La Jerne Terry Cornish took o!ice on March 7, 2022, as Ithaca College’s 10th president. Prior to this appointment, Cornish served as interim president from August 2021 to March 2022, and as provost and executive vice president after joining Ithaca College as provost and senior vice president for academic a!airs in July 2018.
In addition to leading the college’s academic a!airs division, Cornish served as the primary architect of Ithaca Forever, the college’s five-year strategic plan. The plan was created during the 2018–19 academic year and was formally endorsed by the Ithaca College Board of Trustees in June 2019.
During the pandemic, Cornish led the shift to remote teaching and distance learning, including the orchestration of a revised academic calendar in alignment and compliance with ever-shifting safety and health guidelines. Cornish was also instrumental in leading the work of the college’s Return to Campus Task Force, which was charged with developing a comprehensive plan to fully open the Ithaca College campus in a challenging public health environment.
Committed to educational issues locally and globally, Cornish’s research interests include new teacher induction, culturally responsive teaching, and campus responses to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She helped establish Future Educators Associations in five Baltimore City middle schools and for over a dozen years organized and led educational experiences for Goucher students in Grahamstown, South Africa.
Earlier in her career, Cornish served as associate provost for undergraduate studies at her alma mater, Goucher College. Prior to joining Goucher in 1998, Cornish held various positions for 15 years in the Baltimore City Public School System. She taught English in three middle schools, piloted the Maryland’s Tomorrow Middle School Program, and served as the assistant principal of Canton Middle School.
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Education: BA in English and an MEd with a concentration in urban and diverse learners from Goucher College; PhD in language, literacy, and culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County
On what makes IC distinctive: “The integration of theory, practice, and performance, which is the hallmark of an Ithaca College education.”
On what makes Ithaca distinctive: “We reside in the truly quintessential college town, but it is our togetherness, inclusive of community, which makes us very special.”
On her biggest challenge since joining Ithaca College: “Coping with COVID-19, without a doubt. Swiftly moving to remote instruction and successfully returning to in-person instruction within two years was truly a test for this institution.”
On what keeps her motivated: To those whom much is given, much will be required. —Luke 12:48 “Over the span of nearly 40 years in education, I have been given much, beginning with an amazing education and professional opportunities afforded to me by people who believed in me. If you know my story, you know that I was somebody’s ’why,’ as a student. And so I am always on the lookout for students who need a ‘why.’”
On her vision for fall 2022: “While our strategic plan is aptly named Ithaca Forever, starting this fall our focus will be Ithaca Together, to include not only faculty, staff, and students but also the community in which we reside. Together, we will not only make Ithaca College distinctive but also the city of Ithaca, as reflected in the presence of an Ivy League university, a comprehensive college with amazing professional schools, and a community college that opens different pathways for students on their way to four-year institutions.”