Beginning a new academic year with intentionality and humanity

By President Shirley M. Collado, July 29, 2019
Summer moments to replenish and reenergize can be an important touchstone as we launch a new year and a new strategic plan.

Dear Campus Community, 

In a few short weeks, our students will be on campus and settling into a new academic year—the very first for around 1,500 members of our Class of 2023, a bigger class size than the number I shared in May. On August 27, we kick off with a huge celebration of our incoming class—Convocation—which caps off a week-long orientation program for all new students. 

A group of smiling IC staff members stand in a brightly lit hallway to welcome new students at Convocation 2018.

Ithaca College staff members welcome our new students at the A&E Center during last year's Convocation.

Staff in student affairs, facilities, and events services have been hard at work this summer alongside many faculty, students, and staff from other departments to plan this significant milestone in the IC student experience, and I hope you join me in thanking them for such an amazing effort. Bringing together all of our new students for a single, combined orientation experience will set a tone of community and connection for the upcoming year—and throughout their lives.

This year also brings the launch of “Ithaca Forever,” the strategic plan we worked so thoughtfully and diligently on last year as a community. I know many of you have already been using this document as you’ve collaborated this summer to develop blueprints for your departments and offices for the upcoming academic year, and I am so pleased that this important plan is already transforming our work.

I have had many exciting conversations with members of our IC family that have been very affirming of the college’s strategic plan. Our commitment to bold thinking for a global good, to building thriving communities, and to emphasizing theory, practice, and performance in all we do resonates deeply within our communities.  

Putting Our Shared Humanity First 

Things are about to get very busy for all of us as we look forward to the fall semester, and whether you’ve been on campus or taken some time away during these summer months, I hope you’ve been able to prioritize your wellness and found moments to reenergize and replenish. Time spent now with family, chosen family and friends, or in the richness of solitude can be a powerful touchstone throughout the year.   

President Shirley M. Collado and her husband A. Van Jordan wear outdoor hiking gear and stand near a sign for a trailhead.

Van and I hiking in the beautiful landscape of Arizona.

I took an opportunity to restore in early July, spending some time out West with my husband, Van, and celebrating important moments with my family. We celebrated three family birthdays—my mother’s, father’s, and brother Steven’s—and some significant milestones: my brother Andres is preparing to step into a leadership role as a captain in his fire department, and my niece Jadyn continues to pursue competitive gymnastics and cheer as she gets ready for her sophomore year of high school. My family always grounds me, and the special moments, shared stories, and affection we all feel so deeply for one another is a reservoir that nourishes me in everything I do.

Van and I spent some time alone as well, visiting Sedona, Arizona—the incredible red rock town where he and I were married—before traveling to Southern California. He and I both enjoy finding peace for reflection and connection within the red rocks and high desert canyons of the Southwest and along the ocean’s edge.

This summer was also dramatically impacted by the sudden death of a beloved friend, whose spirit moved me deeply throughout my college years and adult life. He was a force of good will and a fierce advocate for the differently abled. He died too young, yet the years we had with his beautiful spirit, wit, and intellect are a true gift.

I know members of the IC community lost loved ones this year, including cherished students who passed away well before we ever imagined possible. These losses continue to remind me that nothing in this life can be taken for granted, and our shared humanity is a precious gift.  

I am reminded of this, too, when I look at our national and international landscape. Divisive politics, offensive speech, acts of violence and bias against vulnerable communities, and a frustrating disregard for life on our planet are not only fundamentally dehumanizing, they also separate us from one another. For Ithaca College to be a private institution that serves a public good, all of us must commit to being respectfully, responsibly, and productively involved in our local and global communities and in one another’s lives. 

Moving Forward with Intentionality and Wholeness  

Our implementation of Ithaca Forever is a huge moment for our community, as we finally put our ideas into action. I want to acknowledge that we have very tough decisions ahead of us, and that these decisions will be deeply informed by the strategic framework our community created together, a framework rooted in a shared vision, mission, and values—in realizing bold, realistic dreams for all. That is our collective responsibility as we truly commit to Ithaca Forever and to what is best for our current and future students. 

As I shared in my email earlier this month, this fall we will welcome Wendy Kobler to the senior leadership team as our new Vice President for Institutional Advancement. Wendy joins Laurie Koehler, our Vice President for Marketing and Enrollment Strategy, in beginning her time at IC this academic year. Both will be playing an incredibly important role as we implement Ithaca Forever. I am excited to start this year with a full team that embraces my vision for servant-leadership rooted in collaboration, equity, and a transformative student experience. 

As I enter my third year as part of the Ithaca College family, I feel as activated, positive, and enthusiastic as I did during my first. I am grateful to be a member of this community and thrilled by the amazing things that are in store for all of us. Our summer break doesn’t mean we stop our momentum, it is simply a time to recharge before we combine our energy and forge ahead. I look forward to working with all of you as we realize the potential of Ithaca College—and the promise of Ithaca Forever.  

All my best, 

Shirley M. Collado