Sebastiano Ricci working with his puppets in class with professor John Drew
Creative Adelphi student Sebastiano Ricci designed his major around puppets.

What happens when you are a student who doesn't fit the typical mold? Many students have taken advantage of Adelphi University's personalized approach to education to blaze their own paths.

Sebastiano Ricci

Ask sophomore Sebastiano Ricci or first-year student Sophia Powless. Both have taken advantage of Adelphi University’s personalized approach to education to blaze their own paths.

Ricci, 19, has turned his passion for puppeteering into a custom-built college experience that exemplifies how Adelphi offers a personalized approach to education.

He has long been a fan of the Muppets. Around age 12, he got serious about his interest in the craft.

Sesame Street and The Muppet Show revolutionized the puppetry world,” he said. But his interest hasn’t always been embraced by others.

“When you tell somebody that you’re a puppeteer, people would give you that look, like you have to grow up,” he said. “But there are humans under those characters, and they have a job to perform just like any other actor.”

His interdisciplinary major in television puppetry combines courses in communications, art and theater. This year, his studies include classes in sewing and sculpture, acting and improv, and film. He’s also planning independent study programs on puppet building, arm movement, and the use of cameras and audio equipment.

He’s already launched a YouTube channel and frequently adds new videos of his performances. He’s also attracted the attention of local media, with a feature story in Newsday and profiles on News 12 and the FiOS1 News. He hopes his time at Adelphi will prepare him for a role on television or in the theater by teaching skills that range from how to use shop tools to improved acting and filming techniques.

“I’m hoping to just become more well-rounded,” he said. “There are a lot of skills these professors have that I hope they will teach me.”

Jobs are competitive, he said, but he’s not turning back.

“I don’t have a backup plan,” he said. “If you want it that badly, you’re going to get it.”

Sophia PowlessSophia Powless

Sophia Powless grew up in the Onondaga Nation, a tribal territory located near Syracuse, New York. There, volleyball was a family tradition, and she competed in a club team that made it to several national playoffs. “It’s been in my life for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It was natural for me to go into the sport.”

Now she’s on the volleyball team at Adelphi, but she’s also enrolled in environmental studies. It’s a subject that requires expertise in everything from the hard sciences to policy studies. “I don’t go out much,” she said.

Her experience on tribal lands also encouraged her interest in the environment. The territory is located near Onondaga Lake, a body of water that has suffered serious pollution from industry. And her homeland is also affected by mudboils, a phenomenon that involves silt and water being pushed up and out of the ground from underground pressure. Possibly caused by long-ago brine mining or land subsidence, the mud fills local creeks and further degrades the lake.

“It’s frustrating for us to see something that should be precious and cherished be completely polluted,” she said. “It’s a part of our culture. Our whole nation fights to protect it.”

Hers is not an easy schedule. “It drives me more to focus, because I have two things I’m fighting for.”

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