Conversation Continued: Education Leaders Connect Theory, Practice, and Performance

Ithaca College faculty, students, and alumni joined with pioneering education leaders from across the nation on Nov. 3 for “Conversation: Started,” an academic symposium exploring the connections between theory, practice, and performance held as part of Weekend on South Hill—which celebrated both the inauguration of President Shirley M. Collado and the 125th anniversary of the founding of the college.

Held in Glazer Arena of the Athletics and Events Center, the symposium was organized by Hormoz Movassaghi, professor of finance and international business, and Yvonne Rogalski, associate professor of speech-language pathology and audiology. It featured three sessions, each focusing on a different topic.

Dana Professor of Physics and Astronomy Luke Keller. (Photo by Gary Hodges.)


Breaking the Ice—and the Mold
Members of the IC community kicked off the symposium by sharing their innovative and motivational approaches to learning that celebrate the college’s unique manifestations of theory, practice, and performance.

Searching for Ancestral Voices
Kathleen Mulligan, associate professor of theatre arts, explained how the annual final project of her Dialects for the Stage course, in which students research their own family histories and write an original monologue in the voice of an ancestor, allows students to apply the skills they have learned throughout the semester and take ownership of this aspect of their future work in the theater. Acting major Fiorella Fernandez ’18 then presented her monologue.

Harnessing the Power of Collaboration: When Teams Make Magic
Christine Bataille, assistant professor of management, talked about the recipe for creating team magic, which she said requires three key ingredients: passion, vision, and connection. Recent School of Business graduates Lisa Famularo ’16, Daniel Ruthman ’17, and Ndella Seck ’17 discussed their collaborative projects, which used that recipe to achieve success.

Global Health: How One Small Country Impacted Our Practice, Hearts, and Futures in a Big Way
Mary Taylor ’08, a nurse in the Hammond Health Center, described her founding of an annual short-term study abroad program to bring medicine and medical care to rural villages in Malawi. Physical therapy doctoral student Sarah Woychick ’18 and Jill Mayer ’11, clinical assistant professor of physical therapy, talked about the powerful impact their participation in the program has had on them.


We Know More Than We Think: Punk Music and Full-Contact Aesthetics
Alex Reed, associate professor of music theory, history, and composition, played music examples ranging from the punk anthem “Anarchy in the UK” and the pop hit “Uptown Funk” to the theme CNN used for its Iraq War coverage to demonstrate a metaphor he uses in his teaching, that “with open eyes, open ears, and open body, maybe we can get a sense of the water that we as fish are swimming in.”

Imagination and Creativity: Requirements for Scientific Discovery
Dana Professor of Physics and Astronomy Luke Keller pointed out that imagination is needed for science. “Imagination is something that gives us the capacity to think more openly about what is possible; the capacity to conceive of what is not,” he said. “I see creativity as applied imagination, making real or communicating that which we imagine. Sometimes creativity sparks discovery and innovation.”

From Classroom to Career: How I Launched My Career in Broadcasting
Ciara Lucas ’17, a journalism grad who is now a television reporter in Savannah, Georgia, talked about how hard she worked throughout her time at IC to get where she is today. She thanked everyone in the room who had helped her realize her potential. “And to the students who are in this room, I need you to know that every tool that you need to go wherever you want to go or be whatever you want to be, is right here at Ithaca College. But it’s your responsibility to pursue it and actively make it happen.”

The Power of Cross-Institutional Collaboration and Innovation in Higher Education
The second session explored the work of national leaders who have been catalysts for change in higher education by pushing the boundaries, building inventive initiatives and models, and creating valuable partnerships across sectors.

"Collaboration and Innovation in Higher Education" panelists. (Photo by Gary Hodges.)


Eve Burton, senior vice president and general counsel at the Hearst Corporation, moderated the discussion. She began by describing the connection between Hearst and Collado through a foundation established to honor the legacy of Helen Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, which is published by Hearst. The Pussycat Foundation funds the BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, an initiative founded by Collado that provides scholarships and cultivates leadership among college women.

The panel participants were Armando Bengochea, program officer for diversity and director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program; Deborah Bial, founder and president of The Posse Foundation; Sarah Bolton, president of the College of Wooster; and Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers University–Newark.

