Sean Murphy sums up his philosophy about the power of music this way: “It brings people together in a creative way. Everyone is hearing the same thing, whether they’re enjoying it or not – it’s the same unifying experience.”

The Digital Music and Beat Production Certificate major plays guitar and has started to play piano as well, in addition to taking classes as part of his major, learning about AVID Pro Tools, sampling, and the creation of original compositions.

Jen Mainello smiling and sitting at her desk in classroomWhen he’s not in class, Sean visits the CareerNext classroom to work on assignments, map out how to schedule time for his projects, and meet with Jen Mainello (pictured), Academic Coordinator. Sean was part of the inaugural group of students in the Living Resources program that started on campus last semester. It offers personalized academic and residential support for students with Autism and learning differences to help them complete their degree or certificate program. They learn at an individualized pace set for success. The program began with three students and now has eight students this semester.

So far, CareerNext has helped him grow as a student and become more independent. “They push me out of my comfort zone, in a good way,” he explained, while working on an assignment on his laptop for his Digital Music and and Beat Production I class. He described how he has already spread his wings through the CareerNext Travel and Navigation class, where students get to know the local community through bus rides to the supermarket and mall. “It’s helpful getting to know the local area and getting a sense of independence,” he said. “I’m comfortable with things I wouldn’t be comfortable with otherwise.”

CareerNext students also learn helpful life skills including how to cook healthy meals. On the menu recently, after the group learned how to make turkey burgers, was ziti that Mainello prepared in one of the kitchens at College Suites, across the street from the SUNY Schenectady campus. Most of the students in the program live in the independently-run housing, developing essential skills to live on their own.

Mainello said that her students gain confidence on a daily basis. “They see that they can be successful when they maybe didn’t think that they could. They have the skills and we’re teaching them how to apply them.” She credited their professors with offering support for the program. “Often a professor will contact me in advance and let me know about an assignment that might be challenging and I will work on ways to adapt that assignment, breaking down a long assignment into sections for example.”

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