The hallmark of an Ithaca College education is that we prepare students to be READY for success in their careers and their lives. Alumni have told me that the most important ingredient of success is the ability to make connections.
Creativity relies on making connections among ideas that seem unconnected. Success in most fields requires the work of teams whose effectiveness rests on a team leader’s ability to connect people with distinctive skill sets into a high-functioning group.
Personal fulfillment flows from the ability to connect the different parts of one’s life—to understand your own values and to see everything you do as an authentic expression of who you are.
One of the aims of the IC 20/20 strategic plan is to make it easier for students to connect every part of their education to spur intellectual, professional, and personal development. The Integrative Core Curriculum enables them to connect insights from the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities in new and exciting ways.
Programs for first-year students in the residence halls now emphasize the connections between what they are learning in the classroom and what they are learning through the experience of living together as independent adults. We have increased opportunities for students to sharpen their skills and values through community engagement. The expansion of IC’s study away centers from London and Los Angeles to New York and (soon) China relies on the power of connecting academic learning to real-world experience.
I had lunch recently with Mark French ’97, who is profiled in this issue. When I asked Mark what advice he would give today’s IC students, Mark replied, “Challenge yourself to look at everything you do—in the classroom, in recreation and other parts of campus life, and even when you are home with your family. See everything from the perspective of ‘What can I learn from this? How does this add to my value proposition?’”
In other words, find the connections. The power of connection is not limited to our current students. To fully unlock the power of an IC education requires that we develop a strong community of practice that includes students, alumni, and professional staff. This too is part of the IC 20/20 strategic vision. IC’s Office of Career Services is redefining its mission from one focused almost exclusively on current students to one that serves as a dynamic hub of professional networking and advancement for the entire community of IC students and alumni. The IC Mentoring Network, comprising more than 1,400 members, offers a virtual space (on LinkedIn) for conversation among students and friends of the college who are successful in a wide variety of professional fields.
The IC vision statement says that we “strive to become the standard of excellence for residential comprehensive colleges.” Success in that goal depends on our ability to make and sustain connections. In today’s world, information is free and easily searchable. Education is no longer solely about the transmission of information from faculty to students. The edge in career success no longer depends on access to information about opportunities that other people do not have. Instead, it is the ability to make connections—between information, opportunities, and people—that makes the difference.
The Ithaca College students of today will reach the pinnacles of their careers around the year 2050. We cannot know—and therefore we cannot teach—the skills our students will need to be leaders in that unimaginable world. But we can help them make connections, and we can teach them to continue making connections throughout their lives. Perhaps we should think of the initials “IC” as standing for “Ithaca Connections!” Alumni will continue to be an important part of that effort.