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.
Life after graduation can take a lot of twists. Julie Perng’s degree in organizational communication from Ithaca College is a long way from the Ph.D. in agricultural and applied economics she’s pursuing. But her journey into that field began as a member of the Martin Luther King Scholar Program at IC.
“The MLK program changed my life and who I am profoundly,” Julie says. “It was a huge part of my college experience.”
Julie’s path began with a journey to Brazil, her first international trip as an MLK scholar. Her social justice research—a key part of the MLK program—was on homophobia; from there she took a broader interest in social issues. As a sophomore, she received funding to attend a conference on LGBT issues. At that conference she met some people concerned with fair trade, which became a new passion.
Julie went on to found a fair-trade club on campus, and she focused the final two years of her MLK program research on trade. The next major twist in Julie’s route to her Ph.D. was a Fulbright scholarship to study in China.
Julie spent three years in China, first researching rural-to-urban migration and ecotourism and then working for the Nature Conservancy—making use of her communications degree. Later she moved back to the United States and began working with various federal agencies as part of a project management and consulting firm.
“My company funded graduate work, so I started taking classes in applied economics because I knew that’s where I wanted to go.” She is focusing her thesis on ecotourism and recently conducted exploratory research in Costa Rica, a country she had visited before with the MLK program.
“I really need to understand the history of tourism in Costa Rica. I also need to understand other aspects of the country that will be important for my analysis and the methodologies I want to use.”
Julie credits the interdisciplinary focus of the MLK program—and Ithaca College—with providing perspectives that come in handy despite the fact that economics is perceived as being all about numbers.
“In the end, even though I’m doing economics, math, and statistics, I still have to explain the human element to my stories.”
And though her academic background isn’t the same as others in her new field, she doesn’t see that as a setback.
“Ithaca College began my road to where I am today. I had a winding path to get where I am, but I’m tackling everything, even when I have limitations. I’m prepared in terms of doing research and writing and independent thinking.”
>> More on this story: Ithaca College recognized as a top producer of Fulbright students
Some day in the not-so-distant future, as cities expand and climate change continues, Andreas Jonathan will be working to strike a balance between urban growth and environmentalism. “We’re living in a world that is very quickly urbanizing. There are a lot of mega-cities continuing to grow, and I think cities will be the battleground for sustainability in the future,” Andreas says.
As a freshman at Ithaca College, Andreas was drawn to the environmental studies program. “There was a course called Environmental Sentinels, where the purpose was to discover what you’re trying to save. We had class at night in the natural lands where we were blindfolded and had to get back to campus just by listening. It made me think about my place in the natural world.”
Andreas also felt a calling he hadn’t yet fully identified. “I needed something to complement what I was learning, so I could channel my desire for a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive society.”
Luckily at Ithaca he had mentors to help him find the right program. "It’s been very easy for me to find people who care about my future. I learned about architectural studies by speaking with professors in the art history department.”
As a sophomore, Andreas secured an internship with the Institute for Urban Design in New York City. He joined the institute’s project team for the Venice International Architecture Biennale, an event where architects and designers from around the world showcase themed designs. The U.S. theme was “spontaneous interventions”—designing to solve urban problems and create new opportunities for the public.
“What I love most about architecture is that it's so much more than building and construction. There’s history, theory, stakeholder relations, and social and environmental consequences,” Andreas says. “It struck me that anyone working in design professions must constantly be balancing, learning.”
For Andreas, learning to strike that delicate balance began with the conversations he had with mentors at IC. He plans to extend his knowledge of design beyond graduation as he pursues dual master’s degrees in architecture and city planning followed by a Ph.D.
“When I was little and was asked, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I didn’t really know. But I knew there was this scar on the world that needed to be fixed. Then I started falling in love with architecture, city design, and social justice. It was what I always planned on doing before I even knew what it was.”
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