Positioning Ithaca College for the Future

Dear Ithaca College Alumni,

I hope you and your families are doing well and taking good care as we move toward the end of a truly unusual and challenging year. The fall semester is in full swing for our Ithaca College community of students, faculty, and staff, and as many of you know the college made the difficult decision to remain remote and offer courses and student engagement virtually this semester due to the constraints and uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am writing to you now to provide a snapshot of what lies on the other side of this current moment for Ithaca College. In the near term, we are preparing to open our campus back up to all students, faculty, and staff for the spring semester, and will continue the ongoing implementation of our Return to Campus Plan.

From a more overarching perspective, I want you to know that this is a pivotal year for Ithaca College, which sees us building upon the ongoing momentum around our bold and ambitious strategic plan, Ithaca Forever.

When our college community began creating this plan two years ago, we did so with the full understanding that the landscape of higher education is in flux and that sustaining our beloved institution would demand the very best of us. We knew we had to recalibrate the size of our college by activating areas of promise and growth while also identifying programs, practices, and structures that can no longer carry us forward. We knew that the higher education business model was precarious, and that major, substantive change in the way we do business is necessary. We knew that continuing the status quo was not an option.

But we also knew that adaptation is in our DNA–and Ithaca College’s history is filled with moments like these. Once again, circumstances demand that this college must reimagine a path forward while remaining grounded in theory, practice, and performance. This time, too, we are buoyed by the ingenuity, vision, and dedication of our community and our strong identity as a place that provides an exceptional student experience rooted in a liberal arts core coupled with the tremendous strength of professional education.

Though the COVID pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges, it has also catalyzed necessary change. We are fortunate to be prepared in this moment with a strategic blueprint for the future in Ithaca Forever and our institutional values that serve as signposts on the road ahead.

While this is only the second year of our plan’s implementation, the activation of many of the goals within this plan has been accelerated due to our public health crisis—including one of our more transformative strategic plan goals: to establish a sustainable size and shape for Ithaca College’s academic programs.

Last year, we began this effort by convening the Academic Program Prioritization Action Group. With the help of many members of the Ithaca College community, this group developed the guiding principles that will direct our holistic, data-driven, and inclusive process of academic program prioritization.

We believe all of this foundational work enables us to position the college for a strong and vibrant future. I do want to be clear that the determination of a sustainable size includes difficult, responsible decisions around reductions in our faculty and our staff–decisions that we know impact this community deeply. This work is necessarily coupled with a continuing investment in the accessibility of an IC experience, in institutional financial aid, and in developing areas of academic promise and growth that address student interests and needs, such as our development of a Physician Assistant Program (pending final approval and accreditation) and the launch of our innovative Master of Business Administration in Entertainment and Media Management, which this year has welcomed its second cohort of students.

Though the coming year will represent real change for Ithaca College, it will be pivotal in securing long-term success. I want to assure you that our future remains bright because of our commitment to placing students at the center of all we do and our affirmation of the institutional evolution that’s needed to strengthen their success by providing a transformative, meaningful education and a sense of belonging for students today and in the future.

 We will continue to engage our community as we move through change and challenge. I ask that you please mark your calendars for an alumni town hall event on Tuesday, November 17, where members of the IC community and I will share some of what we are learning during this historic pandemic, our institutional priorities, and how this year of upheaval has shaped our approach to the future. An invitation to this event with a Zoom link will be forthcoming as we get closer to the date.

I know you take great pride in Ithaca College. Ours is an institution that regularly registers among the top programs in the north for innovation, teaching, and value. And even in the midst of this public health crisis, our community has stepped up to provide a high-quality experience to students, which demonstrates pedagogical creativity and inventive, signature programs to foster a sense of belonging during an unprecedented time.

Right now, Ithaca College undoubtedly stands in a historic moment of transformation, and we are fortunate to build upon a tremendous foundation of success. The next chapter of the Ithaca College story will be written by us: by IC alumni, faculty, staff, students and families, and friends of the college, people who are innovative and courageous, who know the worth of Ithaca College as an institution of higher education, and who honor and serve our communities. This is our moment to make real the promise of Ithaca College and to participate in the continuing cultivation of a vibrant learning community that will endure.

I look forward to seeing you next month. In the interim, please feel free to reach out to me at president@ithaca.edu, or reach out to our alumni relations office at alumni@ithaca.edu.

All my best,

Shirley M. Collado