Approximately 30 students learned about the new strategic planning process for Ithaca College and voiced their hopes and concerns about the strategic plan at an All Student Gathering held Oct. 1 in Emerson Suites.
The gathering was organized by Rosanna Ferro, vice president of the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Life, to inform and get feedback from students about the college’s five-year strategic planning process that is intended to guide the college’s development of new programs and resources. The meeting began with a presentation by the co-chairs of the steering committee and concluded with small–group discussions about what students wanted to see achieved by the process, led by faculty facilitators who sat with students during the event. Many students said they were concerned about the representation of people of color at the college and general student participation in the planning process.
Ferro opened the gathering with a video featuring La Jerne Cornish, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and co-chair of the steering committee, and Jason Freitag, associate professor in the Department of History and co-chair of the steering committee. Cornish and Freitag both said in the video that they looked forward to the work to be done in the strategic planning process and to the outcomes for the college.
“I could not be more excited about working with the college as we try to figure out who we are, who we want to be and the direction in which we’d like to go,” Cornish said in the video.
“We really get to move forward with it together,” Freitag said in the video. “That opens up all sorts of possibilities for bringing the campus together, not just now to make the plan, but then to carry it out and sort of see it come to fruition.”
Freitag then discussed the principles behind the design of the strategic planning process. The first step, he said, was to create meaningful ways for students, faculty and staff to contribute. The All Student Gathering was one of the first opportunities for students to participate in the process and give feedback.
He also said the process will focus on representation and proactively including voices that historically have not been represented. Freitag said the steering committee is made up of many groups typically not represented in these types of planning processes, including students and faculty.
“We’ve already begun to do this,” Freitag said. “The steering committee is not made up of names of people that you will ever recognize.”
He also said the committee is focused on transparency. Freitag said the college community members will be updated about why and how decisions are made. Additionally, there will be many opportunities, like the All Student Gathering, to give feedback.
Freitag said the final step is to “empower participants to think boldly.” He said the committee is looking for big ideas and different ways of thinking in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for the college.
The strategic planning process will take approximately a year. He said the goal of the steering committee for Fall 2018 is to develop the themes that will guide the rest of the strategic planning process, and by the conclusion of the fall semester, theme-based working groups made up of faculty, staff, students and community members will be created in preparation for Spring 2019.
Throughout Spring 2019, the working groups will develop goals and establish objectives that the steering committee will incorporate into a draft of the strategic plan. The strategic plan will be presented to the board of trustees upon its completion at the end of next summer. If the plan is complete and the board approves it in August 2019, there will be a kickoff event for the plan at the college, and the steering committee will present a final implementation plan to the board during Fall 2019.
After the presentation of the process was complete, Cornish and Freitag invited students and faculty facilitators to have small group discussions about their hopes for the college and then share with the larger group.
Freshman Iyayi Aiyevbomwan said he is concerned about the racial composition of the college.
“My top wish is for IC to no longer be referred to as a PWI,” Aiyevbomwan said. “Going along with that wish, a faculty body that reflects the student body.”
A PWI is a predominantly-white institution, which is a university or college in which white students account for more than 50 percent of enrollment. Aiyevbomwan’s statement was met with applause.
Junior Hunter Flamm said he thought more emphasis should be placed on the college’s lesser–known academic programs, like the politics and history majors.
“I would like, in the future, there to be more attention geared toward the other disciplines at this school,” Flamm said. “I think, in general, if we could try to find a way to put all of our majors together and push them toward the front, I think it will just, in general, diversify the amount of students we bring in.”
Throughout the gathering, Ferro, Cornish and Freitag stressed the point that students will be heard.
“This information is going to be used,” Ferro said. “We will be having more events in the future specifically for students. You’re more than welcome to come back, but I challenge you to bring two or three friends with you next time.”
Freitag emphasized that the process was still in the beginning stages.
“There are no decisions made yet,” Freitag said. “Nothing. The decisions will happen over the course of a year.”
One of the group facilitators Guilherme Costa, vice president and general counsel for the Division of Human and Legal Resources, said the process will be difficult, but the outcome will have a large impact on the future of the college.
“We have big choices to make,” Costa said. “There’s only so many things that we can do. There’s only so much resources, so much time, so much of everything. So it really is where do we want to focus our attention, where do we want to focus our resources, and what does that look like? … Just because we’re not doing something today doesn’t mean we can’t focus on it tomorrow.”
The steering committee’s first meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 8, and there will be more events for students to attend and voice opinions at throughout the fall semester.