Ithaca College Will Make You Ready
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Big decisions often have unexpected benefits. When Johanna Pan left her native Singapore to attend Ithaca College for theatrical production arts, a key factor in her decision to come to IC was the financial aid she was able to secure. Once here, she discovered she was enrolled in one of the most respected programs in the country.
“I like to call Ithaca a lucky accident because I didn’t realize how good the program was before I got here. And for that I’m very grateful,” she says.
In the theatrical design concentration, Johanna applied classroom lessons in costume and scenic design to Ithaca College Theatre’s yearly productions. As a senior, she was the costume designer for two period pieces: Translations, set in 1830s Ireland, and An Enemy of the People, in 1880s Norway.
Johanna researched the kinds of fabrics that were made at the time, how clothing was layered, and even the way seasons and climate in those locations dictated wardrobe choices. By understanding these factors, she and the production staff could apply them to their portrayals on the modern stage.
"What a lot of people don't realize about theatre design is that there are certain rules we create as a team. What does a short skirt mean as opposed to a long skirt? What are the colors of the world? What does this color mean to everyone across the board, and how are we going to use that to portray something? The audience may not notice them consciously, but the picture as a whole and what it presents is noticeable.”
Johanna spent a semester at the Ithaca College London Center, where she attended over 50 performances—from the West End to small pubs—for class and her own enjoyment.
“Seeing so much theatre in a country that loves theatre so much helps you understand why we do what we do. You are reminded of the magic when you’re not working on a show because you’re not involved and can just appreciate someone else's work.”
Johanna took on several internships and jobs after graduation, including one with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical that had her traversing New York City’s clothing and fabric stores. The show is scheduled to open on Broadway in December 2013. She also plans to return to Singapore to fulfill a commitment she made to the Singaporean theatre industry when she received a scholarship from the Singapore National Arts Council. She then plans to head back to New York City to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts and rejoin the theatre scene.
“I want to live in New York City. I love the sheer amount of musicals that happen there and the sheer amount of theatre.”
What would compel a 40-something owner of an already successful small business to return to school for an M.B.A. at Ithaca College?
Heather Lane, owner of Purity Ice Cream—a well-known and loved institution in Ithaca and the central New York area—had her reasons: “I had plateaued at Purity. I couldn’t beat my best day’s sales,” she says.
Heather always urged IC students on her staff to finish their degrees but was embarrassed she never finished her own. After taking the final classes needed to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology with the University at Buffalo, she was inspired to scoop up an M.B.A. at Ithaca to boost her business.
“I didn’t understand how transferable the theoretical knowledge was until I entered the program, and then it just became this great game: what can I change next at Purity?”
Heather made operational adjustments, which included changing the way customers move through her store and the location of the cash registers. She also modified the prices of certain products.
Then she tackled the human resources side of the business and created a series of videos so that staffers could understand the nuances of making a great sundae or a smooth milkshake, and even how to mop the floor correctly.
Changes like these and others are what helped Heather eventually beat her best day's sales by 40 percent. She credits that growth to her education at IC.
“The M.B.A. program really pushed me to analyze my operation, make sense of it, and do it better,” Heather says.
>> More on this story: "Ice Cream Social" - The Ithacan
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