News and Updates from the May 2024 Ithaca College Board of Trustees Meetings

By David H. Lissy '87 and La Jerne Terry Cornish, May 23, 2024
A message from Board of Trustees Chair David H. Lissy '87 and President La Jerne Terry Cornish

Dear Campus Community:

The Ithaca College Board of Trustees convened for its spring meetings on campus Thursday through Saturday, May 16-18. In addition to holding regular sessions, trustees honored and connected with campus community members at multiple events throughout Commencement Weekend.

Approval of FY25 budget
The board approved a $209.5 million operating budget for 2024-25, based on a currently projected total FTE student enrollment of 4,405. The budget includes an employee salary increase pool of 3%; information about distribution of the salary increment will be shared in a forthcoming message from Human Resources. The budget also includes a 0.5% increase in the college’s employer contribution to TIAA, raising it from 7.5% to 8.0%. TIAA contribution increases will take effect Jan. 1 to align with the retirement plan year. The required employee contribution to receive the employer match remains at 3%.  

Trustees also approved capital spending of approximately $18 million, including $10.5 million for infrastructure maintenance and programmatic improvements, $1.5 million for information technology, and $6 million for continued campus improvements, including the ongoing renovation to the Terrace dorms, and study/design of capital priorities, which include improvement of the Campus Center, Lower and Upper Quad student housing, and an expansion and possible renovation of the Park School of Communications. 

We would like to thank the members of the President’s Cabinet, the Institutional Effectiveness and Budget Committee, and all IC staff and faculty for your diligence and creativity in helping to craft a budget that reflects careful stewardship of College resources and purposeful investment in key strategic areas.

Campus Tour
Our meetings began with a Thursday afternoon walking tour of campus that included stops at locations where capital project work is already under way, such as the elevator project at Terrace 1, and the removal of book stacks that are no longer needed in Gannett Library. We also toured dorm facilities in the Terraces and Lower Quads, the Campus Center, and the Park School of Communications. The tour's timing gave us access to spaces typically unavailable when students are on campus.

Plenary Sessions
The board held several plenary sessions intended to provide trustees with insights into current issues of importance at Ithaca College and in higher education. Each presentation highlighted changes aimed at strengthening our efforts around student recruitment and retention.

Mark Eyerly, our inaugural vice president for marketing and communications, provided examples of how a strategic emphasis on storytelling will strengthen our efforts in student recruitment and alumni engagement; improve campus communications and elevate pride among faculty, students, and staff; and contribute to greater visibility for the college and enhance its reputation among the public at large. He announced that two new members of his leadership team will arrive in July. Sloan MacRae, director of marketing and communications at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, will be senior director of communications; and Allison Usavage ’11, founder and strategic director of the Relays agency in Ithaca, will be senior director of design and multimedia. Mark was joined in his presentation by Jenna Briggs, senior director of enrollment and marketing strategy at Carnegie, an outside firm whose work in psychographic research helps the college shape its messaging to individual prospective students based on each student’s primary motivators or persona.

Rock Hall, in only his fourth month as vice president for enrollment strategy and student success, outlined changes he is making in our recruitment strategy to attract and sustain an annual first-year student enrollment of about 1,400 students. His plans include stepped up interactions with parents of prospects, initiating contact with a greater number of high school students from a broader geographic reach earlier in their high school careers, and increasing the socioeconomic diversity of the applicant pool, while continuing the college’s commitment to enrolling students from a broad spectrum of identities and backgrounds, including those who need significant financial aid. Rock was joined by Elizabeth Bleicher and Jacqueline Winslow, the dean and executive director, respectively, of the Center for Student Success and Retention, which launched in the fall of 2022. Elizabeth and Jacqueline reviewed their early successes and ongoing efforts to increase student retention at Ithaca College. For example, this past year’s fall-to-spring retention rate was the highest it has been since 2019-2020. Their efforts have contributed to an 8-year low in student leaves of absence and withdrawals.

Melanie Stein, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, described collaborative work on policy and procedure revisions that are bringing campuswide uniformity to faculty review processes, student statements and the designation of course credit hours. She also reported on the campus-wide three-year undergraduate curricular revision process. These changes give students more flexibility to take courses outside their major fields of study, pave the way for IC to enable all students to explore wide-ranging subjects across the five schools, and construct or choose curricular paths that best match their goals and interests. Melanie was then joined by the deans of all five schools who shared examples of the types of cross-school collaborations, both existing and under development, which will support students in choosing a path that aligns with their goals and interests. In recognition of the faculty’s extensive work on the curriculum, the trustees approved the following resolution: “Resolved that the Ithaca College Board of Trustees recognizes the tremendous ongoing work of the Ithaca College faculty to revise the curriculum in order to allow students the flexibility to explore across schools and applauds the efficiency of that work. We deeply appreciate your commitment to the College and its students and salute you with our sincere thanks.”

Other Board Activities and Actions
The board and cabinet met with representatives of the faculty, staff, and student governance councils. Faculty Council Chair Dave Gondek, Staff Council Chair Marilyn Dispensa, and Student Governance Council Vice President of Campus Affairs Rishabh Sen each provided a summary of the work of their group during the 2023-24 academic year.

Twenty-three faculty members were awarded tenure and/or promoted.

The board named five new trustees, including campus community trustees Scott Doyle ’98(staff), Sara Haefeli (faculty), and Mureen Doherty ’26 (student); and alumni Kim Allen ’96 and Jerry Dietz ’75.

The trustees also had the opportunity to attend many commencement-related activities, including the Senior Splash, the Campus Life and BIPOC Unity Center Senior Leadership Awards programs, the Graduate Hooding and Commencement ceremony, Saturday night’s awe-inspiring Commencement Eve Concert, and Sunday’s undergraduate Commencement ceremony. We offer our heartfelt congratulations and a warm welcome to our newest alumni – the Ithaca College Class of 2024!

We thank you for your dedication to the college and to one another. We hope that you experience an abundance of rest and renewal during the summer months.


David H. Lissy ’87
Chair, Board of Trustees

La Jerne Terry Cornish