Winter Wonderland

By Jenny Barnett, December 11, 2023
December Commencement honors the Class of 2023.

Ithaca College’s Winter Commencement at Glazer Arena in the Athletics and Events Center celebrated graduates on Sunday, December 10, as they moved from students to alumni.

Once the students and faculty had entered the arena, and platform party—led by IC’s college marshal and current longest-serving faculty member, Associate Professor of Writing Barbara Adams—had processed, Ty Benners ’24, Catherine Jantson ’24, Hayley Rayfield ’25, and Matthew Scott ’25 performed the alma mater and national anthem.

In her opening remarks, President La Jerne Terry Cornish spoke of the uniqueness of every graduating class, and every graduating student.

“Even beyond your respective degrees, each of you was the key partner in your own learning. And you have shaped your own education, even your college. In a sense, each of you is graduating with a degree and a set of experiences and perspectives that will always remain unique to you..”

President La Jerne Terry Cornish

LTC

President La Jerne Terry Cornish credited graduates with shaping not only their education, but also the college. (Photo by Simon Wheeler)

“Though we are gathered together in celebration this morning, this is not a group graduation,” she said. “Even beyond your respective degrees, each of you was the key partner in your own learning. And you have shaped your own education, even your college. In a sense, each of you is graduating with a degree and a set of experiences and perspectives that will always remain unique to you. That is why we must celebrate each of you today.”

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Melanie Stein told the students, “You undoubtably faced many challenges, slipped and fell more than once, and learned from your mistakes. This process—of questioning, exploring, trying, making mistakes, and regrouping, which we call learning—is really a lifelong process. As we send you out into the world, my wish for you is that you carry the lessons of these years with you and never stop reaching, exploring, and learning. With that approach to life, you will find fulfillment and can help change the world.”

Stein thanked the graduates’ families and friends for investing in their student’s college experience, and for trusting that Ithaca College was the right place for such an important time in their lives. She also acknowledged IC faculty and staff for supporting the students throughout their journey.

“This process—of questioning, exploring, trying, making mistakes, and regrouping, which we call learning—is really a lifelong process. As we send you out into the world, my wish for you is that you carry the lessons of these years with you and never stop reaching, exploring, and learning.”

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Melanie Stein

Melanie

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Melanie Stein took the opportunity to thank both the students' families and IC faculty and staff for their roles in helping students achieve their goals. (Photo by Simon Wheeler)

Dean of Students Marsha Dawson shared her thoughts on the power of imagination and the pursuit of dreams. “Imagination is the spark that ignites the flame of innovation. It is the force that propels us beyond the boundaries of the unknown into the realms of endless possibilities. As you move forward from this moment, remember that your imagination is your greatest asset. It is the wellspring of ideas that have the potential to shape the future and create positive change,” she told the graduates.

Faculty speaker Michael Costello, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, compared earning a degree to gaining a black belt in martial arts. “A black belt does not mean that you're an expert, contrary to popular belief,” he said. “It means that you have worked hard and demonstrated the dedication to learn how to learn.”

Student speaker Molly Fitzsimons ’23 an integrated marketing communications major, also shared words of wisdom with her fellow graduates.

Think of every detail of who you are as a single tile on a large, personal mosaic—a beautiful totality of who you are to become,” she said. “As you go forward from today, be incredibly proud of the knowledge you’ve gained in your chosen field as well as from all the experiences you have had here at Ithaca College, which have led you to be the unbelievably intricate mosaic you are today.”

Among those “mosaics” was music performance major Alexa Chalnick, a New Jersey native who was happy with her choice to attend college in upstate New York. “I’m an entrepreneur in the arts—a singer, songwriter, actress, all the above. I visited IC and love the energy of being in nature,” she said. “The idea of coming to a place like this where I have waterfalls within reach and could go on hikes and be in nature was very appealing to me.”

Student

Students proceeded into Glazer Arena to the applause of friends and family (Photo by Simon Wheeler)

Jacob Orloff, who earned his degree in film, photography, and visual arts,  is looking to become a comedy writer for television. He said that he is heading to New York City, “to learn a bit about myself. I can’t write anything yet. I’m only 22. If I want to learn to write about things, I’ve got to live my life first—and then start writing.”

Orloff, who will be living with two fellow IC grads, felt that the diversity of campus and the connections he made on South Hill were a key part of his college experience. “I've met people I've never thought I would meet—from different countries, ethnicities, religions. I'm very lucky,” he said.

Biology major Jason Bennett is returning to his home state, Alabama, to take up an internship in genetic counseling. “I'm really intrigued and excited about it,” he said. “It will provide me fantastic opportunities.”

When looking at colleges, Bennett’s goal was to go somewhere dramatically different from where he grew up. “Ithaca was a weird, cool place to be. I liked the city. And it's really refreshing to be here. I like it a lot.”

“I’m an entrepreneur in the arts—a singer, songwriter, actress, all the above.”

Alexa Chalnick

Theatre arts management major Gabrielle Moran said she chose to come to IC primarily for her program’s focus on hands-on experience. “You're actually doing what they're teaching you instead of waiting to put it into practice,” she said.

After the students were formally awarded their degrees, President Cornish had one final assignment for the Class of 2023.

“Graduating students, I invite you now to take a deep breath; look around; and fix your thoughts and emotions in this moment so you will be able to recall them,” she said. “You made it!”

With that, the graduates took part in the ceremonial flipping of their tassels from right to left on their mortarboards, signifying their transition to alumni.