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“Imagine not being able to talk at all,” said Maritsa Sherenian. “And you’ll have an inkling of what life is like for people with speech disorders. Even telling someone they’re thirsty is very, very difficult. They’re isolated in their own skins. Imagine that.”
Maritsa has not only imagined that, at IC she’s confronted it.
“I had my first clinical placement as an undergrad at Ithaca,” she said. “It involved accent modification with a young boy. It appealed to me because I was one-on-one with someone who needed help.”
Maritsa also formed one-on-one relationships with faculty.
“I did research for a professor who was studying college students’ awareness of autism,” Maritsa said. “Like all the faculty, he was a great help. They all knew when to push me and when I needed a gentle hand.”
Though Maritsa applied to several grad schools, Ithaca was her first choice.
“I knew I’d thrive here, especially since I already knew the professors,” she said. “That was huge.”
Also huge was the revelation Maritsa had once she was in the grad program. It took place in a horse barn.
“Children with autism typically have trouble developing natural speech,” Maritsa said. “One of my professors, Tina Caswell, was addressing that issue with a therapy program that placed autistic children on horseback and equipped them with iPads containing speech-generating software.”
Maritsa assisted with the program. The children, she said, became different people.
“The horse’s gentle gait calmed them. In that better frame of mind, they focused on the iPads and sent messages to their parents—not just about basic needs but also about what they were feeling. Moms and dads told us that for the first time, they could have a conversation with their children.”
The experience was also a first for Maritsa.
“I’d ridden horses since I was 10 or 11, and it dawned on me that an activity I loved could be a treatment option. Before, I’d pictured speech therapy as sitting in a small room with a client. I was open to new directions.”
Though Maritsa’s other graduate school experiences didn’t take place around horses, neither did they happen in enclosed spaces. For example, she spent two semesters working with a 13-year-old girl with Rett syndrome, a rare form of autism.
“Rett syndrome robs children of their muscle control and therefore their ability to speak, but they often retain their cognitive faculties,” Maritsa said. “With help from assistive technology, the young lady was able to convey how she felt. When she let me know she liked to make jewelry, we began making jewelry. Rarely had she experienced that kind of interaction. The world had always seen her as some tiny little girl, but she was a teenager, and she knew full well what was going on around her.”
Maritsa spent the last semester of her graduate program in full-time externships, one with autistic middle schoolers and the other with pediatric patients at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Friends at other grad schools have told me they hadn’t gotten the hours of actual work I did at IC,” Maritsa said. “They were more in the classroom, listening to a teacher explain something, while I’ve worked in clinics and one-on-one situations.”
Those opportunities to observe and discover, she said, will serve her well as she begins her job as a speech therapist at an elementary school.
“Society needs speech pathologists. My six years at IC have given me the foundation to be a first-rate clinician.”
The women’s pentathlon has five events. The shot put demands strength. The 800-meter run requires speed. The 100-meter hurdles and the long and high jumps call for agility. As a runner and jumper in high school, Emma Dewart ’12, M.S. ’13, had an offer to be a pentathlete and turned it down.
“I didn’t want to do it because I’d never thrown a shot put, I’d never hurdled, and I didn’t run an 800,” she said.
Weeks before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health education, Emma won her second consecutive NCAA national pentathlon championship with one of the highest point totals in the history of women’s Division III track and field. She was also named the 2012 Empire 8 woman of the year in recognition of her academic achievement, athletic excellence, and community service. Her rise to national acclaim began her freshman year at IC.
“When Coach [Jennifer] Potter first explained that I’d make a good pentathlete, I had lots of doubts,” Emma said. “But I knew she was very good at recognizing strengths, so I couldn’t say no.”
The next day, Emma began her hurdling career.
“I’ll never forget how awful I was. The difficulty wasn’t just learning new physical skills but developing the mentality to switch from event to event, to recover from a bad performance and move on.”
A full course load, which included a four-credit anatomy class, also challenged her. “Like track, juggling athletics and academics takes discipline.”
That discipline rewarded Emma while student-teaching health education.
“I’d never taught high schoolers. I didn’t feel prepared, but having competed in big meets, I knew how to handle my nerves. After the first week, students began telling me how classroom topics such as ‘disease and lifestyle’ related directly to their experiences. Gaining that new perspective, I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life connecting with students.”
Currently preparing for a teaching career, Emma is pursuing a master’s degree in health education at IC.
“Coming out of high school, I never expected I’d be so successful in track,” she said. “Responding to a coach’s challenge taught me to aim high in everything.”
