Ithaca College Pursues Four Key Areas of Improvement Identified in Campus-Wide Climate Survey

Since receiving the results of the recent Campus Climate Survey in April of 2017, college leadership has identified four key areas of improvement distilled from those results.

Those four areas are:

  • Fostering a deeper, more meaningful sense of belonging among students
  • Improving career opportunities for staff
  • Providing richer mentoring for faculty
  • Ensuring that decision-making at the administrative level is transparent and inclusive

In addition, any remaining items identified in the “Actions Steps to Address Racism and Bias,” which the college first outlined in the fall of 2015, are being rolled into one of these four areas — though many of the steps have been completed.

“We were thrilled with the response rate from the campus climate survey and how involved the campus community was in participating. The results provide immensely valuable information about where we need to grow and change as a college,” said Roger “Doc” Richardson, who spearheaded the Campus Climate Survey efforts and serves as associate provost of diversity, inclusion and engagement.

The Campus Climate Survey was administered nearly a year ago during the fall 2016 semester to measure how students, faculty and staff perceive the academic, social and professional environments at the college. All members of those groups were invited and encouraged to complete the anonymous survey. It was administered by the Sue Rankin & Associates firm, which analyzed the data and presented the findings at the end of the spring 2017 semester.

Four Forward

With the results in hand, steps to improve the sense of belonging among the students began this semester with campus-wide events that set the tone for the new academic year.

First Bomber Weekend included a number of activities for students throughout Labor Day weekend, including visits downtown, hiking and a fireworks display. The Convocation ceremony on Aug. 28 featured a long line of faculty greeting first-year students and was followed by a community picnic attended by students, faculty and staff of the college.

Linda Petrosino, provost and vice president for educational affairs, said that much collective effort goes into the recruitment and enrollment of IC students, and that she was pleased the college was very intentional about welcoming new and returning students to campus.

“Faculty and staff enjoyed greeting the students at convocation and the community picnic and are eager to work with students throughout the year,” she said. “We will continue to work with faculty, staff and students to engage our students in the IC community in ways that promote a strong, successful student experience.”

President Shirley M. Collado held an all-student gathering at the Athletics & Events Center shortly after the fall semester started. She also set a series of monthly “office hours” that are open to students who want to drop in and discuss whatever is on their minds. These sessions have been held in September and October at different locations on campus. The schedule for upcoming office hours can be viewed on the Connect with Collado webpage.

Collado has also met with the Student Government Council and holds monthly meetings with SGG President Carlie McClinsey to stay abreast of issues important to the student body.

Elijah Greene, a senior applied economics major who served on the Campus Climate Working Group and is also a student member of the IC Board of Trustees, noted the survey results indicated students often felt like they didn’t belong at IC because of incidents with other students.

He encouraged students to immerse themselves in all the opportunities IC offers so as to expand their views and meet new people — some of whom may have differing points of view. That kind of exposure can help mitigate the impacts of misunderstandings and lead to respect and empathy.

“If students are slow to react and fast to forgive I believe that would be a step in the right direction,” Greene said. “I recognize that isn't always an easy thing to do but trust is priceless when trying to grow a healthy community.”

The Office of Human Resources has been working to better promote existing support and development opportunities — and to further enhance services — to staff, all of which are highlighted on the new Employee Development website. Offerings include funds for professional development, online training (including access to Lynda.com, the Franklin Covey All Access Pass and more, all of which are also available for students and faculty) and training in such topics as time management, leadership and management skills, goal setting, and diversity and inclusion, among many others.

These learning and development portals are meant to provide staff with the skills and opportunities they need to chart career pathways through the college, said Brian Dickens, vice president of Human Resources.

“These are just some of the integrated efforts we’re making toward helping Ithaca College become a highly collaborative and high-trust learning organization,” Dickens said. “We believe an improved and engaged experience for our faculty and staff will result in improved, engaged experiences for our students.”

Efforts to improve mentorship for faculty members have been a cornerstone of the Center for Faculty Excellence. Wade Pickren, CFE director, specifically highlighted the center’s efforts to introduce “mutual mentoring” to the campus. This form of mentoring favors a wide, diverse range of mentoring partnerships over the traditional hierarchical structure, and focuses on an individual faculty member’s self-identified needs and goals, rather than seeking a one-size-fits-all outcome.

“We are constantly assessing our efforts and this year we are intentionally ramping up our communications about mutual mentoring with public announcements and direct interactions with various constituents, such as our early career ALANA faculty,” Pickren said.

He noted that mutual mentoring has proven benefits for all faculty members, but is an especially powerful model for faculty of color and female faculty.

President Collado has made shared decision-making an emphasis of her administration thus far. She opened the all-college gathering to students for the first time and stressed that she wants her senior leadership team to be highly collaborative and engaged. She also stressed the concept of “mutual accountability” among all members of the campus community.

“We all have a responsibility to contribute what we can; building a vision together and being responsible for realizing that vision together,” she said during that meeting.

In addition, the Shared Governance Task Force — composed of students, faculty and staff — has been examining ways to implement a model of joint decision-making at Ithaca College. The group released the second draft of a proposed charter in spring 2017.

Beyond the ‘Action Steps’

The “Action Steps to Address Racism and Cultural Bias” were announced in fall 2015 to address immediate concerns about diversity and inclusion on campus. Many of the steps were rooted in recommendations from the Diversity Strategic Action Committee made five years earlier. Over the past two years, the college made significant progress on the action items and provided regular updates to the community.

Moving forward, the college will focus its efforts on the four areas defined by the campus community in the climate survey and any remaining action items will be rolled into those four categories.

“The action steps — considered by many to be a checklist to complete and move on from — are evolving,” said Richardson. “By focusing on the four areas identified in the campus climate survey we are taking a different approach.”

“Our work will never end, but will constantly develop and we are all responsible for that growth,” he added. “All of us must continue to assess the needs of our community, and feel empowered to enact the change we hope to see.”

The action steps mapped out in 2015, which incorporated a number of suggestions from the campus community, did result in steps forward — the completion of the 2016 Campus Climate Survey one of them. On the public safety front, a new satellite station in the Campus Center has brought officers and students into closer contact, and the use of body cameras was rolled out earlier this year.

In fall 2016, the multicultural student lounge opened in the Campus Center, and has since undergone a redesign to be more welcoming. The college has worked with the existing ICUnity affinity group to promote their events and increase awareness of the group.

Updates and progress related to the four areas defined in the climate survey will be shared with the campus community and can be found on the campus climate website.

Ithaca College "shield" logo.