Burton said that everyone on the panel is in some way the product of Collado’s collaboration and innovation in higher education, and that there are three themes that they identified that directly tied to her success: reaching across any divide, inspiring real dialogue, and instilling trust.

“The results of these themes are how the darknesses become light at colleges and beyond, and she has taken theory to practice in a way that no other college president has yet,” said Burton.

Cantor, who Collado considers one of her mentors, said that collaboration is key to cultivating talent, especially in such a divisive time.

“We have to learn to talk to each other, to deal with each other,” Cantor said. “We are living in communities where people are being left on the sidelines who have the talent to attack the very problems that we worry about. That’s why teamwork is important, but it’s also why institutional structures have to stretch.”

Bial recounted the history of the Posse Foundation, which identifies public high school students with academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes. She said that without the collaboration of the participating colleges and universities, which provide the scholarship funding, the work of the foundation could not be successful. Collado herself was in the inaugural Posse cohort at Vanderbilt University.

“When we collaborate with these great institutions, we say, ‘We are going to aggressively and deliberately identify the young people in the United States who we think can become a senator, a CEO, a college president, and who can represent the diversity of this country so that when decisions get made, about health care, education, taxes, the voices at the tables where those decisions are getting made are going to represent the voices of all Americans’” said Bial. “That’s collaboration at its finest. And Shirley becoming president of Ithaca College is very emotional for me, because we saw in you, when you were 17 years old, this potential for leading. You did not disappoint!”

The Woke Ones: Identifying and Cultivating Student Leadership and Talent
In the final roundtable session, panelists considered how student activism can be channeled responsibly and constructively, and why it is critical to use a strength-based approach to develop promising—and often unnoticed—youth from all walks of life.

"Identifying and Cultivating Student Leadership and Talent" panelists. (Photo by Gary Hodges.)


Leilani M. Brown, chief marketing officer for Starr Companies and author of the book “From Campus to Cubicle: 25 Tips for Your First Professional Year,” moderated this discussion.

Taking part on the panel were Timothy K. Eatman, inaugural dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community and associate professor of urban education at Rutgers University–Newark; Marta Elena Esquilin, associate dean of the Honors Living-Learning Community and assistant professor in the American Studies Program at Rutgers University–Newark; Kyle Finck, section lead for High School Insider, a Los Angeles Times program that works to empower high school students; and Chastity Lord, chief operating officer at Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization.

Brown kicked off the conversation by giving the working definition of “woke” that the group was operating under: being aware, awake, or awakened to inequalities and injustice. She asked each panelist to identify their first moment of being woke, and what they chose to do about it.

Finck worked with Collado when he was editor in chief of the student newspaper at Middlebury College and she was the vice president for student affairs and dean of the college. He said he still keeps handy in a document some of the important lessons that he learned from her, and that he tries to use them in his work.

“Shirley taught me that when you are leading a meeting or leading a group conversation, always know who is not speaking, and as a facilitator make sure to get the perspective and voice of someone who hasn’t yet been heard,” said Finck. “These little micro-leadership moments are just as important as the macro moments.”

Eastman and Esquilin described their work at Rutgers, where Collado had led the development of the Honors Living-Learning Community while serving as executive vice chancellor prior to assuming the Ithaca College presidency.

“For me it’s about getting people to the forefront who may not otherwise be at the forefront,” said Esquilin. “A lot of our work is to tell these students their experience matters even if what they are bringing to the table is not what other people are talking about, and you have a right to be there.”

Eastman said that their extensive use of social media means that sometimes students get in a bubble where they only hear certain voices.

“I challenge them to think outside of that echo chamber and to re-think the use of social media, to listen to some different perspectives as part of their journey of taking critical thinking seriously.”

All of the panelists agreed that being “aware, awake, or awakened” can be exhausting, and that it isn’t always necessary to be the one taking the mic.

“It’s not just about being part of a march or delivering a petition,” said Lord. “It’s also about sitting and thinking about strategy. It’s also about building relationships. It’s also about understanding your community. Being woke and having ‘fire in the belly’ doesn’t always mean being in the front row, and that, too is okay.”

For more stories, photo galleries, and video from the Weekend on South Hill, visit 125.ithaca.edu/weekend.

An academic symposium, "Conversation: Started," was held as part of the Weekend on South Hill.