A&S | Maxwell Students Earn “Edge” in Career-Readiness
Edge certification demonstrates value of students’ co-curricular learning to employers and graduate schools.
Fostering career readiness is a hallmark of the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) | Maxwell School student experience. In fall 2021, A&S | Maxwell launched Edge, a new certification program, which allows students to strategically parlay their experiential learning into proof of career or graduate school readiness. By fulfilling at least two experiences from a list of co-curricular activities including research, internships, study abroad and community engagement, students will become Edge-certified and gain a certificate of completion and a digital LinkedIn badge.
According to College of Arts and Sciences Dean Karin Ruhlandt, the Edge certification signifies another way A&S | Maxwell is revolutionizing the student experience. “We are always looking to ensure that what we offer is contemporary, valuable and relevant. With Edge certification, we’re encouraging students to pursue multiple opportunities to complement their academic coursework, while at the same time helping them learn to articulate and demonstrate the value of those experiences to employers and graduate schools alike,” Ruhlandt notes.
As Edge winds up its first year, we asked students why experiential learning is so important to them. Here’s what they had to say.
Maggie Sardino, a junior majoring in citizenship and civic engagement in Maxwell and writing and rhetoric in A&S, notes that the Edge program presents a valuable opportunity for students to start their professional development—just by participating in this experiential learning.
“What stands out most about the Edge program is its emphasis on reflection and professional development,” Sardino says. “By its nature, experiential learning requires students to be adaptable, innovative and creative. Edge encourages students to work on projects with real stakes and in constantly evolving environments.”
Since the summer of her freshman year, Sardino has taken part in an internship at the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue and Action in Syracuse, NY. The Center offers programs addressing community concerns and encouraging understanding across racial, ethnic, religious and community groups. Sardino’s work there has focused on dialogue coordination, development and facilitation.
“I have learned how important collaboration is for sustainability,” Sardino says. “Cultivating strong partnerships and dialogue with other organizations and individuals ensures community investment and effective use of resources. Whether we are addressing societal issues through policy action or through creative expression, dialogue always has an important role. No matter which career path I decide to take, through my internship I have learned that prioritizing dialogue will be one of my primary goals.”
Undergraduate hands-on research is another integral part of Edge certification. In A&S | Maxwell, students are encouraged to engage in projects that not only interest them, but also help solve complex problems to help make the world healthier and more human. Cheyene Muenzel, a senior majoring in forensic science and chemistry, says the problem-solving skills she developed in A&S are paving the way for a future in clinical research post-graduation.
Throughout the course of her studies at Syracuse, Muenzel developed a dual interest in artificial intelligence and forensic pathology. She merged those concentrations into a research project where she investigated verbal autopsy (VA) and its use in public health. Verbal autopsy is a method for collecting personal and medical information about a deceased individual when there is an inadequate death registration, often in developing countries where deaths may be undocumented. VAs are collected by trained interviewers who obtain information about the deceased, such as their medical history, from individuals who were familiar with them. The results are then brought to a physician who determines cause of death.
Muenzel is developing machine learning algorithms to comb through vast amounts of verbal autopsy data which will allow health professionals to define trends about cause of death in different parts of the world. “The use of algorithms which are trained to process VA data can reduce load on physicians and expedite the collection of mortality data in low-income countries and rural communities,” says Muenzel. “Mortality data and statistics, like leading causes of death, call attention to public health crises and help government officials make informed decisions.”
Muenzel says having the opportunity to immerse herself in hands-on work that can make a difference for public health around the world not only enhances her skills and as a researcher, but also confirms her future professional ambitions.
“I will eventually pursue a career in medicine, and through this project I have learned how important it is to keep up to date with the latest and greatest developments and techniques in my field,” says Muenzel. “Research will always be a part of my life and this project has validated my passion for it.”
A&S | Maxwell students are continually engaging in research and scholarship around the world to address global challenges. For Leonardo Rivera, a senior biology major in A&S, his passion for wildlife brought him to Central America, where he had the opportunity to work with injured and sick animals at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center. The important hands-on experience was a crucial resume-builder as he prepared to apply for veterinary schools.
Among the animals he helped to rehabilitate were spider and capuchin monkeys, sloths, kinkajous and owls. From developing an exercise routine for orphan sloth cubs to providing muscle therapy to an injured squirrel, Rivera was exposed to new challenges each day, similar to what he will likely encounter as a wildlife veterinarian.
“I was amazed and inspired at the unexpected innovativeness and creativity when working in the field, such as using honey as an antiseptic for a spider monkey suffering from wounds inflicted in a fight with a troop of capuchins, or jerry-rigging a splint for an injured spectacled owl,” Rivera says. “It was an experience that will pay dividends in my professional career down the road.”
After he graduates from Syracuse, Rivera plans to matriculate into veterinary school in 2022, and says having that extracurricular experience under his belt reinforced his future.
“Through my work in the field I confirmed that I want to specialize in wildlife veterinary medicine and contribute to the preservation of our natural world.”
Learn more about the Edge certification program.