Leah Orzechowski had always loved biology, and as a young kid, she was really curious about how living things worked. It made sense for her to leverage her early interests and pursue an education in biotech. But when her classes at Syracuse University started, she found that she wasn’t as passionate about biotech as she thought she would have been. Some other students in her dorm were enrolled at the iSchool, and her father, Darren Orzechowski who is Senior Director of Marketing – Management Business Unit at RedHat, and an SU alum, spoke highly of the relevance and career potential of an iSchool education. With her curiosity piqued, she decided to branch out.
Leah Orzechowski ’22
She explored all of the other colleges at SU, but got connected with a peer advisor at the iSchool, and they encouraged her to learn more about it and to take a class. She ended up taking Information Technologies, one of the most popular courses at the iSchool, and although she was reluctant to change her path, she found not only that the intro course exposed her to completely new and interesting ideas, but also that she liked the iSchool culture. Whereas other classrooms can be overwhelming in large scale presentation, she says, “the iSchool was a tight-knit and collaborative community. I really enjoyed having the smaller classes where students get to work with one another, and so after taking that class and another one, I decided to apply to the iSchool and transfer in.”
Orzechowski has always been an analytical and methodical thinker. She finds comfort in the way that data-backed decision making is trustworthy and logical. Having facts and data to backup decisions in her own life help her combat her intrinsic indecisiveness. This self-awareness is what led her to the iSchool’s Information Management and Technology program with a concentration in Data Analytics.
Not unlike other new iSchool students, Orzechowski admits that the curriculum of the iSchool can be intimidating for someone without a background in technology. However, despite her alteration to academic goals, she finds that the material she is learning in her new field still satisfies many of the same curiosities that she nurtured with her original biotech focus. Motivated by new knowledge, new experiences, and many new potential career paths, she continues to power through her program.
“The iSchool is unique because it is extremely career oriented. Which was something that really drew me to the iSchool, too. I felt that the classes I was taking were really preparing me for ‘real world’ experiences. And they have incredible career services to guide you in addition to your classes. They help with interview prep and reviewing your resumes, as well as help to steer you into the right career.”
Orzechowski is currently exploring the world of consulting. In August she will be starting a position at Deloitte in Boston. As an Application and Program Analyst, she’ll be collaborating with clients to deliver technology solutions that improve business processes and help companies grow. This role will require a lot of analytical and critical thinking, as well as the skills for clearly communicating findings that can be highly technical in nature. “These are things that the iSchool has really helped me to develop,” says Orzechowski.
In her sophomore year Orzechowski attended a job fair intended for juniors and seniors. Curious about what to expect in the job search process, she went assuming she would just get a feel for it. To her surprise, she was offered a spot in a leadership program called Learn2Lead offered by Crowe LLP , one of the premiere companies at the event. She enjoyed the program and was able to network with peers from all walks of life, who shared similar interests and passions. This experience in Learn2Lead, as Orzechowski had hoped, led to an internship with the company the following summer.
Her role was in the financial services sector and she served as IT Internal Audit Consulting Intern. In this position she got an intimate view of the processes that go into auditing for clients and helping to resolve their business needs. Overall, it was great exposure to Crowe as a company, and experience with what it means to be a professional consultant.
Back at the iSchool for her senior year, Orzechowski is now working on a project as a research assistant on the Twitter Conversational Health Project with Professor Stromer-Galley and Patrícia Rossini. A Derby Fellow at the University of Liverpool, who studied political discourse on social media–Rossini has teamed up with Stromer-Galley to be co-PIs on this project. While analyzing over 500 tweets each week, for several weeks, Orzechowski was curious to see if similar messaging was present on Facebook, which sparked an idea for her thesis: presidential candidate Facebook advertisement messaging in the 2020 election . She is studying uncivil and intolerant political advertisements on Facebook from the 2020 presidential race using data collected from Stromer-Galley’s research on the Illuminating Project. Using coding methods she learned from the experience with Stromer-Galley and Rossini, she is drilling down into the messaging from each side of the race, as well as who the advertisements are targeting. She intends to graduate with honors in the spring and head into her new career in Boston.
As a peer advisor for the iSchool, Orzechowski often finds herself telling younger students, “to not be afraid to try new things and step outside of your comfort zone. And to be open to new opportunities.” Her own peer advisor from the iSchool was such an important part of her own college experience that Orzechowski is grateful to be able to give back in a similar way. By branching out and trying new things when she arrived at Syracuse University she was able to discover the iSchool and the many new passions that are driving her current successes.