All-College Gathering Highlights Student Success and Retention Efforts

By Grace Collins '22, January 27, 2023

College leadership shares updates as the Spring 2023 semester begins.

On Thursday, January 26, Ithaca College faculty, staff and students convened in Emerson Suites and virtually for the Spring 2023 All-College Gathering. Held at the start of each semester, these gatherings are an opportunity for President La Jerne Terry Cornish and members of the President’s Cabinet to provide updates to the campus community on high-level college activities and strategic goals.  

This session focused on the work of the recently established Center for Student Success and Retention (CSSR). Aligned with the college’s strategic priority of increasing student retention and graduation rates, CSSR is a collaborative and interdisciplinary initiative to improve the student experience on campus by providing wrap-around support and fostering success.  

Ithaca Together Tour

La Jerne Terry Cornish

President La Jerne Terry Cornish speaks at the All-College Gathering.

President Cornish opened the event by sharing reflections on her recent Ithaca Together: Inaugural Tour visits to Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, Rochester, Syracuse, and New York City. On these stops, she connected with Ithaca College alumni, parents, and community members and was able to hear the stories of their time on campus.  

“During each stop of the tour, both recent alumni and those who graduated long ago shared with me just how special this place is to them. They expressed how fortunate they feel to have spent time living and learning on South Hill, and what an impact IC has had on their lives professionally and personally,” said Cornish. “These visits have affirmed the vision and mission of this institution, as evidenced by the fondness and love our alumni and their families have for IC.” 

Several of the visits also included separate meetings with groups of college counselors to discuss the value and benefits of an Ithaca College experience.

The tour will continue throughout the spring semester, with President Cornish visiting Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago, among other cities.  

Shared Governance


Melanie Stein, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Next up to the podium was Melanie Stein, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. Stein discussed the shared governance retreat that took place on campus over winter break with participation from trustees, faculty, and senior leadership. Stein noted that the shared governance structure is integral to the Ithaca College mission and lays the foundation of trust and collaboration between key leadership groups that allows them to effectively run the institution. 

Facilitated by Mary Marcy, president emerita of Dominican University, the retreat centered around key questions about Ithaca College’s mission, and how senior leaders can ground themselves in shared purpose and values when making decisions regarding college operations.  

“This is the beginning of a conversation on working together to help the college grow, change, and thrive. Trust is crucial for us to work together effectively. We build trust through dialogue, by connecting human to human, by talking through our issues while working together — that'’s what we did at the retreat,” said Stein.  

Next steps coming out of the retreat include engaging with the campus community to develop a campus values statement on shared governance. Staff and students will also be invited to take part in the conversations guiding that initiative.  

The Ithaca Commitment 

Laurie Koehler

Laurie Koehler, vice president for marketing and enrollment strategy, shares updates.

Laurie Koehler, vice president for marketing and enrollment strategy, shared updates on student recruitment, particularly surrounding the new pricing and value strategy that the college has implemented.  

Known as the Ithaca Commitment, the strategy includes a streamlined financial aid process that eliminates complex financial aid paperwork like the CSS Profile. The Ithaca Commitment also provides admitted students with a four-year financial forecast, with a maximum percent increase cap on their direct costs so a student will know exactly how much they can expect to pay throughout their time at IC.  

Admitted students are now also invited to one-on-one meetings with a member of the Student Financial Services team, where they’ll get a straightforward explanation of each component of their financial aid package. Over 50% of last year’s admitted students took the opportunity to meet with a financial aid counselor, and 80% of students who enrolled said that this transparency surrounding financial aid was influential in their decision to enroll.  

Center for Student Success and Retention

Bleicher and Koehler

Elizabeth Bleicher, dean of student success and retention, joined Koehler on stage to share detailed updates on the work coming out of the Center for Student Success and Retention.

Elizabeth Bleicher, dean of student success and retention, joined Koehler on stage to share detailed updates on the work coming out of the Center for Student Success and Retention. Launched in August 2022, the center already served over 300 students throughout the fall semester.  

“When we try to describe the kinds of work that we're doing, it's complex,” Bleicher said. “We're trying to achieve things at both a macro level and at a micro level. Across campus, there's a constellation of experiences that students are having…Our goal in the center is to improve our awareness of what's happening in that ecosystem the student is interacting with, so that we can understand the student experience better.” 

The work of the center is grounded around six primary initiatives, one of which is the development of a research agenda to identify key opportunities to impact the overall student experience, which in turn influences retention and graduation rates.  

“As we uncover new, significant relationships, we're looking for the story that the data tells, and building a narrative to understand why our findings are meaningful,” said Koehler.   

Another initiative coming out of CSSR is the development of the Student Success Dashboard. The dashboard features visualizations of key student data, such as GPA and credit- hour enrollment, throughout their time at Ithaca College to help faculty and staff identify any “red flags” that could indicate a student needs additional support resources. The dashboard also features the Student Success Network, which maps out each key faculty and staff member involved in that student’s IC experience — everyone from academic advisors and athletic coaches to scholarship program directors and residence directors.  

The Student Success Dashboard is currently in beta testing. Access to each student’s dashboard will be exclusively granted to faculty and staff based on their relationship with the student to protect student privacy while ensuring students get the support they need. 

Other upcoming projects from the Center for Student Success and Retention include an overhaul of the academic concerns system, a policy review on deadlines and final grade options, and engagement with the Center for Faculty Excellence.  

“I cannot thank you enough for the ways in which you have been open and generous with your time and your expertise and your caring as we undertake this work. We are pulling people together from across campus, and we will continue to forge these partnerships with you. We're grateful for the ways in which you've been willing to collaborate with us,” said Bleicher. 

The gathering closed with President Cornish sharing a message that resonated with her when reading faculty files for tenure applications: “I’m asking as we walk out of here that we dedicate ourselves as a community to be more flexible with our students and one another, more patient with our students and one another, and more kind with our students and one another.”