Dear Fellow Ithaca College Alumni:
We hope your new year is off to a great start, as we begin 2021 with optimism that the personal and professional challenges wrought by the COVID pandemic over the past year may soon give way to a more promising future.
As alumni of Ithaca College ourselves, we know firsthand what it means to learn and live the IC experience. Our own personal and professional lives have been greatly shaped by the time we spent at IC. As members of the college’s board of trustees, we have continued to be involved in the life of this institution, and we do not take lightly our responsibility for ensuring that it, too, has a promising future. It is in that spirit that we write to you today, as some of you have raised questions and expressed concerns, and others have offered your support, regarding some of the changes being contemplated at the college.
In response to the many structural and demographic challenges facing higher education, and in order to secure a bright, student-centered future, the campus community and the board of trustees developed our strategic plan, Ithaca Forever, in 2019. That plan boldly recognizes our opportunities and challenges and calls for, among other things, the creation of a more sustainable financial model that will allow the college to thrive and become more accessible and affordable for students. The detrimental financial effects on the college stemming from the COVID pandemic have provided an accelerant to the need for action that already existed in this area. Our goal for a more sustainable financial model is not simply about reductions, however, as the college is also currently investing in new areas of study.
These include seeking accreditation for a new Physician Assistant Studies program and leveraging our collective strengths in business, communications, and music for the recently launched MBA in Entertainment and Media Management.
To be clear, IC is well-positioned to weather these times and to thrive in the future. Its ability to do so will only be made possible through proactive strategy and action. President Collado and her team have provided ongoing, bold leadership before and recently through these trying times, and we continue to enthusiastically support them. Among the necessary changes that are currently being analyzed is adjusting the size of our faculty, staff, and administration to align with the size of current and anticipated enrollment.
The Academic Program Prioritization process that was launched last year is led by the Academic Program Prioritization Implementation Committee (APPIC), with membership from across the college under the leadership of Vice President Laurie Koehler and Associate Provost Brad Hougham. This group was charged by the Provost to align the size of the faculty with the size of the student body. Informed by the guiding principles created by the Academic Program Prioritization Action Group, the APPIC solicited input from faculty, analyzed important data, and ultimately released the Shape of the College draft in January. The committee proposes shaping the curriculum by streamlining areas with less demand and investing in new areas of study. The APPIC is currently in a listening period as faculty review the Shape of the College document, and ultimately decisions will be made and announced by the Provost and President by March 1.
As many of you may have experienced in your work lives, dealing with resizing a community is never easy. The leadership team and the board of trustees have great respect for all of those who help deliver on our mission. The team has also made clear that any student currently enrolled in a degree program that may be phased out will be able to complete their degree program. The APPIC has taken this extremely seriously, and despite criticism by some on campus and on social media, the board of trustees is confident that this process has been carefully conducted, data driven, and consistent with our faculty handbook.
The board of trustees is fully supportive of the Ithaca Forever strategic plan and its intention to ensure Ithaca College’s commitment to maintaining student access and affordability, and to providing an environment that fosters academic success, equity and inclusion, and an enriching experience. This cannot happen if the college does not attain a sustainable size, and the administration is taking the difficult but necessary steps to align IC’s academic offerings with student interest and institutional need.
These are among the most challenging decisions any institution will face, but ignoring them is not an option. We are confident that the ultimate outcome of this work will best serve to position Ithaca College for future resilience and will help the institution continue to advance its mission, vision, and values. And it is our sincere hope that you will continue to be engaged and involved in helping us all shape the future of our shared alma mater.
Dave Lissy '87, Chair, Board of Trustees
Jim Nolan '77, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees