A Day in the Life is a Campus Times series highlighting the studies and lives of UR students. Answers have been lightly edited for grammar, clarity, and/or style. 

Junior Kelsey Lee is a Dual Degree student studying Optical Engineering and Piano Performance. 

Tell us about a typical day in your life.

Typical Tuesday: 

  • 9 a.m.: Red Line shuttle from Eastman to River Campus and grab breakfast at Connections 
  • 9:40 a.m. – 10:55 a.m.: OPT 262 class (Electromagnetic Theory) 
  • 11:00 a.m.: Lunch, relax, and hang out with friends
  • 12:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.: OPT 242 class (Aberrations, Interferometers, and Optical Testing) 
  • 2:00 p.m.: Practice piano at Upper Strong 
  • 4:00 p.m.: Library to complete work and get dinner
  • 6:15 p.m.: Lead OPT 241 (Geometric Optics) workshop
  • 7:35 p.m.: Orange line back to Eastman; head to the Annex and practice for an hour 

Tuesday is probably my busiest day. I was trying to find a day where it’s a little bit of Eastman and a little bit of River Campus, but it’s so divided for me this year, which I like. I have days where I’m only at River Campus and days where I’m just at Eastman. Before, it used to be that I would take my morning classes at Eastman, take a bus over to River Campus for more classes, and then bus back. This schedule works out really well. When I have to split my days between Eastman and River Campus, I have to switch my mindset in the middle of the day, and that can get very overwhelming. Tuesday happens to be a day where I am mostly at River Campus. 


What is a Dual Degree? What is your experience?

The idea is to have half of my classes at River Campus, half at Eastman. In my experience, the hardest thing about the Dual Degree Program is balance because the things that you’re doing on the two campuses are so different — especially in my case, because optical engineering is so different from piano performance. It has been getting trickier as I advance through the curriculums, because it’s harder to prioritize between my classes. Am I going to put more energy into my optics classes or my music history class? 

I would say that I am spending more time at River Campus now, but I still really love my classes at Eastman and living there. My favorite part about being a Dual Degree student is getting to be part of the Eastman community and talking to people who love classical music everyday. That gets me away from all of my STEM classes, which I really need. 

Why did you choose to pursue a Dual Degree? 

The Dual Degree Program was really helpful for me in figuring out what I wanted. I got out of high school, and I knew I really liked music, but I also knew I didn’t want to give up my academics. This program allowed me to spend time with both and figure out which one I like better. Now, I’ve figured out which one I like better, but I am still finishing two degrees, so it’s been challenging trying to balance that. 

The Dual Degree program usually takes five years to complete. Where are you on that track?

I think I will be graduating within four-and-a-half or five years. Hybrid learning was helpful for me as a dual degree student because I didn’t have to bus between schools everyday. Online classes also gave me a lot of flexibility to get my requirements in.  

It’s a lot of classes to cram into four years, and it’s not worth it. If you finish in four years, you only end up getting to the minimum requirements of both degrees. I want my majors to be more than just the minimum requirements; I want to get to spend time with my studies and explore. Taking that extra half year or one year will let me take some classes outside my major’s minimum requirements, which is great because both Eastman and the Optics Department have so many interesting classes. 

Typically, everyone graduates together. At the end of the spring semester of senior year at Eastman, everyone is going to each other’s senior recitals, so I am potentially going to have my senior recital in my fifth year. I am already worried about it — who’s going to come to my recital? All of my friends will have already graduated. I know my studio will always support me, but it won’t be the same. However, I think at Eastman, they let Dual Degree students walk and be in the ceremony with the people in their grade, just without the diploma. 


What are some of your favorite classes?

Unpopular opinion — one of my favorite classes right now is OPT 262. It’s a more math-intensive class, but I really like that. Also, it’s closely related to the research that I’m doing. I just started working with a Ph.D. mentor on a weekly basis. I spend half of my time at the lab doing hands-on experiments, but I can also do a lot of the research by myself on my computer. This is really helpful for me because I can do research at Eastman as well, allowing me to put more time into it. 

I also love my piano lessons — something that’s  always been there throughout all of my time in school. Having the same professor for that entire duration allows my teacher to really know me. In what other class would you have the same professor for the entirety of your school career?


What is something you want students to know about what it means to be a Dual Degree student? 

A lot of people when they hear that you’re an Eastman Dual Degree student, their reaction is “oh my God, that must be so stressful.” Although it is really stressful sometimes, I feel like the reason we do it is because we really enjoy all of the classes. I love my classes at both schools. It’s associated with stressful, super difficult things, but it’s really just us taking classes and doing things we like. 


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