Dear Ithaca College Community,
Today marks a milestone on a journey that began three years ago when this community started building our strategic plan, Ithaca Forever. Nine institutional goals comprise this plan, one of which is to “determine and maintain an appropriate and sustainable size for our programs and structures, and the associated resources, at every level of the institution.”
While the college has worked toward realizing this goal within our nonacademic programs and departments over the past two years, this year, the Academic Program Prioritization Implementation Committee (APPIC) began a process to develop recommendations to align the size of the faculty in right proportion to the size of the student body and our academic programs in right proportion to student interest and need. In their work, the APPIC relied on guiding principles established and finalized by an Ithaca Forever action group during academic year 2019-20.
We activated the Academic Program Prioritization process this year—one year earlier than planned—due to the urgency of the impact of the COVID pandemic on this institution. To be clear, COVID did not create the need for this work; it served as the catalyst to begin it ahead of schedule.
Last Wednesday, February 17, we received the final “Shape of the College” report from the APPIC, outlining the committee’s recommended changes to our academic affairs division.
Today we are sharing with this community that we have accepted these recommendations in full and will move forward with implementing the changes called for within the “Shape of the College” document beginning next academic year.
The full implementation of these recommendations is anticipated to transpire over the next three academic years. Any student who is currently in a major or minor impacted by the recommendations will be able to complete their degrees, and their experience will be fully supported by the college.
We want to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the methodical and data-driven work of the APPIC members, as well as their sincere depth of humanity in balancing the impact of their recommendations on this community with the necessity of making real change, right now, for the future of this institution.
During our review of the committee’s final report, we carefully read the faculty feedback to the recommendations, which was gathered between January 13 and February 15, and supplemented this with outreach of our own to members of the committee and members of some affected departments to gather additional information around the impact and the opportunities embedded in specific proposed changes.
Additionally, we have listened attentively and closely over the past several weeks and months as members of our community—students, staff, faculty, alumni, IC families, and community members—have shared with us their thoughts on the proposed changes. This feedback arrived via email, numerous All-Faculty, All-Staff, All-Student and All-College gatherings, meetings with stakeholder groups such as the Alumni Association Board of Directors and our new IC Family Council, one-on-one appointments, additional data and reports, and more.
We know that our Ithaca College community is passionate, tight-knit, and cares deeply about one another and the IC experience, and we appreciated the thoughtful and insightful communications we received.
Transformative change is difficult and frequently personal, and we understand that the changes to come for our academic programs and the changes that have already happened in our nonacademic programs profoundly affect the lives of our colleagues, friends, students, and alumni. We have made our decisions with the full weight of this understanding and with the knowledge that we must find a sustainable size and an appropriate equilibrium that ensures the continuation of this institution and its ability to serve our students and our community in perpetuity.
While the work to bring Ithaca Forever to fruition does not end here, this milestone is a critical step on a path forward that will enable us to continue to focus on realizing a robust future for Ithaca College and realizing our Ithaca Forever goals.
Attaining and maintaining a sustainable size enables us to continue to prioritize student success and sense of belonging, to better respond to student interests, and to offer a high-quality experience that is accessible and affordable. This last point encompasses our ongoing commitment to offering robust institutional aid to a diverse and talented student body and keeping tuition aligned with our values as a college.
A sustainable size also creates an atmosphere that supports our ability to be an employer of choice and to offer our workforce things that are expected in our sector that we have not been able to consistently deliver with our current infrastructure: the capacity for professional development resources for staff members, sabbaticals and research and travel funds for faculty, raises, and a competitive benefits plan, among other things.
Regarding our academic programs in particular, this moment represents a pivot point for us to now concentrate our energy and creative thought into the next two phases of our work to direct the college’s academic programming to best facilitate student success: focusing first on restructuring and reorganization with an eye toward building better connections across schools, followed by a third phase of identifying potential for growth in strategic areas, some of which we’ve already done in the establishment of our Masters of Business Administration in Entertainment and Media Management and the development of a Physician Assistant program, which is currently under review by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) .
The creation of Ithaca Forever put this institution on a critical path to a sustainable future that is bold and realistic. And it’s worth remembering that our plan launched on the heels of Ithaca College’s celebration of 125 years of existence—a colorful and dynamic history sharply defined by a willingness to evolve. This is the thread that we must carry now as we move through challenge and change to realize the ongoing promise of this institution.
Shirley M. Collado
La Jerne Terry Cornish
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Board of Trustees Votes to Support New Shape of the College
We write today to share with the Ithaca College community that the Board of Trustees voted to support the decision of President Collado and Provost Cornish to accept the recommendations contained within the Shape of the College report.
Over the past several months the board has received feedback from many campus constituents and from alumni regarding aspects of the Academic Prioritization Process. We have also met with the leadership groups of college faculty, staff, students, and alumni. We appreciate your engagement and have heard your opinions and thoughts both in support of and in dissent from various aspects of the process and of subsequent recommendations contained in the Shape of the College report.
For the college to continue to thrive and for our students—now and in the future—to flourish, we must not ignore the shifting environment of higher education and the challenges of our financial model. Recalibrating the size of the college is an important goal of the Ithaca Forever strategic plan and is critical to ensuring the college’s commitment to maintaining student access and affordability, and to providing an environment that fosters academic success, equity and inclusion, and an enriching experience. We recognize this cannot happen if the college does not make proactive and necessary decisions right now in order to invest in and secure our future. We are confident about the path forward and must stay the course of our strategic plan.
Aligning the infrastructure of the college to the size of the student body is essential for the long-term financial sustainability and the promise of a bright future for the college. This work has required strong leadership that contemplated difficult choices in order to make difficult decisions. This is why we are offering our full support to the president and the provost today, and why we unanimously supported Ithaca Forever in June 2019.
Trustees also recognize the robust depth of the Shape of the College report. We applaud the Academic Program Prioritization Implementation Committee (APPIC) for its inclusion of specific student-centered recommendations, including increasing the flexibility of the curriculum and standardizing class schedule. We also applaud the committee for its careful work to recommend actions that address issues of faculty equity.
The Board of Trustees thanks the APPIC, President Collado, Provost Cornish, the rest of the senior leadership team, and all members of the campus community who have been involved for your dedication and commitment to IC.
We sincerely appreciate the difficulty and the challenges of the moment and have tremendous gratitude for all those who are impacted by these changes for your service to the college over the years. We have great confidence in the strength of the IC community to pull together in order to continue to deliver on our mission to our current and future generations of students.
David H. Lissy ’87, Chair
Jim Nolan ’77, Vice Chair
Ithaca College Board of Trustees