President's Corner: Celebrating Faculty Journeys

In mid-september, faculty and staff gathered for the Provost’s Colloquium, an innovative program launched this academic year by provost and senior vice president for academic affairs La Jerne Terry Cornish, in partnership with the Center for Faculty Excellence and its director, Wade Pickren. This colloquium series invites faculty members to present their sabbatical research to the college community.

At this year’s opening event, Jennifer Germann, associate professor of art history; Deborah Martin, professor of music; and Peter Melcher, professor of biology; shared their explorations around bias and the erasure of people of color in the world of art, original interpretations and combinations of musical compositions, and competition among species of plants on the beaches of Puerto Rico, respectively. The array of topics demonstrated a wide range of thought and innovation undertaken by three faculty members who skillfully demonstrated their navigation of the space where creativity and curiosity intersect academic rigor and the construction of knowledge.

In higher education, particularly at student-centered institutions like ours, we often talk about the journeys of transformation that students embark upon during their time on our campus. Here at IC, our faculty and staff take very seriously our collective responsibility to offer and support the moments that make up these journeys for nearly 6,000 students. But we would be missing an important opportunity if we neglected to encourage and celebrate such journeys taken by our faculty and staff. Their transformations, too, are critical to the creation of a robust, inclusive learning community that ultimately influences not only our students’ experiences but also Ithaca College’s visibility and distinction as a leading institution of higher education.

An important part of the college’s continuing evolution is to ensure an environment on campus that supports and emboldens every member of our learning community as they thrive, grow, and fully participate in their own unique IC experience. One of the things I love about working in higher education is witnessing the transformations that occur when this type of environment is created and celebrating the intellectual and personal epiphanies that happen when we dare to push boundaries, both within ourselves and within our fields of study or our professions.

Research, in particular, represents an area where it is imperative to welcome and honor the work of people who come to their chosen field from a multitude of perspectives—both in their lived experiences and in their academic training. The most powerful research is defined by collaboration, moments of discovery that combine a deep subject-matter expertise with the unique alchemy that can happen when people from different backgrounds have the freedom to create something together. This is why it’s so important that we open ourselves to original thought in the classroom and productively work across difference in our offices, departments, and divisions throughout our campus. Welcoming unfamiliar ways of understanding the world not only leads to better research and allows us to question our assumptions—it enables places like Ithaca College to productively contribute to expressions of different kinds of truth and dialogues about what is valued as knowledge.

Approaching our academic enterprise in this way illuminates our deep responsibility to share our knowledge with our community and to model a collaborative approach that underscores the importance of individual and collective intellectual achievement in contributing to the common good. Doing this also means our students can go out into the world after graduation with a firm understanding of the importance of getting diverse voices around the table to ask and answer difficult questions.

Series like the Provost’s Colloquium—and many other such opportunities on our campus—provide moments for us to understand our collective impact, the richness of faculty expertise at Ithaca College, and the need for us all to embrace what it means to be a part of a high-performing living and learning community that contributes to the world. And, on a fundamental level, it gives us all a sense of pride in ourselves and in our peers by celebrating our identity as a part of this amazing Ithaca College community.