Dan Leibel '14

Exploratory Program | Psychology

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 development. He took courses in neuroscience to gain a better understanding of the brain’s biological processes while also doing research about the development of different groups of people.  

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.