Shirley M. Collado served as the ninth president of Ithaca College from July 2017 through August 2021. She currently is senior advisor to the interim president and board of trustees through December 31, 2021. Beginning January 2022, Dr. Collado will lead College Track, a comprehensive college completion program, as president and CEO in collaboration with Emerson Collective and transformative philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs.
In the role of senior advisor, Dr. Collado contributes to the successful transition of Interim President La Jerne Terry Cornish in collaboration with the college’s 28-member board. In addition, she works to further specific, cross-sector projects that push toward the attainment of goals within the college’s strategic plan, Ithaca Forever.
Dr. Collado is the first person of color to have been named president of Ithaca College, and the first Dominican-American in the United States to serve as president of a four-year institution.
Dr. Collado led the college through a dynamic and challenging time, marked by the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic; national and global civil action and unrest around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and the widespread recognition of the vulnerability of the traditional business model for higher education, particularly for enrollment-driven private, residential institutions such as Ithaca College.
The creation and implementation of Ithaca Forever, the college’s five-year strategic plan, is a hallmark of Dr. Collado’s time at IC. Partnering closely with then-Provost La Jerne Terry Cornish, Dr. Collado drove the completion of the plan in academic year 2018-19, and in 2019-20 began its implementation. Ithaca Forever has resulted in transformative change at the college in keeping with the institution’s vision of being a global destination for bold thinkers seeking to build thriving communities. Significant examples of this include the establishment of the college’s physician assistant master’s program; the designation as a Davis United World Colleges Scholars Program institution; and the creation of interdisciplinary, responsive majors such as screen cultures and race, power, and resistance studies.
In addition to providing a foundation for the development of proactive alternatives and ground-breaking partnerships to put the college on a path toward financial sustainability, Ithaca Forever proved to be a critical tool in the college’s ability to withstand the disruption of COVID-19. A plan for change had already been put in place, and its activation was accelerated.
In her first year at IC, Dr. Collado launched the Seed Grant Initiative, which offered grants to individuals and teams of faculty, staff, and students to support ideas and projects that engendered connection and full participation within the campus community, and the President’s Fellows Program, which annually selected five-to-six member cohorts comprised of faculty, staff, and students to participate in one-year leadership-focused fellowships in an area of the college outside of their existing responsibilities or studies. Both programs were designed to empower and support members of the Ithaca College community in envisioning and creating lasting personal, professional, and campus-wide change.
Additionally, at the beginning of her tenure, Dr. Collado secured support at Ithaca College for the cross-institutional program BOLD Women’s Leadership Network, which she founded in 2016 with a $5.4 million grant from Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. IC’s BOLD network is now in its fifth year at the college, has drawn an investment to-date of almost $3.5 million into the college, and includes 46 scholars and alumnae, all of whom participate in a culturally competent and successful intergenerational network of successful women leaders, change agents, and mentors from all backgrounds.
Dr. Collado placed a high priority on representing the values of Ithaca College on a national stage, those values being academic excellence, respect and accountability, innovation, sustainability, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. A persistent champion of students and families from all walks of life, Dr. Collado used her voice and her presidency to advocate on behalf of equity in all forms and the responsibility of the higher education sector, in particular, to examine existing structures and barriers that prevent full participation on campuses and in our communities at large—and move toward real change.
An example of this advocacy came in her approach to building a diverse senior leadership team.
At the start of her tenure, Dr. Collado committed to assembling a senior leadership team and helping to build a board of trustees at the college that reflected varied backgrounds, intersections, and areas of expertise—a necessity in both tackling existing challenges in the sector and in enabling students to see themselves reflected in leadership. This approach garnered national attention, resulting in a highly regarded editorial published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, one of the sector’s flagship news outlets.
A second national piece, co-authored by Dr. Collado and then-Provost Cornish, turned the spotlight on the imperative for change in higher education from a structural perspective, highlighting the innovative Ithaca Forever strategic plan as well as the need to more rapidly unpack and shift legacy inequities that exist within the academy.
Other significant national coverage includes: a co-authored piece with the City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick which establishes the power of cross-sector partnerships; an article in USA Today regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion on campuses; and a column in Higher Ed Dive indicating the importance of prioritizing student mental health.