Seeing the Future, Shaping the Present

By Laura Ilioaei ’23, September 30, 2022

Alumnus Colin McDermott returns to campus to talk to students.

The Ithaca College Exploratory Program and the Office of Tutoring and Academic Enrichment Services welcomed Colin McDermott ’09 back to campus on September 10 as part of the “IC My Future!” event.

The event, which was planned by Yolanda Clarke, manager of Tutoring and Academic Enrichment Services, and Maria DiFrancesco, director of the Exploratory Program and professor of world languages, literatures, and cultures, also included a panel discussion with several IC faculty and staff members, and smaller breakout groups for attendees to participate in.

A leadership coach, speaker, and founder of KeenVision Leadership, as well as an assistant director of advising and academic success at Columbia Business School, McDermott graduated with a degree in Television-Radio. He spoke about the challenges of transitioning to college, and the importance of being resilient during that time — just like it was when he was a student and initially uncertain of what he wanted to do.

“The question is not ‘who am I,’ but ‘who am I becoming?’ You know who you are, but you need to realize who you want to become.”

Colin McDermott ’09

“The question is not ‘who am I,’ but ‘who am I becoming?’” he said. “You know who you are, but you need to realize who you want to become. We’re all on this journey, and as we are on this journey of exploration, which is fitting for the exploratory program, it’s a journey of self-discovery. In order to be successful on this journey, you need to have the right tools that will help you get to your destination.”

McDermott also reminded students that they weren’t alone on that journey, and that help was available to them — provided they ask for it.

“In college I needed help but didn’t know how to ask for it because I wasn’t taught that. I wasn’t taught how to build a support system,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The departments, administrators, and people are here, to show their support and show that they’re here for you.”

Learning Lessons

The second part of McDermott’s speech was titled: “Five Things I Wish I Had Done in College.” Here’s what he touched upon:

  1. Take advantage of college resources: “These [resources] are not meant to judge you or make you feel ashamed or embarrass you. They’re tools meant to support you and make you more successful.”
  2. Utilize internships: “I felt like getting money was more important, but it wasn’t until I graduated that I found out it was more valuable to have internship experience.”
  3. Study abroad: “To this day [not studying abroad] is one of my biggest regrets, because I had friends who studied abroad. It opens up your world.”
  4. Build relationships outside your comfort zone: “It translates into a job. Now is the time to build these relationships to help you grow and mature, help you find people that complement you.”
  5. Learn A New Skill. “These are the things that help us to relieve stress. Take classes that will help learn new skills, because ultimately, it’ll help push you outside the box.”

McDermott ensured his talk had words of advice for current students.

“You’re the future. You’re the ones that’re going to change the world,” he said. “You’ll be the ones to run operations, be in politics, and the non-profit sector. You’ll be the examples to others. Hopefully in 17 years you’ll be back at IC to talk to students sitting here. You’ll be that sense of inspiration that gets them to press forward. Never stop learning and building on your potential.”

“We knew that all of our students, especially our first- and second-year students, would benefit from connecting with Colin.”

Maria DiFrancesco, director of the Exploratory Program

DiFrancesco felt that McDermott’s words had an impact on the students who attended the event.

“We knew that all of our students, especially our first- and second-year students, would benefit from connecting with him,” said DiFrancesco. “Collin is not just a wonderful speaker and a leader, he’s someone who came to campus, not sure what he wanted to study or what he wanted to do in life, and he graduated with a degree.”

In addition to McDermott’s talks, the day featured a faculty and staff panel titled “Building Your Team.” It featured Jennifer Jolly, Dana professor of art and art history; Luke Keller, professor of physics and astronomy; Quinten Hernandez ’21, success coach, Center for Student Success and Retention; and Shaydavia Wallace, program director of the Martin Luther King Scholars and First-Generation Programs. The panel was moderated by Elizabeth Bleicher, dean of the Center for Student Success and Retention.

Panelists spoke on their academic journey, and how they built their teams, and how those teams helped them on their career paths.

“Heading into my senior year, my academic advisor nominated me to be a New Student Mentor for incoming students,” Wallace said. “I absolutely fell in love with it, being able to be there for people, support them as best I can, connect them to different resources on campus. I fell in love with it and realized that it could be a career.”

It took Hernandez even less time to fall in love with a path.

“IC was a perfect fit,” said Hernandez, who was a Television-Radio major at Ithaca. “I walked around the Park School and was like, ‘yeah this is where I want to be, this is where I think my people are,’ just based on the amount of support I felt in an hour.”