February 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 28°F


College names provost and senior vice president for academic affairs

President Shirley M. Collado has announced La Jerne Cornish as the new provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Ithaca College.

Collado made the announcement to the campus community via email on April 25. Cornish will be on campus on May 1 and will begin her tenure as provost on July 1, according to the email.

Cornish has been the associate provost for undergraduate studies at Goucher College, a private liberal arts institution, since 2014. She attended Goucher, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degree in education. She also earned a Ph.D. in language, literacy and culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. At Goucher, she was previously an instructor, chair of the Education Department, faculty chair for arts and sciences faculty, co-chair of the strategic planning committee and co-facilitator for the development of academic strategic plans. Prior to Goucher, she was a teacher and administrator in the Baltimore City Public Schools System.

Leslie Lewis, provost on special leave at Goucher College and professor in the Department of English, said that at Goucher, Cornish oversees programs such as advising, academic policies, disability services, firstyear experience and the academic honor board in the undergraduate program. She said she also facilitated conflict resolution between faculty and students and led student retention and student success initiatives.

Lewis said Cornish is a trusted colleague whom she has worked closely with for the past three years at Goucher. She said she thinks Cornish will serve Ithaca College well.

“She is deeply committed to students, and I have no doubt that in her role as provost she will be an excellent leader of the academic division,” Lewis said via email. “La Jerne is kind, generous, thoughtful, and a real listener — and she will be an excellent partner to President Collado.”

Lewis previously served as the dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences at Ithaca College and was a candidate for the provost position at the college in 2014.

Collado announced the members of the search committee in November. The committee is co-chaired by Jean Hardwick, professor in the Department of Biology, and Jack Powers, associate professor and chair of the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies. The committee also included Belisa Gonzalez, director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity; Michael Richardson, humanities and sciences professor; Baruch Whitehead, associate professor in the Whalen School of Music; Chris McNamara, clinical faculty in health sciences and human performance; Duncan Duke Garcia, assistant professor in the School of Business; Gerard Turbide, vice president of enrollment; Marilyn Dispensa, instructional technology coordinator in information technology; and juniors Alyse Harris and Danielle Ciolfi.

In February, it was announced that the provost search would be closed, meaning the candidates would not publicly visit the college and interact with the campus community before a new provost was named. The last provost search, which took place in 2014, was an open search, with candidates publicly visiting the campus. The college worked with Witt/Kieffer, a private executive search firm. The college is also working with Witt/Kieffer to select the vice president for finance and administration and the vice president and general counsel.

The search consisted of meetings and conversations with more than 60 faculty, staff and students, in addition to the board, according to the email. The co-chairs of the search committee were notified about the president’s appointment after Cornish accepted, but the rest of the search committee was not told who was selected until the announcement was posted via email, Dave Maley, senior public information officer at the college, said.

Benjamin Rifkin, former provost and vice president for educational affairs, resigned from the position July 31, 2016. Since then, Linda Petrosino, former dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, moved into the position on an interim basis. Petrosino served as provost on an interim basis once before in 2014, when the last provost search was conducted. She will return to her position as dean in the fall.

The provost position has had a high turnover. In the past 10 years, there have been six provosts at the college. The most recent chief academic officer survey from the American Council on Education in 2013-2014 found that 50 percent of chief academic officers stay in their position for two to five years and only 10 percent stay in their position for more than 10 years. Provosts have a critical role on campuses. At the college, the provost provides administrative oversight for all five schools, as well as supporting various academic programs. Presidents of private institutions identified provosts as their most supportive internal constituents over the presidential staff and development and fundraising staff, according to an American Council on Education 2017 American College President Study.

Dave Maley, senior associate director of media relations, said Collado and others involved in the search did not want to comment at this time beyond the statements made in the announcement.

Madison Fernandez can be reached at mfernandez1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @madfernandez616