>> More on this story: "Dewart Named 2012 Empire 8 Woman of the Year" - Bombers Athletics
School of Music | Music with an Outside Field | Physical Therapy
College athletes aren’t strangers to physical therapy. Injuries need to be prevented or treated when they occur. But Ellie Phillips-Burdge wasn’t an athlete when she developed an overuse injury and sought out PT; she was a dedicated piano student at Ithaca College.
The treatment she received sparked her interest in physical therapy, and Ellie took on exercise science as part of her bachelor of music with an outside field program. At the time, the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance had just begun offering a class and summer workshop that focused on preventing injuries in musicians.
“I was able to recognize a lot of parallels between elite athletes and professional musicians,” Ellie says.
She quickly went about combining her two passions. During her senior year, Ellie presented an independent study on the effects movement, stretch, and relaxation techniques have on musical performers.
“It was a great opportunity for me to showcase the direction I was going in to combine these different worlds,” Ellie says.
A decade after graduating with her degree in music, Ellie came back to Ithaca to get a master’s degree in physical therapy to better blend the disciplines. Now she’s growing her own business, providing physical therapy for performing artists, musical education for disabled individuals, and traditional, stand-alone services in both music education and physical therapy.
Ellie admits music and PT is an uncommon combo, but says musicians and the general public alike are becoming familiar with the emerging field of performing arts medicine. This is certainly the case at Ithaca College, which now has dedicated lab space and a nearly 20-year history of working with performance artists to treat and prevent injuries.
“I think it is something unique the college offers compared to other institutions,” she says.
>> More on this story: School of Health Sciences and Human Performance
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
School of Health Sciences and Human Performance | Exercise Science
“My job is pretty cool, especially on those days when I get to fly in an F-18.” For Pat Dougherty, those flights are the culmination of years of study that started at Ithaca College.
The exercise science graduate had always played sports, but his professors turned him on to running studies, which he immediately found himself drawn to. “I was curious about how the body worked and exercise physiology is a lot about running at its core. If I was going to study it, I might as well do a lot of it. So that’s when I started running marathons and since then I’ve switched to triathlons.”
Pat’s passion for exercise science led him to pursue his master’s degree and later his doctorate, but that’s where things took a turn. “I realized an academic career wasn’t for me. I wanted something a little more exciting, so I applied and was eventually commissioned as a lieutenant in the Naval aerospace physiology program in 2009.”
Now Pat spends his days providing training for anyone in the service who might be involved in flying. The physiological threats a member of a flight crew can be exposed to include hypoxia, which is a special disorientation that occurs when there isn’t enough blood flow to the brain. This happens sometimes in flights that reach multiple g-forces, and it can have catastrophic results. One of the tools Pat has at his disposal is the only “high-G” human centrifuge in the U.S. Navy, which spins its subjects under multiple g-forces to mimic the sensations hypoxia may bring.
“It’s like a wicked carnival ride. There’s a big motor in the center, and we spin them around in this room, which exposes them to increased accelerations like they would feel in the air. I’ve gone through it a few times, so I can safely say that it’s pretty intense.”
Come February, Pat will move to Corpus Christi, where he will become an air medical safety officer. It’s another challenge he feels completely ready for. “I haven’t taken the most linear path since I left Ithaca, but everything I learned on South Hill has helped push me to the next level of my career.”
>> More on this story: Watch a video of pilot training in the human centrifuge
School of Health Sciences and Human Performance | Clinical Exercise Science
A sure way to impress on a job interview is to answer questions with relevant examples drawn from experience. That’s exactly what Christine Giovinazzo ’11 did as a candidate for a position at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Christine drew on her experiences working with IC Fit Kids, a program on the Ithaca College campus designed to show children and teens the benefits of exercise and healthy living.
“A lot of my interview questions were scenario-based, and I was able to answer the majority of them based on my experiences working with the kids,” she says.
Those experiences ranged from developing customized fitness plans for kids—be they couch potatoes or promising athletes—to working with parents to address questions and alleviate concerns. It turned out to be great preparation for the interview at CHOP, which is one of the premiere hospitals for children in the country.
Days before she graduated from IC, Christine found out she landed the job as a physical therapy specialist in the hospital’s healthy weight program. Now, she trains children in different exercises and activities, and works with a range of other specialists in the hospital, all with the goal of guiding overweight and morbidly obese children to healthier futures.
Christine is positive the opportunity to work with a program like IC Fit Kids was one of the biggest reasons she got the job. The program gave her more hands-on experience than the average college graduate, she says.
