January 30, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 32°F


IC 20/20: Bringing the vision into focus

Photo illustration by Rachel Orlow


Introducing the series

Last year, President Tom Rochon addressed a packed auditorium of faculty and staff at the All College Meeting and emphasized what would become something of a mantra: “This is the year,” he said. It hinted that something big was about to happen — something that would define Ithaca College for years to come. We now know that those plans and goals have culminated in IC 20/20, the college’s trustee-approved 10-year vision.

Beginning this week, The Ithacan will be publishing a series of articles examining all of the key initiatives in IC 20/20. Our team of reporters has taken time to break each part down and analyze how the vision plan might affect the college in the next decade.

— By Aaron Edwards/Editor in Chief

Part one: Integrative curriculum

As Ithaca College faculty and administrators prepare IC 20/20’s integrative core curriculum for committee and state approval, the five professional schools are making final adjustments to accommodate what some faculty members are calling the most drastic curriculum change in the college’s history.

The Integrative Core Curriculum, a result of cross-college collaboration and pressure from the college’s accreditation body that will begin to be implemented this fall, will establish the college’s first-ever college-wide general education system, with a minimum of 40 credits per student. As part of the ICC, new themes and perspectives requirements will call for students to select one of six themes and take four courses in surrounding disciplines that revolve around that theme.

Other initiatives under the theme of integrative learning in the IC 20/20 plan promote integrative majors and electives to bridge the gap between the schools and encourage students to connect ideas across disciplines.

Marisa Kelly, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said the college’s Committee on College-wide Requirements has established the framework for the ICC, and the schools are currently reviewing that framework internally. Kelly said the ICC framework and the school reviews will be turned over to the Academic Policy Committee in the next few weeks.

Once the APC approves the ICC framework, programs and departments will be able to introduce their plans, through their respective schools, that align with the curriculum changes, Kelly said. Once these plans are approved by the CCR and APC, she added, they will be sent to the Provost’s Office before submission to the New York State Department of Education this summer.

The move toward a college-wide general education system is largely a result of pressure from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the body that’s accredited the college since 1955, though faculty and administrators say there are other influencing factors. Middle States has established general education as one of its 14 accreditation standards. Richard Pokrass, the commission’s director of communication and public relations, said colleges that fail to enlist common general education requirements for students risk not reaffirming their accreditation.

Middle States last reaffirmed the college’s accreditation in June 2008, but the college was assigned a monitoring report, due in April 2010, to address its lack of an assessment program for student learning and a general education system. The college has a periodic review report due in June 2013, which, Pokrass said, is likely to address the new core curriculum.

Shaianne Osterreich, associate professor of economics, coordinator of the Ithaca Seminar and associate director of the core curriculum, said the ICC’s timing is partly due to Middle States review pressure, but is also a result of years of faculty and administrative collaboration on an all-campus general education system.

The college’s plan goes beyond Middle States’ broad requirement of common learning objectives for all students, Kelly said.

“What we’re doing, drawing on strengths that we have already, is creating an integrative core because we believe that is the best way to prepare students for the world in which they will be living after they graduate from Ithaca College,” Kelly said. “Yes, we’re meeting Middle States, but this is much more significant than that.”

The core curriculum template requires incoming students, beginning in Fall 2013, to select one of six draft themes — Identities; Inquiry, Imagination and Innovation; Mind, Body, Spirit; The Quest for a Sustainable Future; A World of Systems; and Power and Justice. Students will then select one course each in humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and creative arts that relates to the theme. Students must also complete a four-credit seminar tied to one of the four perspectives.

To accommodate the new requirements, the college will approximately double its seminar offerings to more than 80 for next year before settling between 80 and 85 for fall 2013, when the core is fully implemented, according to Danette Johnson, professor of communication studies and core curriculum director.

The college’s Board of Trustees approved the 2012-13 budget last month, which allots about $4.5 million specifically to IC 20/20 initiatives. Carl Sgrecci, vice president of finance and administration, said that of the $4.5 million, about $1.25 million has already been committed. This includes allocations for seven new faculty hires specifically connected to the core curriculum. Five of these hires will occur within the next year, Kelly said, with the other two coming at a later date.

Across campus, faculty members are continuing to address how the new requirements will fit into existing course structures. In some schools, such as the School of Business and the Roy H. Park School of Communications, it will be a less complicated process of replacing existing distribution requirements with the core.

For some of the college’s more credit-heavy majors, such as some in the School of Music, the process is more difficult. Peter Rothbart, professor of music theory, history and composition, said the School of Music has faced a complicated process of revising course schematics while still attempting to preserve some student flexibility amid the challenges of meeting core requirements, as well as the various accreditation boards.

Robert Sullivan, associate professor of communication studies and honors program director, said he believes the new core is unlikely to deter students from adding on to their major through double majors or study abroad because it unifies the many general education systems employed by schools and programs across campus.

The integrative core allows departments autonomy in determining how to require students to complete 12 credits of liberal arts electives. Each student will be required to enroll in three credits each in diversity and quantitative literacy, as well as a capstone, first-year composition requirement and three-credit writing-intensive course.

IC 20/20 seeks to develop new, integrative majors that bridge coursework from multiple schools. Existing examples include integrated marketing communications, documentary studies, environmental studies, and culture and communication.

The document also recommends schools adopt integrative electives and offers the example of applying the Physical Activity, Leisure and Safety model, where students take half- or one-credit pass/fail courses in sporting areas. An example of an integrative elective would be students or faculty members teaching personal finance to non-business students.

The move toward integrative learning follows a national trend spearheaded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization designed to improve undergraduate education, according to Pat Hutchings, a consulting scholar for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The AAC&U has identified integrative learning as one of its five goals to improve liberal education.

“The notion that students might achieve coherence and integration by having everybody do the same thing, by having everybody participate in the same 12 courses — that’s just not the way of the world anymore,” Hutchings said.

Junior Rob Flaherty, vice president of communications for the Student Government Association, said he supports an integrative curriculum, but is not sure the broadly proposed themes and perspectives approach is the best option.

Faculty and administrators said even if the plan garners state approval, it’s not set in stone.

“It’s important to understand that IC 20/20 is a concept that evolves over time,” Rothbart said. “It’s not a manifesto that says, ‘We’re going to do it this way, no matter what.’ As issues arise, there’s sufficient flexibility built into the process to address and accommodate.”