The University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) has recognized Ithaca College Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs La Jerne Terry Cornish with this year’s Outstanding Alumna of the Year Award for the Humanities. Cornish earned her Ph.D. in Language, Literacy and Culture from UMBC in 2005.
The annual awards honor graduates who have accomplished significant milestones throughout a long career as well as those who inspire with admirable achievements early on in their fields. Cornish joined with other alumni in being recognized at a ceremony held at the university on October 2.
Cornish spent the first 15 years of her professional career as a teacher and administrator in the Baltimore City Public School system. In 1998 she joined the faculty at Goucher College, where she had earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education, as an instructor in the education department.
When Cornish first started classes at UMBC, her son was two years old, she was teaching full-time at Goucher, and she had to drive 45 minutes to get to campus. While acknowledging that the journey was never easy, she told the UMBC alumni magazine that during the seven years it took to finish her doctorate, she was surrounded by a supportive community.
“I never thought I would end up where I am, but the preparation I received as a result of that program, and the support of the faculty, staff, and students, prepared me for my next steps,” said Cornish. “I left the school system and became a student so I could be for others what was not there for me. I’ve spent the last 21 years trying to be the change I wanted to see.”
After obtaining her doctorate, Cornish earned tenure and was promoted to associate professor at Goucher, subsequently serving in a variety of leadership positions. She was named associate provost for undergraduate studies in 2014, and joined Ithaca College as provost in 2018.
Cornish was nominated for the award by Kimberly Moffitt, associate professor and director of the Language, Literacy, and Culture doctoral program. Moffit introduced Cornish at the ceremony, noting that she represents the best of what the program has to offer.
“In a program designed to enhance critical thinking skills in areas of culture across disciplinary and methodological boundaries, Dr. Cornish was not only a member of the first cohort of graduates, but she also lent her educational expertise to shape and co-facilitate the curriculum that sat at the core of the program,” said Moffitt. “[La Jerne] exhibits commitment and determination, and exemplifies what an outstanding alumna at UMBC looks like.”