With a momentous ceremony on Saturday, Dr. Shirley M. Collado took the helm as Ithaca College’s ninth president.
Collado, in a speech at inauguration, highlighted the college’s power to create “exceptional higher education” in the country and defended the institution as a “brave space” to practice intellectual inquiry.
Collado is the second woman to hold IC’s top role in its 125-year history and is the first person of color to do so. She is also the first Dominican-American to lead a U.S. college, the college said in a release.
Collado was announced as the institution’s president in February following a unanimous decision by the IC Board of Trustees and took office on July 1, The Sun previously reported.
After being named president, Collado, who is the first person in her extended-family to graduate from college, talked of adopting a leadership style that was “authentic, visionary, courageous, real, action-oriented and inclusive.”
Her appointment came after the previous president, Tom Rochon, resigned following months of protests and walkouts over his administration’s handling of multiple incidents regarding race. Students walked out in November 2016, protesting what they said was racial profiling by police officers and racially insensitive remarks at a college event.
Collado, who received her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt University before earning a masters and a Ph.D in clinical psychology at Duke University, served as the executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at Rutgers University before being named Ithaca College’s president.
In her speech on Saturday, Collado stressed the ideologies of theory, practice and performance, which stem from the college’s founding as the Ithaca Conservatory of Music in 1892.
In today’s political climate, Collado said, there is no “creative practice,” only dogma, highlighting her belief that the college needs to break down barriers to access and increase dialogue.
The new president envisioned Ithaca College as “a private college that truly serves a public good.”
Collado’s husband, A. Van Jordan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, read a poem titled, “How to Celebrate a Revolution,” that talked about being good to our neighbors in the country’s current political climate, the Ithacan reported. Collado said her husband had surprised her with the reading.
“When boundaries disappear, we can realize the full potential of a residential college campus where everyone is welcome to practice deep intellectual inquiry, and everyone is empowered to collaboratively create and consume knowledge,” Collado said.
A woman who has shattered multiple glass ceilings at Ithaca College and in higher education, Collado expressed her pride regarding the history of Ithaca College and, she said, the fact that the first graduating class from the conservatory had been all-female.
“It is difficult to be the first, to open the doors, either as an individual or as an institution,” Collado said. “But it’s necessary.”