“That was really something that impressed the interviewers,” Christine reflects. “I don’t think they often get candidates right out of college who have worked so directly with kids.”
>> More on this story: IC Fit Kids - Fuse
Jill Cadby loves to help people. So when this graduate of Ithaca College’s doctoral program in physical therapy was offered the opportunity to work at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, she jumped at the chance. The institute is world-renowned for its work, which made it a perfect fit for Jill coming out of Ithaca’s highly rated program.
“Kessler is a really great learning environment because it has three floors and you get to rotate every year. Right now I head the program on our floor for those who have had strokes. I get to take them on the treadmill and assist them in walking. I really like it because I get to see the gains the patients make daily.”
At Ithaca College, Jill focused on the neurological aspects of the practice. She spent time doing fieldwork in Rochester and Buffalo, New York, and in Florida. But her most moving experience was in Malawi, Africa, where a group from Ithaca College set up medical clinics, assisted with disease testing, and provided $50,000 worth of medical supplies. Jill also trained local nurses in physical therapy, making sure her work with the people of Malawi would continue to have an impact long after she returned to the states.
“At each fieldwork location I gained a tremendous amount of experience, but Malawi was a true life-changing opportunity,” Jill says. “It made me appreciate my profession and how I can really help change the lives of others for the better.”
Jill credits Ithaca College with making everything possible. “This is right where I want to be right now. My professors made me feel as if I could be a good therapist, and they respected me not only as a student but also as a future colleague. I feel ready to continue my personal and professional growth on a daily basis.”
More on this story: Healthcare and Culture: An International Field Experience
Five months after graduating from Ithaca, Tom Healy was working with the search and rescue team in California’s Yosemite National Park when he got a call that a woman had fallen and fractured her leg on Half Dome, one of Yosemite’s iconic peaks.
When Tom and his team partner reached the woman, they knew it wouldn’t be an ordinary rescue. “She needed to be medevaced off the top,” he recalls. “And a storm was coming in, and we were in a very bad place.”
An avid hiker and rock climber, Tom chose Ithaca because it offered a major—outdoor adventure leadership—that could prepare him for situations like this, blending theory with wilderness immersion so that he could put classroom learning into practice.
“You learn that the consequences of your decisions are very important,” he says. “It definitely gives you more tools in your bag for life.”
The storm hit so close that Tom’s partner felt electric shocks through the metal frame of his backpack, and another hiker’s hair stood on end. “What I learned in my classes at Ithaca is to remain calm,” Tom says. “You have to have the coolest head in the group.”
As the weather grew increasingly violent, Tom helped the woman safely aboard the rescue helicopter and then led the other hikers to safety as lightning struck around them. “If we hadn’t gone up there and gotten her off the mountain,” he says, “she definitely would have died.”
Tom got a letter from the National Park Service commending him on his bravery and a heartfelt thank-you from the woman whose life he saved. “The letter of thanks I received from the injured hiker was worth all the effort,” he says.
Now Tom is studying in an advanced paramedics program so that he can return to Yosemite as a full-time employee. “Ithaca College made me ready to adapt to any situation.”
>> More on this story: "Alum's Bravery Earns Notice" - Fuse
For Nancy Patterson, baseball is more about pulled hamstrings and sore muscles than RBIs and ERAs. Working with the Inland Empire 66ers, a former minor league affiliate of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, turned out to be the perfect first step to her dream job.
The path to the Inland Empire team ran straight through Ithaca, where Nancy earned her bachelor’s degree in clinical exercise science and athletic training in 2006 and a master’s in exercise and sport sciences two years later. Ithaca College prepared her well, she says, for the challenge of pro sports: “The first time being on your own with a team can be nerve-wracking. But between the classes at Ithaca and our on-field experience, I felt very well prepared.”
That on-field experience included working with several Ithaca sports teams and internships with minor league affiliates of the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox.
“When I first graduated, I felt like I was much more prepared and experienced than recent grads from other programs,” Patterson says. “I attribute this to the way IC’s program is put together and the outstanding professors who put in the extra time and effort to help the students succeed.”
And succeed she has. After joining the Inland Empire 66ers team as its athletic trainer in the winter of 2009, Nancy got promoted to the AA Chattanooga Lookouts. Then the call from the big leagues came: she’s now assistant athletic trainer for the L.A. Dodgers.
“Going to Ithaca is what allowed me to go into baseball,” Nancy says. “Everyone has heard of Ithaca’s athletic training program.”
>> More on this story: Office of Experiential Learning