CASC 104: The Most Useful Course You’ll Ever Take

The title may seem like an overstatement – I get it. How could a one credit course be the best course ever? I took CASC 104 on a whim, based on one random email I saw advertising it. It was probably the best course registration decision I will ever make. Taught by a few of our wonderful advisors at the Greene Center, CASC 104 is an 8-week course based on applying ‘design-thinking’ to career exploration. If you don’t know, design thinking is a productive way of testing our ideas to evaluate and refine our goals.

The class is low capacity; there were less than 20 students in total. We started out by making spaghetti and marshmallow towers. Throughout the semester, we colored, read and chatted with each other. For a college course about my career, this was not what I expected at all. The atmosphere was warm and safe, and I learned more about myself in that one semester than I ever had before. We were encouraged to think of the craziest ideas we had — our biggest dreams for what we wanted to become all while, following the design thinking process. Here’s what I learned about myself.


What do you see as the problem in your career goals right now? Are there any paths you want to pursue? Well, sure! I think I want to be a neurosurgeon, but I have no real basis for that desire —  I just think it seems cool and I like my BCS course so far. Now, to me, that seemed like enough at that point. I had a goal and I was taking the steps I thought were necessary to get there. As a first year taking the course, any goal seemed better than no goal. I couldn’t possibly imagine my world without structure.


Brainstorm time! Think of the most radical ideas possible. What have you always wanted to do but thought you couldn’t? This was my favorite part. It was like sneaking an extra piece of cake or something. The most important part of this step was to not judge yourself. Being a University of Rochester student, bogged down by toxic Meliora attitudes, I was already quite used to judging myself for what I felt were ‘impractical ideas’. But in the safe haven of the CASC 104 classroom, I was being asked to entertain those ideas. Maybe being a National Geographic Wildlife Photographer or fiction author wasn’t that absurd.


 Figure out ways to find out information about your radical ideas. How could you try those things out without spending a lot of time or money? For those of you who read the article on networking and the Meliora Collective, you already know I absolutely love the platform. CASC 104 was the birthplace of this love! I was introduced to the platform and the concept of an informational interview, and I had to actually write an invitation. I am so glad I decided to send that request because it launched me on a whole new career trajectory. Spoiler alert: I do not want to become a neurosurgeon.


This is the scariest part. Here’s where you put those ideas into action! Try new things, whether those things are courses, internships, or personal projects. This part takes time, and a real commitment to your idea. Make sure to evaluate your prototype well before testing anything out though! If you don’t like the results of your prototype (i.e.; after networking with someone you realize neuroscience is not for you), make sure to go back prototype before testing another idea. This for me, ended up being a summer’s worth of work making genetic knock-out models for a lab at Columbia University. Fortunately, this ended up being a productive test that led me onto the path I am currently on: I think I want to do something related to genetics.


This is probably the most important part. Make sure to go back and reflect on what you wanted to get out of the test, versus what you actually did. And remember, failure is a good thing! For example, I now know that I like the subject of genetics, but the research that I did, and maybe even research altogether, is not for me.

So, I’ve finished my assessment and now what? Well, it’s back to the beginning! If you already know what you want to do, or what career path you want to pursue, continuing to network to gain experience and knowledge on the subject never hurts. And honestly, thinking of my college career as a big exploration has opened the doors to a bunch of different opportunities. Without CASC 104, I might still be pursuing neuroscience when there was a better option for me. You can sign up for CASC 104 through UR Student to find out about your personalized career pathway.

By Nandini Samanta ('22)
Nandini Samanta ('22) Peer Career Advisor