Ithaca College Will Make You Ready
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Growing up in the Virgin Islands, Luben Daniel listened to his parents’ CDs of calypso, reggae, soul, gospel, and rhythm and blues. “Early on,” he said, “I knew what good music sounded like.”
Turns out he also knew how to make good music. Taking up the clarinet in fourth grade, he became first chair and section leader in his high school band. He also joined a steel band—a group of musicians who play steel pans tuned to various pitches.
“Steel band is our thing,” Luben said. “It represents all things Caribbean.”
His clarinet and steel-band gigs took him on melodious journeys to venues as far away as Argentina and the United States. Though performing resonated with him, Luben decided his musical future lay in teaching.
“It wasn’t a popular decision,” he said. “People told me, ‘With your talent, you could play in a big-time orchestra for big-time money.’ But without a school music program, I wouldn’t have discovered the fulfillment music brings. As a teacher, I could introduce that joy to others.” Luben set his sights on the music education program at IC. “A friend went there, and his musicianship skyrocketed. I wanted that.”
Luben traveled 1,600 miles to IC to focus on the clarinet but was surprised to find a slice of home on campus in the School of Music’s steel band. “I never expected to find one in Ithaca,” he said. “For my senior recital, I composed a work for the ensemble. The rehearsals were a joy for us all.
Something else unexpected happened his senior year. A teacher from his high school called. The band director was retiring. Would Luben be interested in the position?
“Going back home and teaching was all I’d ever wanted,” Luben said. “I never thought it would happen that quickly, because it’s rare for new graduates to find teaching positions at their high school alma maters.”
But Luben wasn’t scheduled to graduate in time to take the offer.
“Luben told me that spring that he’d just been offered his dream job and wondered what we could do to help him complete his degree earlier than he’d planned,” said Keith Kaiser, chair of music education. “A lot of people worked hard to make that happen—including Luben. He’s now back home, improving music education in the Virgin Islands.”
“Ithaca College redefined my comfort zone,” Luben said. “I discovered my strengths and weaknesses and how to confront them. Now I’ll be sharing how that growth process works with my students.”
>> More on this story: IC Steel Band
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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