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Student Stories

Students chose the Interdisciplinary Master’s for a variety of reasons. Read on for individual student stories.

Kevin Leary

Kevin Leary’s Story

I got to a point in my life where I knew I wanted a master’s degree, but I couldn’t sacrifice full time work. I also knew that given what I wanted to become – an artistic/executive director at a theatre company – a standard academic program wasn’t going to fit. I needed a program that was going to give me the flexibility to take courses that would build the breadth of skills, knowledge, and experience future employers would be expecting. That’s when I found the UB Interdisciplinary Studies Program. Faculty advisors Dr. Ruth Bereson and Dr. Sarah Bay-Cheng helped me craft an individual plan that grounded me in both arts management and theatre. It was a rigorous journey, but the work paid off; I’m now the Managing Director of Theatre of Youth Company. I couldn’t be happier.

– Kevin Leary ’13
Managing Director
Theatre of Youth

Patricia Shulenburg’s Story

I received my Bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo in 2005 with a double major in Psychology and English. For 6 years I worked in the Human Services field as a fundraiser, service coordinator, and support group leader for individuals with chronic illnesses. In 2011, I wanted to further explore career opportunities and pursue my love of science. I volunteered at the Aquarium of Niagara caretaking animals while fundraising for the institution. I was also taking Biology coursework as an non-matriculated student at UB including a Tropical Marine Ecology field course in the Bahamas. I considered pursuing a Master’s degree in Biology, however, I wanted a more interdisciplinary experience and the option to frame my coursework around Great Lakes ecology. This led me to the Graduate Interdisciplinary Degree Program.

The Evolution, Ecology and Behavior department oversaw my Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences M.S.  Degree. I combined coursework in Biology, Geography, and Engineering to guide my professional career as a Restoration Ecologist. I have worked as an Ecology Professor, Technician at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and an Education and Outreach Assistant at Western New York PRISM. I am now a Project Manager for a $180,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant at Sandy Island Beach State Park where I engage professionals and stakeholders from multiple fields. In my other title, FORCES Program Specialist, I work with over 22 universities to provide academic and career opportunities for college students with diverse backgrounds while conserving natural resources at New York State Parks.

-Patricia Shulenburg ’12
Friends of Recreation, Conservation and Environmental Stewardship (FORCES) Program Specialist
New York State Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation


Jim Simon’s Story

During my Senior year, I recognized that my interests had shifted and I needed to fill in some gaps before I was ready to start my career. My undergraduate advisor encouraged me to consider the Graduate Interdisciplinary Degree Program and through it, I was able to take classes that were really different than I had pursued in my undergraduate career. This helped me to narrow my focus and identify the niche within the Environmental space that I wanted to explore in my professional life.

As a result of having a Master’s degree, I have been able to teach an undergraduate class and demonstrate that I am capable of graduate level work, should I ever decide to pursue a doctorate. My Graduate Interdisciplinary Degree from UB helped frame the next choices I make in my career, setting me up for long term success.

-Jim Simon ‘07
Director of Sustainability
Gonzaga University