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.
Fairy tales are woven around nuggets of wisdom or truth. When Christina Bryant crafted a fairy tale during her senior year at Ithaca College, she folded in themes that explore her own revelations in life.
Jemila’s Tale is a 10-minute short that Christina wrote, directed, and edited as her senior thesis in the cinema and photography program. It’s about a 6-year-old girl who creates her own fairy tales after her local library runs out of the genre, and it explores themes of identity and ethnic representation through Jemila’s imagination.
“I was inspired to write the short after I'd finished a documentary about black Barbie dolls,” Christina says. “I thought about what it would look like if a young black [girl] created her own images of herself in places she felt excluded, like fairy tales for example.”
Those projects came together after Christina hit her stride as a film student, which she says happened during her last two years at IC. “Once you know the films you want to make, or you know you want to work with a camera, or you want to write, or do production design, your path becomes clear,” Christina says.
Jemila’s Tale was shown in three different film festivals after Christina graduated. She also took a two-month fellowship in North Carolina, followed by volunteer work at several other film festivals, including Sundance and SXSW. Her natural drive meshed well with her IC experience.
“Over the semesters, I actually began to crave a busy schedule because it brought out my best creative work,” Christina says. “Why not take non-major classes like African American Popular Music and Sociology of Sexualities, co-lead a non-profit video project with my fellow Park Scholars, paint a shed during a weekend Habitat for Humanity Build, and find local actors to be extras for a web series about Finger Lakes wine?”
Though she’s left IC, she thinks that work ethic is especially important to her budding film career. “By wearing different hats as a screenwriter, producer, set designer, social media guru, even holding a heavy light or two, I am still just as committed to the larger mission at hand: to tell a good story using film,” Christina says.
“That's how real life is. You have to find your passion in everything, no matter how small.”
>> More on this story: Park Scholars Program
Original photo of Christina and her young actress by Allie Taylor '11, producer of Jemila's Tale.
“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.”
- Campus Life and Leadership
- Health Sciences
- Humanities and Social Sciences
- Internships and Fieldwork
- Math and Natural Sciences
- Music and Performing Arts
- All Categories