ICQ 2003/1President's Corner
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Connecting the Dots

 

When I came to Ithaca College as president in the summer of 1997, three major construction projects were well under way: the James J. Whalen Center for Music, Fitness Center, and Center for Health Sciences. All three were intended to help bring the quality of the College's physical foundation up to the same high level of excellence as the programs housed in those facilities. As you will read in "The New Face of IC" in this issue, we intend to continue building -- both literally and figuratively -- on that solid foundation.

We believe that we are well poised to consider some $150 million worth of infrastructure improvements over the next 5 to 10 years. It is a huge undertaking, but we are convinced of its necessity. Moody's Investors Service, in a report published in December, acknowledges the difficult choices that higher education leaders must make in the current economic environment. Some institutions, say Moody's analysts, will expand spending on facilities, and others will cut back or hold stable. We have chosen to do the former, for as the analysts warn, those that do the latter "may preserve near-term financial health at the risk of losing competitive ground, which could affect long-term financial health."1

The consultants on our Campus Master Plan, Sasaki Associates, like to describe the plan as the physical expression of our institutional plan. In many ways it mirrors the institutional plan, because it has a set of goals listed by priority according to both urgency of need and practicality of achievement. You do not move a plan of such magnitude forward in wholesale fashion -- rather, it is multifaceted as well as multiyear in its timeframe.

Three pieces of the plan are at the top of the priority list: a new home for the School of Business, a field house, and administrative space. We have seen phenomenal growth in the business school in the past three years, and now it needs a new building to catch up with the quality and dimension of its program offerings. We have a first-rate athletics program that is without a field house -- something that is almost unheard of across the country, let alone in a northern climate. And our information technology, human resources, and admissions operations have grown beyond the administrative space currently available.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that the master plan is solely about constructing new buildings. There is an aesthetic dimension to the plan that is just as important -- we will keep both indoor and outdoor spaces interesting to the eye as well as practical. Instead of either sprawling out or building up, the plan makes careful use of the landscape and works to enhance our current layout to retain a sense of community and maximize the views of Cayuga Lake.

None of this will come cheaply, of course. We were fortunate to have collaborated with a private developer to lease the College Circle Apartments complex, as our entire debt capacity would have been used up if we had borrowed to construct residential housing ourselves. To accomplish our goals we will still need to rely on some borrowing, as well as on resources from our annual operating budget. But mostly we will need to embark on an ambitious fund-raising effort. We believe that both the field house and School of Business initiatives, in particular, will attract donations from alumni and other friends, and in the months ahead we will be asking for support for these projects.

The most important thing to remember about the Campus Master Plan is that it gives us the long-term view of what Ithaca College can become. We will have to remain open to new ideas and be aware of outside forces that can affect our objectives. Having this plan in place gives us a context in which to make decisions and know the relative consequences. As we drive toward the future, we could not have a better road map to help us find the best route.

Peggy R. Williams

   
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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 25 April, 2003