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Posted by Thomas Rochon at 12:59PM   |  Add a comment
A happy reunion at IC's Family Weekend

Last weekend we welcomed approximately 1500 parents and other relatives of IC students to campus for Family Weekend. The weekend gives the families of our students an opportunity to learn first-hand about their professors and classes, residence halls and friends, and other campus activities. I always offer a brief talk about the educational experience their sons and daughters are having. This year I framed my remarks around the theme: “Top Ten Questions You Should Ask Your Son or Daughter at Ithaca College.” 

Here are the questions a parent might ask in order to help their son or daughter get the most from their college experience. 

1.        What are you doing with your liberal education courses?

Many students regard their liberal education or core curriculum as a series of requirements to be checked off as quickly as possible. With thoughtful selection of classes and a thoughtful approach to the course material, though, the core curriculum can become a powerful source of the kind of big picture thinking, analytical abilities and written and verbal communication skills that prepare a graduate to meet the professional and personal challenges of life.

2.       What are you doing at 4:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.?

Ithaca College hosts speakers who give talks that are unconnected to any course, are not required, and are always open to the entire community. Among the speakers who have been on campus in just the last year or two: Branford Marsalis, Tony Kushner, Arianna Huffington, Helen Caldicott, James Carville and David Muir. Several times per week, guest speakers share their experience and insights -- usually at 4:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. (just before or after dinner). Is your son or daughter taking advantage of these opportunities?  

3.       Have you wandered the halls of an unfamiliar building?

Ithaca College offers an amazing array of courses of study, each taught in different formats that open one’s eyes to the wide world of learning and accomplishment. Has your son or daughter dropped in on a music rehearsal, an exercise science clinic, a class held in the financial trading room, a middle-of-the-night theater rehearsal, a student production for IC-TV, or a philosophy department colloquium?  

4.       What are professors like when you talk with them outside of class?

Our faculty are always willing to engage with students who have big picture questions that are not readily asked and answered in class. For that matter, our entire campus stands ready to engage with any question, problem or concern a student may bring forward. Don’t ask if your son or daughter talks with faculty outside of class – ask when the last time was that they did and what they talked about.

5.       What are you learning from your co-curricular activities?

We learn so much from purposive play. Co-curricular activities may originate from a desire to immerse in an interesting activity. But students in our 200 or so student clubs, organizations and teams also learn leadership skills, event planning, teamwork, and how to be entrepreneurial in getting something done.  

6.       Have you found ways to apply what you are learning?

Our students get involved in internships, volunteer activities, faculty-mentored research programs, and a staggering range of other ways of putting new knowledge to use in an independent setting. True learning takes place when knowledge and experience are united.  

7.       Tell me something about living in Ithaca.

Ithaca is a place of great natural beauty, exceptional human diversity for a town our size, and what must be one of the largest concentrations of social service organizations per capita in the country. Encourage your son or daughter not to get their college education in a vacuum but instead to experience Ithaca as the first community in which they will live as an independent young adult.

8.       Did you know Ithaca is not the center of the universe?

Ithaca College has centers in Los Angeles and London, in New York City effective Spring 2012, and in China effective approximately 2014. Most students in these centers have internships in addition to classes, giving them valuable work experience and connections. In addition, we assist our students with individual study-away arrangements in approximately 45 countries per year. Has your son or daughter considered the benefits of a semester off campus?

9.       Did you know there are 50,000 people standing behind you?

That is the number of living Ithaca College alumni. I have yet to meet one who does not stand ready to mentor a current student by sharing insights and contacts developed from their own professional experience.

10.   The future is now! Are you preparing for it?

Our Career Services Office can operate as a last-minute job placement bureau, but it best serves those students who start early. This enables students to be thoughtful about how their course of study and extra-curricular activities will develop the skills most prized by employers, graduate schools and professional schools. Career Services can also assist in strategies for snagging internships and developing the network of contacts that are so important to life after the bachelor’s degree.

I am told that our Career Services Office had a rush of visitors five minutes after my talk ended, with parents and students saying “The President told us to visit.” Fortunately the office was open at 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning! My audience clearly took my message to heart. I hope these questions are just as useful to others, including students thinking about how to get the most out of their college experience.


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