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.
Shea O’Neill helps rebuild communities. But he’s not constructing new homes or upgrading old infrastructure. Instead, he uses geographic data to identify trends and patterns in how people live, work, and spend money in a community, and then he proposes recommendations based on that information to help revitalize neighborhoods.
Shea’s work is done in partnership with “anchor” institutions such as universities or hospitals whose administrators understand that their organization’s relationship to the community is more complex than simply existing within it. It’s a lesson Shea learned early on at Ithaca College.
“I think IC’s greatest asset is the fact that it’s in Ithaca. The best classes I took, the best experiences I had were from professors and people who made that connection [between institution and community],” he says.
Shea credits history professor Michael Smith as a professional influence. “I remember from his classes that, yes, history is of the past, but the past is constantly connecting to the present. Michael was always having us do service learning projects that would connect us with what was going on in Ithaca.”
As a geographic information systems analyst at U3 Ventures, Shea looks at complex data and interprets the meaning behind the numbers. His minor in environmental studies may have helped prepare him for the work he does now, but he also places great value on the skills he learned as a history major.
“If you truly engage with a liberal arts degree, you learn a number of skills that are invaluable for any profession. You learn how to form your argument, how to compose your thoughts, how to compose your narrative. You’re surrounded by people who encourage you to think critically.”
Shea knows how transferable those skills are. “You don’t have to keep a liberal arts background just in the liberal arts. The manner in which you think critically can be applied to science, engineering, architecture—all the fields you tend to think of as more fact- or statistics-based.”
Shea currently teaches part time as an adjunct faculty member in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Philadelphia University. To his surprise, he has discovered a passion for teaching and hopes to grow professionally in that role.
College should prepare you for life after graduation, whether you go into the workforce or—as Elitsa Stoyanova did—enter a prestigious Ph.D. program in developmental biology and embryology. Thanks to three-and-a-half years of actual lab work as an undergraduate at Ithaca College, Elitsa will be able to dive right into serious research as a graduate student.
IC affords science students opportunities that larger institutions tend to reserve for graduate students. “It can be really hard to get into a lab and actually do research and not just wash the glassware,” Elitsa says of her peers’ experiences in programs at other universities. “So a lot of kids who are very talented wind up going to grad school with only a couple of months—maybe a year—of research experience.”
Elitsa worked with assistant professor Ian Woods who’s examining the genetics behind anxiety in zebrafish (the animals share a similar genetic structure to humans). This work could someday lead to better, more nuanced treatments for anxiety and depression.
“Ian has been fantastic. I owe my grad school success to him. He gave me great advice on how to write my personal statement, how to talk to my interviewer, what questions to ask. He has been really insightful about what it is to be a Ph.D. student in these times.”
As a junior, Elitsa gave a presentation at the 245th American Chemical Society national meeting in New Orleans, sharing what she’d learned about enzymes that make bacteria undetectable to host immune systems. She also worked in assistant professor Catherine Malele’s lab—forging a connection that helped Elitsa land a summer internship with the University of Pennsylvania’s Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.
“I honestly think the entire science faculty [at Ithaca College] is phenomenal. They have all inspired me in a way.”
Elitsa chose Rockefeller University for graduate school because the program let her use her extensive experience right away. Since she’s already versed in basic lab techniques, she can focus on loftier goals. “I want to be able to think on my own and ask the right questions. I want to find a mentor who will give me enough freedom to explore my ideas. I want to be in charge of where the project is going—that is how you learn to be a scientist.”
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