When Julia Becker came to Ithaca College, she was unsure of where her story would lead. She never imagined that she would spend weeks in the Rare Books Reading Room of the British Library, transcribing an original work by Renaissance-era humanist Sir Thomas Elyot.
“Having the chance to work on something so unique that will result in a publication credit to my name is a valuable experience that I never imagined I could have as an undergraduate,” Becker says. “The Exploratory Program at IC gave me a direction and a plan to get me going on a path that felt right.”
The Exploratory Program gives students the flexibility, structure, and community to find the right major for them within 60 credits.
“We’re really firmly committed to the fact that if you come here without a major, you come here to explore. Exploration is work, and it’s active and engaging,” says Elizabeth Bleicher, academic director of the Exploratory Program. “If you want to explore and use the Integrative Core Curriculum as a map to go roaming with guidance, then this is a great place for you.”
Although choosing a major can be a daunting task, exploratory students get a lot of support from faculty advisors and peer mentors, and they get priority registration for classes.
When Danny Leibel was applying to colleges, he made a list of majors he was interested in pursuing. There were 18 of them.
“I had too many interests, and if I had been forced to pick one, it wouldn’t have been good. I needed to expand my boundaries and see what I really liked,” he says.
Leibel took biology, politics, English, and philosophy classes during his first semester and met with his advisor several times.
“My advisor knew a lot about all the different departments. He was open to meet with me whenever I wanted,” Leibel says. “Being in the Exploratory Program made me feel very comfortable about asking for help.”
After taking a developmental psychology course, Leibel realized how much he loved learning about how people think, interact, and function in the world. He chose psychology, a major that wasn’t even on his original list before he came to college. He went on to launch an IC chapter of Student Volunteers for Special Olympics, organizing more than 50 members, planning fundraisers, and advocating for those with disabilities. This past summer, he worked as a lifeguard at a camp for adults with disabilities.
Lauren Goldberg is another student who knows how to start a movement. When Goldberg was looking at colleges, she was considering sports psychology, business, and fashion merchandising. But after she took Sustainability Principles and Practices her freshman year, she was sold on environmental studies. Goldberg presented research on sustainable transportation, which eventually led to the Bomber Bike Initiative, a program run by a group of students who pushed for a more bike-friendly campus.
“My whole view of the world has changed,” says Goldberg. “There are so many benefits to biking in terms of your mental and physical health, your finances, and the environment.”
Goldberg collaborated with students, faculty, and administrators from all over campus to get a bike shelter built on campus and to begin a bike workshop and storage room. She also presented her research abroad in Abu Dhabi and took a short-term study abroad course in Belize. The opportunities to explore showed her the value of an interdisciplinary education, and she learned skills that she will take with her to the workplace.
“It’s important to me to find a fulfilling career, and I know I’ll find that if I work towards solving the problems I’ve learned about,” she says. “They’re complex issues, and now I know the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration.”
The chance to explore has allowed many students to make their own path, discover their passions, and learn skills helpful in any career. “Students of this generation are going to have a minimum of six jobs [throughout their lives], and some of those jobs have yet to be invented,” says Bleicher. “At Ithaca College, we prepare students to think about the world, problem solve, and learn how to teach themselves to do the things they want to do, so they can be successful.”
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Fuse is a student produced publication about the Ithaca College experience. All content in the print and web versions of Fuse is developed by current Ithaca College students in a breadth of different areas of study.