February 8, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 40°F


Rochon: ‘This is the year.’

After a year of enrollment worries and budget pressures, President Tom Rochon brought some good news.

Thursday at the all-college faculty and staff meeting, he unveiled the introduction to a new comprehensive plan, “IC2020,” for Ithaca College’s success.

Faculty and staff in a packed Emerson Suites listened as Rochon

President Tom Rochon speaks to an audience of faculty members at the all-faculty meeting Monday in Emerson Suites. After introducing a 10-year strategic plan at the all-college meeting Thursday. Rochon and interim provost Greg Woodward elaborated on the plan at two faculty meetings. GRAHAM HEBEL/THE ITHACAN

and other administrators discussed the state of the college going into the academic year — the newest point being a 10-year strategic plan to outline institutional goals for student learning and anticipated obstacles in the coming decade.

Rochon said he has been emphasizing his excitement about the initiative in 2010.

“My slogan in all of this is ‘This is the year,’” he said. “Faculty and staff know what I mean because they know we’ve had task forces and committee reports piling up for a generation or more. It’s not the year for another task force or report, it’s the year to develop the plan on which we will actually act over the coming 10 years.”

Aside from the 10-year plan, budget and enrollment issues were introduced.

The college will make an official count of freshmen in October, but Eric Maguire, vice president of enrollment management, said he expects the number to be about 1,620, just 30 students shy of the college’s target freshman class size.

Stabilization of class sizes is a direction the college is moving toward, and it’s a direction that would be in tandem with goals Rochon set for the institution, Maguire said.

Rochon jump-started his presidency by forming smaller, specific initiatives, like a five-year plan to increase diversity on campus. He said this larger 10-year plan is a culmination of his efforts so far.

The first section states one of the primary reasons behind the formation of a 10-year plan: to keep the college moving forward.

“For all the pride we can take in our past history, and for all the comfort of the present, we cannot be lulled into a belief that it will suffice to continue along the path of doing what we have been doing, even if we continue to do it a little bit better,” the document read.

Other notable points from the introduction include incorporating new technologies of communication into educational practices, properly preparing graduates for a competitive work force with jobs that may not exist yet and maintaining a student-centered institution.

Once completed, a preview of the plan will be brought to the college’s Board of Trustees at a special retreat Sept. 11 and 12. If the board approves the draft, administrators will take the necessary steps to flesh it out into a full-fledged proposal. Parts of the plan, specifically ones that could design or implement college curriculum, will require faculty approval.

“There is no chance we’ll be able to evolve in that direction without board support,” Rochon said.

Nancy Cornwell, professor and chair of the television-radio department, said after observing the way the college has evolved since
Rochon became president in 2008, this is the prime moment to set goals back on track.

“It’s time,” she said. “This is the time for the college to clarify its vision. I was very pleased with the initial presentation [of the plan]. For someone like me who loves change, this is a very exciting time.”

Specific actions to be taken are not spelled out in the introduction, but Rochon said committees would be created to help propel dialogue about the issues. According to Rochon, the meetings won’t just be all talk and no action. He hopes to pass tangible policies that will alter or enhance the college’s mission.

Diane McPherson, professor and chair of the writing department said she’s been here through three college presidencies and has seen or sat on her fair share of task forces, many of which got little done.

“I was very happy to hear [Rochon] say that all the work that had been done by different task forces was now going to be actually looked at and implemented,” McPherson said. “I found them frustrating because it’s a lot of work, a lot of meetings over time — at times two or three years — and then it just has turned into rhetoric that doesn’t manifest itself into anything concrete.”

Rochon collaborated with interim provost Greg Woodward on the introduction of the plan this summer. This comes just two months after Woodward assumed the role of interim provost in June after former provost Kathleen Rountree resigned from her post in April.

Since his position is not permanent, Woodward said the transition to smoothly continue work on IC2020 could be a challenge once a new provost is found.

“In the next month or so, there’s going to be a vision for the next 10 years, and clearly the search committee for provost will have to take that into account in their reading of prospective provost files,” he said.

But the first step is getting the Board of Trustees approval.

Rochon said the new decade marks a pivotal point in the college’s history, and an important time in his presidency.

“I’ve been in conversation with the board before I was hired about what their vision for the future of the college is,” Rochon said. “This is President Rochon fulfilling an expectation that the board laid on him at the time he was hired.”