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
I entered Ithaca College having no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Then Jeff Furman—an Ithaca local known as “the ampersand” at the famous ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s—spoke in one of my classes. He talked about Ben & Jerry’s and an amazing way of doing business that I had never heard of before. I became inspired and engulfed in the way Ben & Jerry’s does business, in their philosophy on giving back to the community and in their belief that businesses don’t have to be run solely based on making a profit. It was then I decided, “I want to be a part of this.”
For four years after graduating, I worked at the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont. I became half of a two-person team and the company’s official “PR chick,” working with the integrated marketing and social mission teams. Often other companies would turn to us to find out how Ben & Jerry’s is so successful at being such a “good” company. That’s when I realized that there were few resources available to help for-profit companies looking to embrace corporate social and environmental responsibility.
Being exposed to Jeff Furman’s business philosophy, studying so many different types of companies while at Ithaca College, and experiencing values-led business at Ben & Jerry’s, I realized my passion for this kind of work. I want to see every single company in the world doing business in a responsible way, in a way that isn’t hurting people, continuing the poverty cycle, or harming the environment but proactively improving local and global communities.
That’s why I started Socially Good Business, a firm dedicated to helping companies incorporate values into their sustainable business models and consumer communication campaigns. My company also helps nonprofits partner with for-profits by creating proposals and packaged ideas that for-profits can use to engage consumers and enhance the company’s efforts toward social responsibility. This is the next generation of business, an evolution of society, and this movement is just starting to rev up. There are only a few other companies like mine in the country. My experience at Ithaca gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to get a job at one of the most beloved global brands in the world—the very company that pioneered this movement—and that’s what gives my company an edge over the competition.
Consumers are starting to demand that companies do business in a different way, in a way that respects the planet and the people on it. Companies are seeing a demand for this better business model and are starting to change. But a lot of them don’t know how—and that’s what Socially Good Business is here for.
- Campus Life and Leadership
- Health Sciences
- Humanities and Social Sciences
- Internships and Fieldwork
- Math and Natural Sciences
- Music and Performing Arts
- All Categories