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.
Amanda Schlenker arrived at Ithaca College in the fall of her freshman year knowing she wanted to become an occupational therapist. What she didn’t know was how far an IC education could take her in this interactive, hands-on field.
She completed Ithaca’s five-year, B.S./M.S. occupational therapy program in 2009, and then launched her career in Boston with Thom Child & Family Services, a leading provider of programs for children with developmental difficulties.
“It was a job where I had to be independent,” she says. “My classes and fieldwork and internships gave me the experiences and the self-confidence I needed.”
Her experiences included work at the College’s own OT clinic, internships that put her classroom knowledge to real-world test, an anatomy class where she dissected a human cadaver (an option for OT students), and a thesis exploring how happiness affects performance, which she presented at the World OT Conference in Santiago, Chile.
Now she’s back in the Ithaca area, working at Child’s Play Occupational Therapy where she helps kids overcome challenges to live more fulfilled lives.
“I specialized in sensory integration,” Amanda says. “Everything we do comes to us through our senses. If there’s a problem there, it can throw off a kid’s world. So I come in and help families see how their child is interpreting the world differently, and then I offer ways to help get the kids back on track.”
Child’s Play is run by the IC faculty member who taught the pediatric occupational therapy courses Amanda took at Ithaca.
As for the future, Amanda is full of ideas. She’d like to combine music with occupational therapy, practice in a low-income community, or perhaps return to South America to share her skills.
“I knew in high school that OT would be a good fit for me,” she says. “I just followed that pathway through IC to graduation and into my career. There are so many opportunities. Ithaca’s given me the resources I need to learn and grow.”
>> More on this story: Occupational and Physical Therapy Clinic
Shea O’Neill helps rebuild communities. But he’s not constructing new homes or upgrading old infrastructure. Instead, he uses geographic data to identify trends and patterns in how people live, work, and spend money in a community, and then he proposes recommendations based on that information to help revitalize neighborhoods.
Shea’s work is done in partnership with “anchor” institutions such as universities or hospitals whose administrators understand that their organization’s relationship to the community is more complex than simply existing within it. It’s a lesson Shea learned early on at Ithaca College.
“I think IC’s greatest asset is the fact that it’s in Ithaca. The best classes I took, the best experiences I had were from professors and people who made that connection [between institution and community],” he says.
Shea credits history professor Michael Smith as a professional influence. “I remember from his classes that, yes, history is of the past, but the past is constantly connecting to the present. Michael was always having us do service learning projects that would connect us with what was going on in Ithaca.”
As a geographic information systems analyst at U3 Ventures, Shea looks at complex data and interprets the meaning behind the numbers. His minor in environmental studies may have helped prepare him for the work he does now, but he also places great value on the skills he learned as a history major.
“If you truly engage with a liberal arts degree, you learn a number of skills that are invaluable for any profession. You learn how to form your argument, how to compose your thoughts, how to compose your narrative. You’re surrounded by people who encourage you to think critically.”
Shea knows how transferable those skills are. “You don’t have to keep a liberal arts background just in the liberal arts. The manner in which you think critically can be applied to science, engineering, architecture—all the fields you tend to think of as more fact- or statistics-based.”
Shea currently teaches part time as an adjunct faculty member in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Philadelphia University. To his surprise, he has discovered a passion for teaching and hopes to grow professionally in that role.
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