External Review of Counseling, Health and Wellness

Dear Campus Community,

I shared with all of you on March 27, 2018 that in many of my early conversations with members of the campus community, a common concern has been about how to best support both the mental and physical well-being of our students. One of my top priorities has been to address these concerns in a manner that is aligned with the need for support and services and with best practices in higher education and in the best interest of our students. At that time, I decided that it was in our best interest to begin the discussion around a comprehensive external review, which would give us objective information and recommendations that would guide the direction of the very critical services this area provides. I later shared with you in my message on July 9, 2018 that we were in the process of undergoing the comprehensive external review.

I am pleased to report that at this time Keeling and Associates has completed a comprehensive and detailed review of Counseling, Health and Wellness at Ithaca College. As you will see in the report, many of the findings and recommendations are useful to our community as we begin to think about how to create culture of wellness on campus, and highly effective services for our students.

There are several high-level findings that are of particular note including concerns about the conditions under which our providers are operating:

  • Ithaca has lacked appropriately situated, senior-level leadership to effectively advocate for, organize, and evenly deliver appropriate health and counseling/mental health services to students.
  • The consultants’ findings emphasize the limitations and constraints that members of the professional staff in both the Health Center and CAPS face because of significant problems with the facility in which they work.
  • Students do not have sufficient access to psychiatric services.
  • Students do not have appropriate access to counselors or other mental health care after-hours.
  • The HC is not currently able to meet students’ needs for care; cuts in clinical support staff have stretched the HC’s capacity and undermined efficiency.

The consultants, and I believe that our health care providers and counselors in CAPS are doing their best work in very difficult conditions and they have underscored the importance of these challenges in their report. In its totality, that the consultants’ report focuses our attention on the need to improve the facility in which we provide health, counseling, and health promotion services and to develop sufficiently comprehensive and nimble systems that position our staff to provide the best care to our students.

We are now taking the time to begin conversations around the necessary next steps to address the areas of concerns and the recommendations put forth by the review team. One of the first steps we have taken was to launch a national search for an Executive Director for Student Wellness, I will be sending more information regarding this critical leadership role in the coming weeks. As always, I will continue to keep the community informed as discussions proceed around our work ahead to ensure the wellbeing of our students.

Rosanna Ferro, EdD
Vice President for Student Affairs & Campus Life



Background Research: K&A will (1) review documents and data pertinent to the project, and (2) conduct a series of interviews with key staff members to increase our knowledge base and explore important questions to be addressed throughout the project.

Campus Visit: K&A will visit the College this summer to tour the facilities and gather first-hand data from: campus leaders, HC and CAPS staff, campus- wide partners, and students, as available.

Preliminary and Final Reports: K&A will compile, collate, and analyze observations and findings and formulate conclusions and tentative recommendations in a preliminary report that will be shared and reviewed with the Vice President for Student Affairs. We will incorporate any required revisions into the final report.

Executive Search Services: The review will guide the College’s decision- making regarding vacancies in the health and counseling areas.

Timeline: This project began in June 2018 and concludes in Fall 2018.


Participants may find these questions helpful in preparing for meetings with K&A:

  • How might students describe the health and counseling/mental health services at Ithaca?
  • In what ways do you think students’ needs are currently being met by the Health Center and CAPS?
  • What do you see as the most important strengths and weaknesses of the Health Center and CAPS?
  • Are there any factors or challenges that may jeopardize Ithaca’s ability to meet students’ health and counseling/mental health needs effectively in the future?
  • What aspects of Ithaca’s health-related programs and services for students should be preserved or further developed, and where is there a need for improvement or for a different approach?

K&A is a higher education consulting firm. Our primary purpose is to help colleges and universities improve the quality and quantity of student learning, strengthen the student experience, and support student success. We have worked with more than 300 colleges and universities, reviewed health-related programs on more than 125 campuses, and placed more than 60 health and counseling leaders. For more information: www.keelingassociates.com.

Contact: Marrlee Burgess, M.Ed.

Consultant & Project Director mburgess@keelingassociates.com 774-470-1048