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.
There are no bogeys when it comes to finding a major in college. So when Adam Karnish switched from biology to chemistry and then to physics during his first two years at Ithaca College, he was never in danger of going over par.
The lifelong golfer’s fondness for math and science eventually drew him to Ithaca’s physics department. “I’ve always been a logical thinker, and physics is the study of how things work, so that really interested me,” he says.
The summer before his senior year, Adam joined an Ithaca College/Cornell research team studying the composition of an asteroid. The project required remotely accessing the controls of a telescope in Hawaii to do some of the work.
For his senior research project, Adam turned his attention to a different flying object: the golf ball. The real goal was to develop his knowledge of computer modeling software, but he took the opportunity to apply it to something he enjoyed.
After graduation, Adam landed a job with the United States Golf Association, where he now works to define individual course ratings and handicaps using statistical analysis and linear regression—skills he honed in Ithaca’s physics department.
“Within the first 10 years, a new golf course goes through big changes,” Adam says. “Trees, grasses, speed of the green—it evolves dramatically.” Because of that, a course needs to be rated at least three times in its first 10 years of existence, he says, and then once every 10 years after.
Theoretical scores produced from the course rating are compared to actual golfers’ scores to determine the course handicap. Those results are fed back into the course rating system.
“If the score is affected more by shots near the green, or by the difficulty of the contours of the green, that information needs to be weighed more heavily to reflect the actual scores made by players,” Adam says.
Adam also teaches course rating and handicap systems at golf courses around the country. Giving research presentations as a student helped prepare him for this aspect of the job, too.
“One thing I really learned at Ithaca was how to speak in front of a group of people and explain my thoughts clearly, in an organized manner, to convey whatever message I'm trying to bring to the audience,” he says.
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Ithaca College offers more than 100 academic programs. When Dan Leibel listed the ones that attracted him, he came up with 18.
“I wasn’t undecided,” he said. “I just had too many things I wanted to do. I needed to expand my boundaries and see what I really liked.”
Because the Exploratory Program allows students to take courses in any of IC’s five schools before declaring a major, Dan had the chance to investigate his varied interests.
“The Exploratory Program relieved my anxiety about not knowing what to study because it let me pick classes earlier, and that kept me on track to graduate. Being an exploratory student at IC is way different from being undeclared somewhere else.”
During his first year—as he took classes in biology, politics, literature, philosophy, and general psychology in addition to the required freshman seminar—Dan discovered another Exploratory Program feature: a dedicated advising staff.
“At the end of my first semester, I was leaning toward politics but still thinking of speech pathology, so my advisor suggested two speech-path requirements: Communications Disorders and Developmental Psychology. As it turned out, those two courses fit me better than any of the others because they studied how people work. So I decided to major in psychology, which wasn’t on my original list.”
The “fit” Dan discovered led him to blend the science of the mind with human behavior. He took courses in neuroscience to gain a better understanding of the brain’s biological processes while also doing research about peoples' personality characteristics.
As part of the psychology department’s Humor Research Team, Dan investigated self-reflection and humor by studying two types of people—those who enjoy being laughed at and those who fear it—to identify personality traits that help predict the differences between the two groups.
“Humor’s something we use in all ranges of our social interactions, but there are people who don’t like it and who don’t function well around it. That made me realize there’s so much out there we don’t know, especially about the way people operate.”
As a senior at IC, Dan was accepted into a Ph.D. program in human services psychology at the University of Maryland to pursue a dual concentration in behavioral medicine and clinical psychology.
“I want to find out all the things that people don’t yet know about themselves—about the way they talk to each other, the way they think, the way they behave. I want to keep exploring,” Dan says.
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