouraged to be innovative and emphasize teaching excellence in all sorts of ways. So this is a way to remain active as scholars and at the same time improve what happens in our classroom,” says Michael.
“There’s no quota for the amount of papers you have to write or the amount of money you have to bring in. Those things are in place at other institutions so that there’s more research productivity, but I think it ends up being a hindrance on the research,” Ali says. “We both feel liberated by not operating under those constraints, so we can simply follow our curiosity, and that becomes our optimum point of operation. Because we are curious, we are productive.”
>> More on this story: Untangling the Web
- Campus Life and Leadership
- Health Sciences
- Humanities and Social Sciences
- Internships and Fieldwork
- Math and Natural Sciences
- Music and Performing Arts
- All Categories