Dr. Seuss had it right in his book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
The right direction for two students, Jamie Post and Ryan Harriman, came from an unexpected source when they came to RIT as freshmen four years ago. Both were undecided about their majors and challenged with all kinds of career possibilities: business, journalism, photography, computing, science, bio-medical and engineering.
They received help from the University Studies Program (USP)—a unit within Academic Affairs at RIT that started in 2009—and are now graduating on time with respective degrees: an MBA in business for Post and a bachelor’s degree in biomedical photographic communications for Harriman.
USP, which was initiated by RIT Provost Jeremy Haefner, works with approximately 120 program students per year on a personalized, one-to one basis, and markets to freshmen as well as internal and external transfer students who want to explore other career options. According to Marty Burris, director of the program, of the students who started in 2009 and declared a major, 93 percent are still in the major they chose upon leaving USP.
“Being undecided has proven to work, and overall student satisfaction has ranged from 90 to 100 percent each year,” she says.
Post, who hails from Horseheads, N.Y., and is the first in her family to graduate from college, says Burris was her mentor. “She’s my go-to person and really kept me on track. A lot of parents with undecided kids would probably say, why not go to a community college so you don’t waste time or money, but if they are good students like myself, and ambitious, they can achieve success at a four-year school.”
Post exceeded her goals—she finished her undergraduate degree in three years in international business with a marketing co-major, and is completing her MBA this spring with a concentration in management and leadership. She was on RIT’s women’s soccer team throughout undergraduate school, completed a co-op block with Rochester Business Journal, and studied abroad in Australia.
“I came in undecided and am leaving undecided because I don’t have a job yet. But one thing USP has taught me, I will find something that’s exactly right.”
Harriman grew up in Amherst, N.H., and says he honed in on RIT because he really liked the “right brain, left brain” combination of arts and sciences, which led him to earning a biomedical photographic communications degree.
“And I really liked the feel of Brick City; it’s a really big school, but it’s self contained. The USP program was the selling point; all the undecided students lived in the same residence hall, so we became each other’s support group and are still friends today.”
Harriman, an honors student who completed his co-op at Cardiff University in Wales and is considering applying for a Fulbright in India, calls himself “not your typical photographer.” He plans to work in the general field of preventative medicine, specifically working in ophthalmology for a clinic or hospital—taking photographs for preventative screenings and diagnostic imaging of patients.
Harriman remains excited about his future: “Selling my work as a photographer always felt strange, but helping people and working with patients is what drives me. I’ve found a career that fits my personality.”