President's Corner: Living and Learning

If you have a chance to visit campus in person or via our website in the next 18 months, you will see the Athletics and Events (A&E) Center under construction. It is the largest and most ambitious building project in Ithaca College history. Alumni and other friends of the College contri­buted over $50 million to make it happen.

I knew the project was big, but only as I walked across the quad one day last October did I realize that the A&E Center will be visible from every part of the campus. The steel lattice­work of the tower is already in place and points skyward as if to say that we are number one!

Walking across the quad, it occurred to me that the visibility of our A&E Center from the heart of the academic campus is a perfect metaphor for one of the most important aspects of an Ithaca College education: our focus on the richness of learning that comes from the integration of academic experience with cocurricular life.

Ithaca College students are and always have been deeply involved in all kinds of activities beyond the classroom. Our students take advantage of opportunities to develop their skills, not only through athletic competition, but also through leadership in clubs, student government, and community service. The fact that we are one of the top Division III athletics programs in the country, and the fact that we have been on the (U.S.) President’s Honor Roll for Community Service every year since the list was created, affirm how succesfully our students integrate living into their learning environment. It is what makes Ithaca College so special.

In the years ahead, we want to further unite the education our students get through the curriculum and the education they get through life experience. One way we are doing this is by increasing the contact that current students and alumni have with each other.

A major initiative in that regard was to move the annual alumni reunion from early June, when the campus is beautiful but devoid of students, to early October, when the campus is equally beautiful and is teeming with student life. This timing enabled us to create opportunities for alumni and students to mingle with each other for the purposes of networking, learning from each other, and just having fun.

The first fall alumni reunion weekend took place October 8 – 11, the weekend that was, fittingly, also Homecoming. Now called Alumni and Homecoming Weekend, it was an enormous success, with more than 750 alumni and their guests, faculty, students, and staff attending events that ranged from a Friday afternoon alumni panel on networking, geared to students, to Saturday football and lacrosse games, to a Sunday afternoon performance of Top Girls at the Dillingham Center. (See our cover story for highlights of the weekend.)

Fostering conversations between alumni and current students is one way Ithaca College is extending its commitment to an integrated approach to education. Another way is to create opportunities for students to make connections between their studies and their participation in sports, student government, campus clubs, or community service. It helps a lot that we have coaches and student life staff who are themselves talented teachers, committed to enriching students’ educational experiences.

The Duke of Wellington, Eton class of 1784, once paid a visit back to his campus and upon seeing its sports ground said, “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” It would not at all surprise me if an Ithaca College alumna or alumnus returns to our campus one day and comments that the Battle of the Board Room was won at the Athletics and Events Center.