2020-21 President’s Fellows Announced

By Patrick Bohn, September 3, 2020
Six members of campus community selected in latest cohort.

The 2020-21 cohort of President’s Fellows has been selected. Six faculty, staff and students will get the opportunity to participate in initiatives across campus aimed at improving the college.

The President’s Fellows Program is a one-year fellowship that allows participants to work outside of their normal environments and fields to experience new professional opportunities on campus, develop leadership capabilities and receive mentorship in an unfamiliar area of interest.

The inaugural cohort of fellows was selected in 2018. This year’s cohort was selected during the 2019-20 academic year.

Each fellow is paired with a mentor/collaborator who works in their area of interest.

The 2020-21 fellows are:

Paula Ioanide

A professor in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity (CSCRE), Paula Ioanide is working to turn experiential learning and community-based applied research at the college into a signature student experience.

“This is something I’ve always been interested in, but haven’t been able to explore fully,” she said. “This generation of students wants to develop real-life skills and solve imminent problems ranging from systemic racism, climate change and health disparities, so by doing an accounting of what’s available in departments across campus, formalizing partnerships with community organizations and stakeholders, and thinking about it strategically, I can help them find those opportunities.”

In order to help deliver a full CSCRE curriculum during an unprecedented era of racial justice organizing, Ioanide has decided to defer her fellowship to the 2021-22 school year.

Ioanide will be collaborating with Gordon Rowland in the Center for Faculty Excellence.

Elizabeth Bleicher

Elizabeth Bleicher,  a professor in the Department of English, is passionate about creating an atmosphere where students feel confident that they can learn.

This summer, she co-directed the Ithaca Summer Seminars program for incoming students where she developed, taught and supported 21 faculty in delivering a 1-credit course on learning and success in college that was completed by nearly 300 members of the incoming class.

Her focus this year will be on engagement and success for all IC students. Bleicher is the chair of the Remote Engagement Strategy Team, which coordinates and develops strategies for helping students learn and experience community in remote and hybrid environments. 

“I want to develop a culture where students feel it’s okay to ask for help with regard to ‘doing’ college. That’s going to help them immensely as they transition from high school to college.”

Elizabeth Bleicher

And that’s why, for her, this fellowship is an opportunity to have her “dream job” for a year.

“I want to develop a culture where students feel it’s okay to ask for help with regard to ‘doing’ college,” she said. “That’s going to help them immensely as they transition from high school to college.”

This fellowship dovetails well with much of what she’s done during her time at Ithaca. Bleicher has been a co-chair on the Student Success Committee, the Enrollment Management Advisory Committee, and worked with the Office of Admission. With Laurie Koehler, vice president for marketing and enrollment strategy, as her mentor, she feels it’s a perfect fit for her interests. “I’m so excited to be able to concentrate on student success in a way that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Bleicher said.

Roy Perera

Roy Perera ’21, a television-radio major, spent the Spring 2020 semester studying in Belgium, and with his strong interest in global issues, he’s going to collaborate with the college’s Office of International Programs and with existing Strategic Plan working groups to increase the accessibility of experiential learning opportunities for international students at IC.

“I applied with the intention of bringing more awareness to the international community, in terms of improving resources and accessibility for international students as well as improving the IC community’s multicultural literacy,” Perera wrote in an email. “As an international student myself, I have had my fair share of difficulty adjusting to college life in the U.S., and as the former International Student Senator for Student Governance Council, have come to know far too many similar stories.”

He’ll be working with Diana Dimitrova, director of international student services, international programs and extended studies, and wants to lend a voice to students who don’t always have one.

“I hope to make international students, and any student who may feel concerned about their ability to access and have a fruitful college experience, to know and feel that they are heard,” he wrote. “Without international students, IC cannot be in its tip-top form. We need to lift each other up in order for the entire community to be elevated.”

Brad Buchanan

Brad Buchanan, associate director of intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports, has been working at Ithaca College for more than three decades. He views this opportunity as a way to give back to the school in a different way.

Working with Paul Hesler, director of principal gifts at the college, Buchanan will work with the alumni relations office to help alumni who were members of club sports teams reconnect with IC.

“Knowing the experiences people have on club sports teams, and the connections they develop as a result of being on them, I’m excited to reach out to them and re-establish a connection,” he said. “I’m excited to learn about the inner-workings of the college.”

Buchanan added that being selected for the program meant a lot to him. “The President’s Fellows program is something that we’re fortunate to have,” he said. “And it’s a great honor to be selected for it. This is going to be similar to a faculty sabbatical, where I’ll get the chance to do something unique.”

Denise Polanco

A counselor in the college’s Office of State Grants, Denise Polanco is going to work with Jennifer Wofford, director in the Office of Extended Studies, to support student academic success.

“I often work with students who are in need of extra support, and I want them to make the most of the education Ithaca College offers, branch out, and reach their academic potential,” she said. “I hope that we can use this to bridge retention efforts across the schools.”

Polanco will also shadow various academic leaders in the college and explore how budgets work in the Division of Academic Affairs.

“I’m excited to be a part of this,” Polanco said. “To be selected for the program, it makes me feel like the college’s senior leadership team has confidence in me.”

Cyepress Rite

Cyepress Rite ’21, who is majoring in resistance in gendered blackness within the integrative studies program will be working with the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life to create authentic spaces for intergenerational healing, holistic wellness, and belonging for Queer Trans* People of Color (QTPOC). Rite is working collaboratively with Hierald Osorto, Executive Director for Student Equity and Belonging and Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. Together, and with an intimate pulse on the needs/desires of the QTPOC community, they have already began formulating ideas for events and keynote speakers.

*Trans is used as an umbrella term to acknowledge the fluid spectrum of gender identities, including transgender, non-binary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, and any other self-proclaimed term that stands to decolonize binary structures of gender.

“He’s so knowledgeable and intuitive in terms of knowing what people need, and how to support them,” Rite said. “I’m incredibly excited to work with him!”

Rite expressed gratitude for the opportunity provided by the President’s Fellowship to help implement more holistic approaches to supporting emotional and mental wellness in students of intersectionally marginalized communities.

“If Ithaca College wants to be an incubator for change, it must systemically dedicate itself to ensuring that Queer Trans* students of Color have resourced and decolonized spaces that celebrate the wholeness of their identities and equip them with transferable skills around pleasure activism and restorative justice,” they said.

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.