2019-20 President’s Fellows Announced

By Dan Verderosa, Patrick Bohn ’05, April 1, 2019
Six fellows will spend the academic year working on special projects across campus.

Ithaca College’s second cohort of President’s Fellows will spend the 2019-20 academic year on a variety of initiatives, such as improving the recruitment and retention of faculty from underrepresented groups, and increasing staff and faculty engagement on campus.

The President’s Fellows Program is a one-year fellowship that allows participants to work outside of their normal environment and field to experience new professional opportunities on campus, develop leadership capabilities and receive mentorship in an unfamiliar area of interest. The program is supported by the President’s Discretionary Fund for Education, a strategic resource for supporting faculty, staff and students as they explore their potential as learners, educators, leaders, professionals and human beings.

“When I created the fellows program in November 2017, I hoped to provide a springboard for innovative thinking, strong partnerships, and collaborative leadership,” President Shirley M. Collado said in an email announcing the 2019-20 fellows. “The initiatives that our new fellows plan to tackle not only embrace these intentions, but speak to their deep love of this institution blended with a real desire to take their skills and knowledge to the next level to contribute to its success. This is at the heart of who we are as an IC community.”

The 2019-20 fellows are:

Judith Pena-Shaff

An associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, Judith Pena-Shaff will be spending her fellowship working in the provost’s office, where she will focus on expanding the college’s Diversity Fellowship Program, which aims to increase the diversity of the IC faculty. She will also work to take inventory of all the diversity initiatives that take place at the college.

“I see the Diversity Fellowship program as an opportunity to increase the number of tenure-track faculty from underrepresented groups as we become strategic in our recruitment and retention planning, and also provide opportunities to promote inclusive excellence at the departmental and college level, so I hope to be able to bring the program to that level,” she said.

Pena-Shaff conducted an evaluation of the Diversity Fellowship Program in 2017 and developed a strategic plan to help improve the program, create a sense of belonging and community among the scholars, and incorporate it as part of the college’s strategic initiative to recruit and retain ALANA faculty.

“When I applied to the President’s Fellows Program, my main goal was to work on this [Diversity Fellowship] program, make it grow, and have it be incorporated into the recruitment and retention of new college faculty,” said Pena-Shaff. “Since I applied, other initiatives are developing as part of the new college strategic plan. The explicit inclusion of values of civility, inclusion and diversity into the fabric of the new college strategic plan excites me. I hope I can contribute to it as the plan becomes operational.  I am very excited to have the opportunity to be involved in this process of change.”

Pena-Shaff said that she hopes to gain a deeper understanding of higher education administration through her participation in the President’s Fellows Program. She also hopes to develop her professional leadership skills.

Thomas Swensen

A professor and chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, as well as chair of Faculty Council and a member of the college’s Institutional Effectiveness and Budget Committee, Thomas Swensen saw the program as a chance to leverage his unique skillset in a way that may help the college move forward institutionally.

“I will be working in the Provost’s office on investigating the feasibility of various initiatives,” he said. “Ultimately, I seek ways to help the college function more as a whole in critical areas.”

Laurie Pancoast

An advancement assistant in the Division of Institutional Advancement and member of Staff Council, Laurie Pancoast will be working in Human Resources during her fellowship. She will focus on fostering morale and a sense of belonging among staff and faculty.

“With the strategic planning process identifying what our priorities are, I’m hoping to assist in bringing all employees together to engage with each other and the college on a deeper level,” Pancoast said. “I want to learn what we do currently, and explore additional ways to help move staff and faculty even more into a space where we feel valued, engaged and informed — and connected to one another.”

Pancoast said that she looks forward to exploring a new area of campus, building new relationships and learning new leadership skills. “To be able to work in direct contact with senior leadership on a project with the possibility of improving the lives of staff and faculty, and through that, the student and alumni experience, is exciting to me,” she said.

Susan Shutts

When she was approached by a member of the college’s administration to participate in the President’s Fellows Program, Susan Shutts, a warehouse operations manager who currently works in the college’s payroll office, was intrigued. After looking into the program, she was sold.

“I felt it was an excellent opportunity to explore an area that I have a great deal of interest in,” said Shutts, who will be working on different tasks in the financial services and budget office. “I hope to have a more thorough understanding of the financial processes, and to be involved in the new financial system that is being implemented at the college.”

Wren Murray

Wren Murray ’20, a cellist in the School of Music, with minors in sociology, anthropology, and Native American and indigenous studies, will spend her fellowship working with academic and student affairs to proactively address issues related to mental health and belonging on campus, while also working to bring underrepresented groups into the music school.

“Everyone deserves to be able to learn music — it’s a universal human art and something that should not be reserved for a select group of society.”

Murray said that she applied to be a President’s Fellow because the college has been on an exciting path, and she wants to be at the heart of some of the changes being made at IC.

I hope that my work in the President’s Fellows Program will push IC further in becoming a school with high standards for academic inclusion and human accessibility,” she said.

Christine King

Christine King ’20, a health sciences major in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, is already an active member of the Ithaca College community, taking part in the Martin Luther King Scholar Program. She sees the President’s Fellows Program as another chance to make an impact.

“As a campus leader, I wanted to find a way to reach broader audiences, and work intimately with IC campus administration,” said King, who will be working with the Center for Inclusion Diversity Equity and Social Change (IDEAS). “I will be working to learn how various multicultural identities influence a student’s sense of belonging and success at Ithaca College.”

Ultimately, her goal is not only to gain a deeper understanding of strategic planning in higher education, but to be an agent of change for others. “I hope that the work I engage in will spark an interest in other students to be a catalyst for any form of change they would like to see on campus,” King said.