Dr. La Jerne Terry Cornish is the 10th president of Ithaca College. She took office on March 7, 2022.
Prior to this appointment, Dr. Cornish served as interim president from August 2021 to March 2022, and as provost and executive vice president after joining IC as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in July 2018.
During her tenure at Ithaca, and in addition to leading the college’s academic affairs division, Dr. Cornish served as the primary architect of Ithaca Forever, the college’s five-year strategic plan, along with Jason Freitag, associate professor in the Department of History. Cornish and Freitag worked with a 15-member steering committee composed of faculty, staff, students, and members of the Ithaca-area community. The plan was created during the 2018-19 academic year, and formally endorsed by the Ithaca College Board of Trustees in June 2019.
The plan, which contains nine transformative goals, aims to achieve the college’s vision of becoming a global destination for bold thinkers seeking to build thriving communities. Understanding the urgent need for significant and visionary change in the higher education business model, Ithaca Forever provides a blueprint for a sustainable future anchored by a commitment to inclusive, responsive, and student-centered action.
Read more about Ithaca Forever.
Throughout the tumultuous year of 2020, and into 2021, Dr. Cornish spearheaded the swift and significant shift to remote teaching and distance learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the orchestration of a revised academic calendar in alignment and compliance with ever-shifting safety and health guidelines. Dr. Cornish, partnering with IC’s vice president for student affairs and campus life, Rosanna Ferro, was instrumental in leading the work of the college’s Return to Campus Task Force, which was charged with developing a nimble and comprehensive plan to fully open the Ithaca College campus in a challenging public health environment.
During the pandemic, Dr. Cornish also accelerated the implementation of existing plans to thoughtfully and carefully prioritize the college’s academic programs, resulting in a transformative slate of recommendations titled “The Shape of the College.” The recommendations support the strategic plan goal to “determine and maintain an appropriate and sustainable size” and were accepted in their entirety by Dr. Cornish as provost and then-president, Shirley M. Collado. The decisions resulting from the recommendations, augmented by similar work across divisions, enabled the college to weather the storm of the pandemic by activating its existing blueprint for change—Ithaca Forever.
“The Shape of the College” also provided for the establishment of the Teaching Resource Allocation Committee (TRAC), which was created to ensure the maintenance of a student-to-faculty ratio of approximately 12 to 1 by instituting a proposal review process for faculty positions. Another provision called for the centralization of graduate and professional studies, ensuring that current and future IC graduate students have a robust, supportive, and cohesive graduate school experience. Both initiatives are under way in the 2021-22 academic year.
Additionally, Dr. Cornish teamed with Lynn Cortese, director of the Office of Access, Opportunity, and Achievement, and Te Wen Lo, associate professor in the Department of Biology, to lead the college’s successful bid for an award from the National Science Foundation Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) grant. With this funding, and serving as the lead institution, Ithaca College will work in collaboration with six partner schools (Herkimer College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Cortland, the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Tompkins Cortland Community College, and Utica College) to advance opportunities for students historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields as they pursue baccalaureate and advanced degrees or career paths in STEM.