February 1, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 27°F


Student focus groups to give core curriculum feedback

Following feedback from students and faculty about the newly implemented Integrative Core Curriculum, Ithaca College is working with the Student Government Association to organize focus groups to gather more qualitative feedback about the curriculum.

Danette Johnson, director of the core curriculum, said each focus group will consist of eight to 10 first-year students and will be facilitated by faculty or staff from around campus including the Office of Student Affairs and Campus Life, the Committee for College-Wide Requirements and professors who teach seminars.

These groups will be open to all first-year students, and students should contact their class senators if they are interested in participating.

In the first week of November, ICC information sessions will be open to students for the first time, giving them an opportunity to ask questions.

Johnson said so far students have asked questions about overlap between the ICC and major requirements, changing themes and whether or not more courses will count toward the ICC in the future.

She said she plans to begin reviewing the portfolio submissions over winter break to obtain feedback about how students are performing on learning outcomes. Changes will be considered based on their portfolios.

Furthermore, the Committee on College-Wide Requirements, the curricular body responsible for the ICC, is currently evaluating the possibility of adding a new theme based on faculty feedback.

Katharine Kittredge, a professor in the Department of English who teaches “Wonder Women and Lethal Girls,” a seminar in the Power and Justice theme, said while her students have been engaged in her work, the structure is intimidating to them.

When planning residential programs around the ICC themes, Kittredge said, student attendance was very poor. No freshmen attended Kittredge’s kick-off residential program for Power and Justice.

“The problem is just reaching the students,” Kittredge said. “It’s really hard to say what would engage the students … I don’t know if it’s a scheduling problem or a communication problem, or if I’ve just made a mistake about what the students would want to do.”

Jacqueline Winslow, assistant director for residential life, said the biggest obstacle with the residential program has been communication to students.

“It’s such a big program with many moving parts,” she said. “Trying to get students in every area to know where they’re supposed to be and when for theme program opportunities has been a challenge.”

Winslow said the First-Year Residential Experience theme programs are not required, but encouraged as educational opportunities.

RAs are responsible for hosting three ICC theme-related events each semester in conjunction with their faculty or staff associate and one event individually. Sophomore Matthew Sidilau, an RA in Tallcott Hall under the theme of Inquiry, Imagination, and Innovation, said some of his residents have not attended any theme-related events.

“Not just my residents, but other freshmen I’ve talked to either are completely apathetic to the idea of the ICC in general, or they completely reject it,” he said.

Freshman Nathiel Tejada, a student in the theme of Power and Justice, said she loves her theme because of her interest in power and justice struggles, but wishes these issues were more dominant.

“I like what the theme is, but I believe that in our seminar it hasn’t been really put out there as much as I thought it would be,” she said.

Freshman Allison Taylor, a student in the Inquiry, Imagination and Innovation theme, said she chose to come to the college because she can work toward a capstone through the ICC. However, she said her seminar does not connect to her theme as well as she had expected.

“I see the idea behind it: to get people thinking about issues beyond [one perspective] and come up with something connecting all of their experiences in their classes together, but I think that it wasn’t connected as well and the restriction isn’t great,” she said.

Feedback about the ICC from different outlets is being taken into consideration by the college. Johnson and Winslow said any further changes to the curriculum will likely not take effect until the spring.

“Where we really are right now is trying to gather as much information as we can at this point, so that when we do start to make changes in the program, that they’re based not just on what one person’s anecdotal experience was, or just on surveys, or just on focus groups, but that we have as much information as we can to make those decisions,” Johnson said.