All-College Gathering Focuses on Student Engagement, the Year Ahead

By Danica Fisher ’05, September 23, 2020
President Collado states college’s intention to open to students in Spring 2021.

At Ithaca College’s fall 2020 all-college gathering, held virtually on Sept. 22, President Shirley M. Collado welcomed students, staff and faculty during a time of significant challenges, outlining the college’s priorities for the coming year and sharing the college’s intention to open its campus to students for the spring semester.

“I want to first say how happy I am to be opening up the year together, even though it looks a bit different than we imagined for this fall,” said Collado. “I want to acknowledge that it’s really important right now, with what’s happening in higher ed and what’s happening in our country, that we take a moment to affirm some of the great things that people are doing and that you all are a part of.”

Collado provided an update on 2020 enrollment, which is comprised of almost 1,000 first-year students, and includes 281 first-generation students with 39 states and 25 countries represented. Collado acknowledged that the class of 2024 is an active and engaged class, with many students involved in community service before they even began at Ithaca College.

“They have a great sense of possibility and energy, and they are very excited about creating community, and they started doing that this summer as many students participated in summer session courses and virtual engagement opportunities, and of course you’ve started a fall unlike any new college student could imagine,” said Collado.

"I want to underscore and make sure that everyone hears this, that our return to campus plan is actively happening and being implemented.”

President Shirley M. Collado

Collado highlighted the work done by the Student Affairs and Campus Life division, which had created a successful orientation program -- held virtually for the first time in the college’s history -- as well as making sure students have an incredible fall welcoming.

“You’re really giving our students, especially our new students, a sense of belonging, and making sure that our returning students don’t miss a beat and that they have what they need,” said Collado.

Collado also took time to share that Ithaca College is once again well represented in the U.S. News and World Report “Best Colleges” list, noting that the college is 9th in “Best University” in the north; 4th for “Best Undergraduate Teaching” and 12th for both “Best Value” and “Most Innovative Schools.”

Engagement Across Campus

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs La Jerne Terry Cornish extended her heartful thanks to faculty and staff for all of the work that was done over the summer to prepare for the fall semester, including faculty participating in workshops to refine their online teaching skills.

“Although we are in a virtual space, our commitment to student success, engagement and well-being remains unchanged,” said Cornish.

Dean of Students Bonnie Prunty highlighted the different ways that students can engage with Ithaca College remotely.

“Thanks to technology, there are lots of new and creative opportunities to meet with each other and engage with each other,” said Prunty.

Student and Campus Life website

                                                                 Student and Campus Life website.

Prunty encouraged students to get involved in some Student Affairs and Campus Life signature events; join a student club or organization; experience residential life through virtual programming; find a department or office of interest; and look into recreational sports that are being held virtually.

Elizabeth Bleicher, President’s Fellow and Professor of English, updated the community on the Remote Engagement Strategy Team and its work to help students this semester. This includes the development of a remote semester web hub for students that would include resources for academic success, social engagement and health and well-being.

“Please understand that while we are physically apart, we are thinking about you and would love to hear from you,” said Bleicher. “The Remote Engagement Strategy Team has been working for the past three weeks to put together some things to make life easier and to enable you to be more successful students while you are studying remotely.”

Strategies for a Healthy Campus

Christina Moylan, director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, spoke on the new normal for our campus operations.

“Our most immediate goal is getting us into the spring semester and having everybody back for a full reopening,” said Moylan. “I want to be very realistic about how we’re thinking about coronavirus, because it is not likely that it is going away in the spring semester, so as part of our planning process, we’re focusing on the spring, but we’re also really thinking long term and what this is going to look like throughout the next academic year as well.”

Moylan talked about how many of the college’s on-campus strategies right now are outlined in its fall reopening plan. Moylan touched on the topics of testing on campus, quarantine and isolation, as well as behavioral and health safety protocols.

“Our most immediate goal is getting us into the spring semester and having everybody back for a full reopening.”

Christina Moylan, director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness

Ithaca College has conducted about 5,000 tests so far, and the testing results can be found on the COVID-19 Tracking Dashboard. Moylan urged that the behavioral and health safety protocols, such as wearing your mask, maintaining six feet of physical distance and refraining from large gatherings, are important factors in minimizing COVID. The history of positive cases in Ithaca is not associated with students in classrooms, but is associated with behaviors that are occurring off campus, in particular around travel and social gatherings, where these behavioral recommendations aren’t being followed.

“It’s the simplest part of the strategy, but quite honestly incredibly effective,” said Moylan. “It will be very critical that anyone accessing campus this fall, and also anytime that you’re in our community, that you are applying these recommendations and using them no matter what situation you’re in,” said Moylan.

Looking Ahead to Spring 2021

President Collado ended the gathering with hope and encouragement, looking forward to a spring semester back at Ithaca College.

“We want to really balance hope with the reality that we’re all facing,” said Collado. “I personally can’t wait until the vibrancy of this campus is back. This is not an ideal situation for any of us, but I want to underscore and make sure that everyone hears this, that our return to campus plan is actively happening and being implemented.” 

Collado highlighted Ithaca College’s strategic plan, Ithaca Forever, and that students are Ithaca College’s primary priority, with nearly 5,000 undergraduate students, including part-time and full-time, as well as almost 400 graduate students.

Collado also touched on the financial health of the institution, and one of the most transformative goals of the strategic plan, which is the recalibration of the size of the institution. Collado stressed the importance of the right mixture of academic programs, resources and people, while building on our strengths of core liberal arts alongside powerhouse professional education and hands-on experience.

“The pandemic has really expedited and propelled this goal, but we're so fortunate that we had a pathway already, to begin with,” said Collado. “This will be a year of great change, and some anxiety, but great promise.”