“The weird story about me,” said Candice Poon, “is that I only applied to two schools.” The Electronic Media, Arts, and Communication (EMAC) program in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute spoke so strongly to the budding New Jersey high school student that she knew almost immediately what she wanted to pursue at Rensselaer. “It made my parents a little nervous at the time,” she said, “but the fit has been perfect.”
Almost five years later, Poon has completed a dual major in EMAC and information technology (IT)—only the second Rensselaer student to link those two programs—and will be finishing her co-term master’s in entrepreneurship later this fall. Along the way she said she’s tried to take advantage of the many unexpected opportunities that Rensselaer has provided her, both in and outside the classroom, and is grateful for the unique path she’s found her way to.
“Truthfully, I’m not great at math and science,” Poon confessed, admitting that this has made her a minority at an institution known best for engineering. She was drawn to EMAC because “I loved creating content—video editing, podcasts…” and has thrived in the creative environment of HASS. “There’s a lot of room for personal growth and development,” she said of the program, “and the curriculum lets you tailor that. I love the classes I took with Professor Audrey Bennett that had us working on marketing and branding, incorporating design into technology products.”
With an eye for design, Poon followed this interest in product development into the School of Science, where she began expanding her skill set by studying IT. (It’s a more common combination to match EMAC with computer science or business, and many IT majors also study business.) “I love following startups,” she said, “learning about what makes one succeed or fail.” Through IT, Poon began receiving the technical training she needed to balance and complement the design expertise she was developing in EMAC. “I like making bigger decisions, impacting the product development and overall design thinking ... the bigger picture. It was the perfect fusion.”
Plus, she said, the combination of skills has really made her résumé stand out as she enters the job market. She has completed two separate internships in the IT department of the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. The first was a traditional role as a web developer and software engineer. For the second, she worked as a business analyst working in metrics collection. The experience has led to a full-time offer from Johnson & Johnson for Poon to enter its two-year rotational program.
Poon isn’t done exploring yet, though. She said one of the most valuable things she’s learned at Rensselaer is to keep an open mind and explore all opportunities. Her long list of extracurricular activities is testament to this ethos. As a freshman, she became involved in the Archer Center for Leadership, completing the Emerging Leaders 1 and 2 programs. “I think that really helped with my ability to transition into a corporation and represent myself in a professional way,” she said. She cofounded and led the RPI chapter of Design for America, a national student organization that tackles social problems through design innovation. She was co-president of the Chinese-American Student Association, the oldest and largest cultural club on campus, and studied abroad in Hong Kong. And to top it all off, she finished the year as vice president of the IT Honor Society.
This fall, Poon will return to campus to finish her master’s in the Lally School of Management, but over the summer she’s taken a position in Seattle with tech giant Microsoft. As a program manager, she will combine the many skills she’s acquired during her time at Rensselaer—design, project management, and business analysis—overseeing the production timeline of new software projects.
Poon is the embodiment The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The New Polytechnic emphasizes and supports collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and regions to address the great global challenges of our day, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.
Watch a video of Candice Poon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnbWw6FUpsY
About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to www.rpi.edu.