President Collado Urges College Forward from a ‘Position of Strength’

By Patrick Bohn ’05, January 30, 2020
At all-college gathering, President Shirley M. Collado calls on the campus community to embrace new strategies for success.

At Ithaca College’s spring 2020 All-College Gathering in Emerson Suites, President Shirley M. Collado discussed the future of the college, highlighting both the need to embrace a “new normal” and the changes forthcoming as the college moves forward with its Ithaca Forever strategic plan.

She also encouraged the students, faculty and staff to be the agents of change as the college heads into a time of transformation.

“Now, you’re not only the visionaries, you’re the doers,” Collado said, adding that this sense of agency comes “during a time of enormous, enormous change that is incredibly exciting.”

Calling the current and upcoming years a time for “thoughtful recalibration,” Collado noted the realities the college will be facing as it heads into the next decade.

“This institution — and many others in higher education — cannot continue to be reliant upon tuition dollars to determine our financial health,” she said. “The reality is that we must shift our business model and that there’s going to be a sea change.”

Emphasizing that the college is working from a position of strength — thanks to factors like a good bond rating, an ability to borrow, and a growing endowment that is currently $362 million — Collado stressed that bolstering the financial health of the college is one of the tenets of the college’s strategic plan, and that now is the time to act and shift together, not in a culture of fear, but in a culture of empowerment.

“You’re not only the visionaries, you’re the doers, during a time of enormous, enormous change that is incredibly exciting.”

President Shirley M. Collado

This position of strength is also critical, Collado said, because it allows the college the time to make smart decisions about how to best leverage and activate its resources.  

“This requires an understanding that we must let go of practices that are outmoded and outdated, and embrace new ways of doing what we do to ensure our success,” she said.

The college’s prioritization of enacting needed change is outlined in the strategic plan. One of the stated goals of the plan is to “determine and maintain an appropriate size for our programs and structures, and their associated resources, at every level of the institution.”

Collado highlighted the work being done by a pair of action groups — academic and non-academic — tasked with making those determinations. The academic group, which is working closely with Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs La Jerne Terry Cornish, is developing a rubric by which to review academic programs and consider opportunities for consolidation, reorganization and growth. Similar undertakings are underway in the non-academic group.

The ultimate goal of these endeavors, according to Collado, is to enable the college to “retain the highest level of students, deliver the best experience in a residential program, have the best physical plant 12 months out of the year, and be an employer of choice.”

Collado also underscored the importance of the ongoing focus on the campus climate, emphasizing that the college’s ability to provide a responsive and accountable environment that supports full participation is deeply intertwined with the implementation of the strategic plan. During her talk, she thanked those who are working on this issue currently, and affirmed the efforts of key faculty and staff leaders over the years, acknowledging that the college is building on that expertise and momentum.

Changing Enrollment Landscapes

Following Collado’s remarks, Laurie Koehler, vice president for marketing and enrollment strategy, discussed how the college is working to adapt its enrollment strategies in the face of changing demographics, which anticipate a significant drop in the number of high school students in the Northeast who will attend a regional, four-year institution.

“The landscape is changing dramatically, and we are not immune to those changes,” she said.

But Koehler stressed something that is not necessarily out of the college’s control — the percentage of accepted students who decide to enroll. “We have the ability to influence that,” she said. “It’s important for us as a community to focus on where we can have the greatest impact.”

While the college has created a cross-campus action group focused on finding ways to enhance its yield, Koehler stressed that everyone can play a role by being welcoming to prospective students on campus. She also noted the critical importance of working to retain our current students, and challenged each person in the room, including students, to check in with at least one current student to ensure that they are feeling supported and connected.

“Each of us has the power to be a part of changing the narrative in a meaningful way to improve our yield and to improve our retention,” she said.

Campus Happenings

Collado also spent time during the gathering to share news from around the college, including the School of Business being designated a top undergraduate business school by Poets & Quants for Undergrads and the Roy H. Park School of Communications film program being ranked 17th in a roundup of the top 50 film schools in the U.S. by entertainment outlet “The Wrap.”

She also shared that the college’s BOLD Women’s Leadership Network received $1.2 million from the Pussycat Foundation to support another two years of BOLD scholars. Over the three years the program has been on campus, IC has received a total of $3.6 million.

Additionally, Collado highlighted the work done by this year’s cohort of MLK Scholars, who gave a presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about their October 2019 tour of key sites in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

The full video of the All-College Gathering can be viewed below.