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Part six: International studies and diversity

In the sixth and final part of a series on IC 20/20, The Ithacan takes a look at the college’s diversity goals and its plans to expand  international programs. 

In hopes of conveying and clarifying its “commitment to diversity,” Ithaca College has folded a series of pre-existing diversity goals and initiatives into the IC 20/20 plan.

Shawn Steiner/The IthacanBrian McAree, vice president of Student Affairs and Campus Life at Ithaca College, looks over documents in his office in Egbert Hall in Campus Center.

The 11 goals outlined in the plan are recommendations of the Diversity Strategic Planning Committee, a temporary body established by President Tom Rochon in September 2009. Committee members were tasked with developing an official diversity statement for the college and planning the course of the college’s diversity efforts in the coming years.

The college’s diversity statement expresses the belief that diversity enriches the academic learning environment and “encompasses multiple dimensions,” which are loosely qualified in a list of characteristics and backgrounds. It communicates the college’s desire to “address current and past injustices” and build an “inclusive and welcoming” community.

Committee recommendations — which primarily focus on efforts to boost the number and retention rates of students, faculty and staff, and create an environment of inclusion — claim to reflect the ethos asserted in the diversity statement and take steps to ensure they are upheld.

Brian McAree, vice president for student affairs and campus life and chair of the strategic planning committee, said there is no timeframe set for its completion yet. The strategic plan places an executive sponsor in charge of reviewing the progress of each goal. The President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, which was created by former president Peggy Ryan Williams in 2005, will act as a second pair of eyes monitoring initiatives as they move forward.

Some of the objectives are underway, and many are continuations of past efforts to diversify.

Eric Maguire, vice president of enrollment and communication, is responsible for overseeing the increased enrollment of African, Latino, Asian and Native American and international students. He said that while the college has seen a steady increase in ALANA student enrollment in the past six years, the number of international students enrolled at the institution tends to fluctuate.

He said the increase in ALANA percentages is not the result of major policy changes, but the product of shifting national demographics and recruitment efforts.

“We’re not looking to artificially inflate our ALANA number with an affirmative action program of our own,” he said. “We’re looking to take the best and brightest students in our applicant pool and those that have the best fit with the institution.”

McAree said the strategic plan takes the potential financial need of ALANA and international students into account.

“Many, not all, ALANA prospective students and international students have higher need, so we talked about the fact that there’s the potential that we may need to increase
financial aid dollars in order to realize that goal,” he said.

Carl Sgrecci, vice president of finance and administration, said these additional financial aid dollars may be in the form of endowed scholarships.

Provost Marisa Kelly, who is primarily responsible for overseeing
initiatives to diversify faculty, said efforts to hire and retain more diverse faculty and staff is largely about casting a wide net in terms of recruitment and looking for faculty with experience in diversity issues.

“We hope to attract candidates that will want to focus in whatever way is appropriate to their job on important diversity initiatives,” she said. “Sometimes the best candidate to do that will be a white male. Very frequently it’s not.”

She said perusing candidates with diversity issues in mind will play a key role in the development of diversity-designated courses as part of the Integrative Core
Curriculum, which will require each student to take at least one course dealing with diversity.

The “commitment to diversity” delineated in the goals of IC 20/20 is essentially a more specific reassertion of the same overarching goals the college has historically communicated — much of which has been met with criticism by students, faculty and staff.

In many ways, the implementation of the Strategic Planning Committee itself was an effort to define the college’s attitude toward diversity and respond to institutional criticisms following the “i Am Diverse” campaign launched by the Diversity Awareness Committee in 2008-09.

The campaign featured posters depicting different students who claimed to be diverse based on anything from their ethnicity to sexual orientation.

Rebecca Borowski, chair of the DAC, said she thinks having the goals outlined is a good first step to achieving an inclusive campus environment.

“Because we have those goals that are written down, it will be a lot easier to hold vice presidents and the senior leadership accountable,” she said.

Rochon said meeting the diversity objectives of IC 20/20 are ambitious.

“Others may want to judge whether these are the right objectives, but I will say that they are
ambitious objectives,” he said. “If they are achieved — and I am fully committed to achieving them — they will collectively have a profound impact on life at IC.”


The “global citizen”


In order to expand students’ global exposure beyond the classroom, the last theme of IC 20/20 focuses on “educating the global citizen.”

The initiative combines the college’s efforts to expand study abroad opportunities for students and explore different approaches for providing a more inclusive community for international students.

Tanya Saunders, assistant provost for international studies and special projects, said the college will focus on three key approaches as part of the strategic plan, including a modification to on-campus curriculum by introducing international themes, the recruitment of international faculty and students, and increasing faculty and staff-led overseas class trips.

Saunders said by recruiting internationally experienced faculty, more international themes will naturally be incorporated into the classroom.

One of the hindrances to international applicants is language, according to Nicole Eversley Bradwell, associate director of admission. To be considered for admission, the college requests international that students produce or exhibit evidence of fluency in English because the college does not have an English as a Second Language program. According to the document, there will also be a development of programs for international students to perfect their English language proficiency.

Though the program is still in progress and there is no set timeline, there is currently a class in the writing department specifically for non-native speakers taught by professors with ESL training.

To increase the college’s reach abroad, a plan for a center in China is cited in IC 20/20.

In a meeting with the Student Government Association about IC 20/20’s implementation, Rochon said the China Center would give students a competitive edge over other students applying for jobs.

“You and your successors who go to this center will have an opportunity to have a leg-up over essentially everyone else in knowing how to make those collaborations work,” Rochon said in the meeting.

In addition to expanding study abroad opportunities, there will be an international visiting scholar program for campus visits of several weeks.

Saunders said the program will provide a space for dialogue between students and faculty.

“An international visiting scholar program will help to generate dialogue on international issues, leads for incorporating international themes into on-campus courses, and create relationships with which new initiatives can unfold,” she said.

Saunders said having a couple of Circle Apartments set aside for the visiting scholars would be ideal.

Some other plans in IC 20/20 that are not yet in motion include determining which undergraduate and graduate majors hold the greatest international appeal, and creating first-year seminars with themes relating to global affairs and increasing the number of institutional exchange agreements at the national and
international level.

Saunders said the initiative will help prepare students for competition in a global economy.

“Our students are not competing with students sitting next to them in the Ithaca College classroom, but  with the educated classes around the world,” she said. “It’s not about who is going into the United States in search of opportunity but about where U.S. students are going overseas in search of opportunities.”

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