Students leave school for success

Shannon Liao ’17 left Vassar after completing her freshman year in order to take a job at an independent newspaper. She fits into a larger trend of students who leave school before graduating to pursue professional opportunities. Photo By: Cathy Grier
Shannon Liao ’17 left Vassar after completing her freshman year in order to take a job at an independent newspaper. She fits into a larger trend of students who leave school before graduating to pursue professional opportunities. Photo By:  Cathy Grier
Shannon Liao ’17 left Vassar after completing her freshman year in order to take a job at an independent newspaper.
She fits into a larger trend of students who leave school before graduating to pursue professional opportunities. Photo By: Cathy Grier

For most college students, trudging through four years of classes to get their degree is their ticket to getting a good job and starting a career. But Casey Hancock ’15 and Shannon Liao ’17 have both found opportunities to jumpstart their careers earlier than most.

Hancock, a computer science major, left Vassar at the beginning of this semester, which would have been the second semester of his senior year, to go to New York City and work full-time growing a start-up company named vcemo. which he started with other Vassar students.

Vcemo as a company is devoted to the development of virtual reality streaming as a form of entertainment. Hancock and his fellow Vassar coworkers have been creating a platform from which users can upload and stream videos that can be viewed on a virtual reality headset—such as the headline-making Oculus Rift—in full 360-degree detail.

Hancock’s decision to take time off from school came after the successful conclusion of a Kickstarter campaign for vcemo, as well as the company receiving its first primary investor.

“I left mostly to get our name out there,” said Hancock. “The decision to go to New York City hinged on that we already have money coming in.”

Right now, Hancock is focusing on hiring developers and building relationships with other tech start-ups in the city.

Though vcemo has received its first round of funding, the developers need to develop and produce the platform for the streaming in the next couple of months to get their next round of funding. Hancock and other vcemo founders have been invited to give a presentation on their company at an invite-only event for similar tech-startups next month.

“Right now, we’re focusing on hiring developers because we want the platform to be absolutely beautiful,” Hancock continued, “Right now, we’re both a content and a software company. We’re committed to making sure everything is top-notch quality.”

Hancock believes that virtual reality is a rapidly evolving field that will quickly reach the mainstream as most people’s consumption of media changes drastically. According to him, Microsoft has been investing heavily in developing their own augmented reality headset, and many other media companies are interested in getting into the technology.

Though the future is full of promise for vcemo, Hancock is unsure whether he will return to Vassar to finish his degree. He is allowed to take two semesters off and still re-enroll, and he plans on doing that.

“It all depends on exactly what happens,” Hancock said. “I’ll make the decision [to return to Vassar or not] when I need to.”

Like Hancock, Liao, an English major at Vassar, also left school early to begin her career in New York City. However, she didn’t leave to work on her own start-up company, but to start work as a journalist working for independent newspaper The Epoch Times.

Despite having a good freshman year at Vassar, Liao had felt financial pressure from attending Vassar, as well as a sense that what she was studying would lead her to a career with which she ultimately wouldn’t be satisfied. So she decided not to return for her sophomore year and to take a position as a reporter at The Epoch Times instead.

“After I interned at a magazine, I realized that going to Vassar was going to lead me into a career working for literary magazines,” Liao said. “And for sophomore year, it just got to the point where I thought I was taking out too much in loans and that it would be tough for me to make it all back in the future with whatever career I ended up with.”

Having interned at The Epoch Times for several years during high school, Liao knew that she would have a position there that she could rely on. Having initially grown interested in reporting the news and its portrayal by the media, Liao quickly found herself finding more to love about the job.

“I gave it a try with a three-month internship initially and my employers thought I could stay on and keep doing it during my junior year of high school but it turned out to be too intense to juggle,” reported Liao. “At any rate, I remembered how gratifying it was to see my name in print, and to just grab the elusive interview after many attempts so I came back the next summer and the next.”

During the fall semester, she was working full-time as a reporter and covering a wide variety of breaking events. Though she’s only working part-time now, Liao has still found herself busy researching events she has personally found very interesting.

“This past year in particular was especially gratifying because I got to speak with cops and protesters about the ongoing Ferguson and Eric Garner protests and really get at the human side of the news,” Liao said. “I also interviewed the Chinatown Partnership’s executive director for over four hours to dredge up memories that other reporters before, including a New York Times reporter, had no idea the man had.”

Despite having recently transferred schools to keep taking classes, Liao doesn’t believe that she’ll be putting down her reporter’s notebook anytime soon.

“I plan to work into the foreseeable future and have no plans to quit,” Liao concluded. “I just transferred to CUNY Hunter after taking a semester off, so I might actually continue to major in English and I’m definitely continuing my job at the same time.”

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