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.
“My quest to change the culture on campus started when I visited Ithaca as a high school student and was dazzled by the inspiring views of Cayuga Lake,” says Leonard Slutsky ’14.
Ithaca’s connection to the impressive body of water made Leonard think about students’ relationships with water on the IC campus. “Everyone was using disposable water bottles,” Leonard says. “There was a lot of waste.”
When he got to campus, the leadership scholar founded IC Take Back the Tap and led a successful mission to take the wastefulness out of the water cycle at IC. The group created awareness programs, set up water taste tests, and helped change policies on campus to decrease the use of disposable water bottles. They even worked with IC staff to get water bottle filling stations installed all over campus and change the way water is provided at campus events.
As Leonard’s leadership abilities grew, he became a student leadership consultant to help other students create change. The integrated marketing communications student used what he was learning in classes to help shift attitudes and behaviors on campus. “Even though things have been going a certain way for a long time, it’s okay to step up and change it.”
In Ad Lab—a course that gives students the chance to form their own mini ad agency to compete in the National Student Advertising Competition—Leonard learned how to harness the power of marketing beyond the IC campus. “We worked as an advertising agency to produce work and a presentation. It was a lot of sleepless nights and hard work, but I got a really true ad agency experience.”
Leonard’s experience continued on the West Coast as part of the Ithaca College Los Angeles (ICLA) program. ICLA students take classes at a satellite campus in LA, work at internships in business and media, and meet people who can open doors all over the city. “I got a lot of exposure to Los Angeles through the network of people there. The people who run the ICLA program brought us to film screenings and events at the Academy [of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences]. IC alumni in the area came in to talk to us about what it’s like breaking in, how to find jobs, and other things we’d need to know.”
Leonard was determined to work at an LA ad agency after graduating, so he began reaching out to contacts he’d made through IC. One of the people he met at an IC Career Services career and internship connection event was able to get his resume into the right hands at RPA, a full-service ad agency in Santa Monica, California.
As a strategic planning assistant at RPA, Leonard puts his leadership and marketing skills to use every day, working on new business pitches and uncovering the many ways and reasons consumers make decisions. “I’m doing research and uncovering the human truths and insights that help drive the creative—giving people the inspiration and knowledge that they need to create something really cool.”
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