Announcing Ithaca College's New Provost, Dr. La Jerne Cornish

Dear campus community members,

I am thrilled to share the exciting news that Dr. La Jerne Cornish has accepted the position of Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Ithaca College. La Jerne will begin her tenure as provost on July 1, and will be on campus next Tuesday, May 1, to spend time with our community. Please stay tuned to Intercom for more details about opportunities to get to know La Jerne.

The college has just posted a news story that explores La Jerne’s background, experience, and qualifications for the position of provost. What I want to share with you in this personal note is how deeply excited I am about the vision and the promise that La Jerne brings to Ithaca College.

La Jerne comes to us from Goucher College, a private liberal arts institution just outside of Baltimore where she is Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of Education. Her rich experience as a leader in higher education has been marked not only by her dedication to academic rigor and excellence, but by an equally tenacious commitment to going about her work in an inclusive, cooperative way. She is a master at shared governance and has been valued as an exceptional colleague and leader by her faculty peers at Goucher.

La Jerne doesn’t shy away from asking the provocative questions and doing the necessary work to build important and powerful coalitions that create lasting change. She is skilled at finding ways to advance institutional priorities in lean-resource environments, and she will be a trusted, talented partner to me, to the senior leadership team, and to our deans and faculty as we continue to develop the quality of the Ithaca College academic experience. I have no doubt that La Jerne will be a critical architect in building a collective academic vision for Ithaca College.

As an administrator, La Jerne values professional, interdisciplinary, and cross-sector partnerships. While at Goucher, she developed both local and global programs that extended curricular opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, establishing connections between Goucher and Baltimore’s K-12 system and between the college and educational institutions in South Africa. In our work to expand Ithaca College’s profile within our town and region, this expertise will assist the college and our community as we continue to strive to be a private college that serves a public good.

The process that led to La Jerne’s selection as our new provost was rigorous, collaborative, and broad in scope. Early on in my tenure at Ithaca College, I worked closely with Tom Swensen, chair of Faculty Council; members of the council’s executive committee; and members of our faculty to gain a deeper understanding of what kind of provost portfolio would best serve our faculty and our students. I attended a working session of the Faculty Council, and gained further insight about what characteristics, skills, and expertise our community was looking for in its next provost through discussions and direct, deep questions asking for faculty opinions. This diligent effort informed the leadership profile that executive search firm Witt/Kieffer used to solicit candidates for this position.

I am happy to say that we found exactly the provost we were hoping for. La Jerne’s strong vision as an academic leader and her approach to this work at Ithaca College mirrored our dreams. We discovered this throughout her interview process, which included in-depth meetings and thoughtful conversations with more than 60 faculty, staff, and students, as well as members of our board, our senior leadership team, and me. These sessions clearly demonstrated that her values and skills aligned with the mission of this institution. I could not be more pleased that she has accepted the college’s offer to be the next provost and I know she looks forward to opening this new chapter of our institution’s history with us.

I want to give my thanks to the members our campus community who participated in this process, specifically the members of our search committee and its co-chairs, Jean Hardwick and Jack Powers. Their diligence, expertise, and critical thinking on behalf of Ithaca College ensured a thoughtful and successful effort.

I also want to extend my deepest gratitude to Linda Petrosino, for her dedication as provost and her invaluable input in developing the leadership profile for this position. Linda will continue her incredible service to Ithaca College, returning to her work as dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance this fall.

I hope you’ll join me in welcoming and congratulating La Jerne during her extensive visit to our campus on Tuesday, May 1. I know La Jerne and her partner, Deborah Ptak, who is also an education professional, are excited to put down roots in Ithaca, New York, and join our wonderful community.

All my best,

Shirley M. Collado
President, Ithaca College

Originally published in Office of the President: Announcing Ithaca College's New Provost, Dr. La Jerne Cornish
Dr. Cornish headshot