Dear Campus Community,
We are pleased to share with you the following summary of last week’s board of trustees meetings, held Wednesday, February 13, through Friday, February 15, in Ithaca. The full board regularly meets three times each academic year—in October, February, and May. These intensive meetings offer an opportunity for our board not only to come together and do deep work around the business of this institution, but also to connect trustees with the IC experience and with the many topics, initiatives, and moments that define us as a college community.
Before we get to the updates from the meeting, we both want to offer our gratitude to the many members of our community who came to the open session with board leadership held Friday afternoon in Clark Lounge. The conversation was thoughtful and heartfelt, touching on many topics of importance to all of us: student wellness, philanthropy, strategic planning, financial health, equity, and inclusion. These opportunities for open dialogue are important as we move forward as a community and a great reminder of the invested, caring faculty, staff, and students who are on this campus. Thank you.
Our Strategic Planning Effort
The board’s first full day on campus ended with a productive, in-depth exploration of the three draft strategic planning themes: Interconnections Among Disciplines, Schools, Partners; Evolution of Students, Curriculum, College; and Investment in People, Place, Planet. This meeting brought together trustees and members of the strategic planning steering committee in a hands-on session digging into the themes and collaboratively brainstorming the ways in which each might generate ideas and prompt innovative boots-on-the-ground initiatives. The discussion was guided by strategic planning consultant Susan Baldridge, with steering committee co-chairs La Jerne Terry Cornish, provost, and Jason Freitag, associate professor and President’s Fellow, providing context and updates to set the stage for the tabletop exercise.
The nearly three-hour session was lively and supportive, and offered an affirming, collegial space for everyone to talk openly about our ideas and dreams for Ithaca College. We were both so inspired and touched by the inclusive spirit of the moment and the real sense that—no matter what constituency was represented by the individuals in the room—all of us were united in our deep love for this institution and our commitment to using our expertise and skills to ensure its success.
We remain on course for the board to see a full draft strategic plan during its May meetings, with the final plan to be presented for approval during a special board retreat in June. As a reminder, this month the theme-based working groups comprised of college community members will begin creating specific outcomes and objectives related to each theme. In keeping with our commitment to transparency and shared governance, the feedback, ideas, and opinions from the board’s discussion will be shared with each working group.
Updates from College Leadership
On Thursday, Rosanna Ferro, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life; Bonnie Prunty, dean of students; and Bill Guerrero, vice president of the Division of Finance and Administration; provided updates to the board from their divisions.
Rosanna and Bonnie’s time with the board included an in-depth look at student health at Ithaca College. They led the trustees in a discussion about resources, trends, opportunities, and challenges relative to the services at IC, giving the board a full picture of the many facets that support student wellness as a whole—from psychological services and counseling, to the importance of enriching feelings of belonging and a sense of place, particularly among our first-year students.
Bill’s report centered on a comprehensive picture of the college’s financial health and projections for the future, which provided important context for the board in light of the college’s strategic planning process and enrollment projections. The board also had an opportunity to see the current draft FY20 budget, and will vote on the final version during the May meeting. This shift in the timing of budget approval will enable the board to take into consideration a more accurate picture of the college’s enrollment and overall expenses and revenue.
Bill’s presentation spurred a collaborative dialogue about the challenges of the college’s current financial model and the importance of innovative thinking and bold action as we prepare for the future.
During its business meeting on Friday, the board approved tenure and promotion for 14 current faculty members and granted emeritus status to 11 retired faculty members. You can read about this exciting faculty news in this separate story.
The board also approved expenditures to support boiler upgrades in Job and Textor Halls, mechanical room renovations for Terraces 3 and 7, and the replacement of the Williams Hall roof. While the goal is to align all budget items to be approved in May, these specific deferred maintenance projects required immediate attention to ensure timely completion over the summer. The remainder of the capital budget, along with the FY20 operating budget, will go before the board at its next meeting.
Engaging with Our College Community
One of the most anticipated parts of our board meetings are opportunities for trustees to engage with members of the college community. During our fall meetings, the School of Music and School of Humanities and Sciences offered programs to trustees that delved into the student experience at those schools. This month, our trustees experienced similar programs in our School of Business, School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, and Roy H. Park School of Communications. Prepared by each school’s dean, these programs brought trustees together with students, faculty, and staff and delivered important moments for members of our board to fully connect with the programs, experiences, and opportunities each school provides.
At a dinner on Thursday evening, our trustees thoroughly enjoyed spending time with scholars from our BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, Higher Education Opportunity Program, Martin Luther King Scholar Program, and Park Scholar Program. Having the opportunity to hear directly from students about their IC experience was invaluable and incredibly powerful.
On Friday, board members also spent time with our President’s Fellows and members of our seed grant teams, learning about their projects and initiatives at a fun and informal meet-and-greet session in Emerson Suites.
On behalf of the board, we want to give our thanks to the members of our community who worked tirelessly and creatively to provide trustees with a comprehensive understanding of not only the student, faculty, and staff Ithaca College experience, but also our institution’s overarching strengths, opportunities, and challenges. The board continues to be tremendously supportive of Ithaca College, and every trustee is truly invested in the success of the college and the success of our community.
Our next board meetings will be held Thursday, May 16, through Saturday, May 18, 2019, just prior to Ithaca College’s 124th Commencement, on Sunday, May 19.
Dave Lissy ’87
Chair, Ithaca College Board of Trustees
Shirley M. Collado
President, Ithaca College