ITHACA, N.Y. — On Wednesday morning, Ithaca College announced that Shirley Collado will serve as the institution’s ninth president.

Collado, who is currently the executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer at Rutgers University – Newark — will assume the presidency on July 1.

At least 100 people welcomed Collado to the college during the formal announcement of the unanimous decision by the presidential search committee to hire her.

Related: Ithaca College selects Shirley Collado as 9th president

Below, watch a live-stream of the Ithaca College presidential announcement.

Afterward, Collado took questions from the media in a semi-private room after being welcomed to the college.

In the past year and a half, Ithaca College has become embroiled in the national debate about fair representation of people of color and other minorities at college campuses. How will Collado ensure student voices are heard and that their concerns are addressed? How does she plan on addressing issues of diversity and expanding IC’s reach to minorities and low-income students?

“…I’m accessible by nature. I was transformed in college because I had access to mentors and administrators and faculty members and community stakeholders. They gave me their time and saw me as a real partner,” Collado said.

As president, she said she understands the importance of creating similar opportunities for people at IC.

The daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic and the first person in her extended family to graduate from college, Collado said The Posse Foundation was instrumental to her success. The foundation recruits students from urban public schools and links them into supportive groups — known as  “posses” — to serve as a support network through college. Collado eventually served as the executive vice president for the foundation.

“What the college is facing, actually, and the conversation that’s happened here with this community…is, as you know, in the national landscape of higher education. The college is, unfortunately, not alone in really important discourse on matters of race, college access, class. And I’m very much looking forward to moving those conversations and that work forward. It’s very much the body of, a large body of, my work in higher ed,” Collado said.

She said she understands that her job as president of the college is going to demand that her time be spent coordinating external efforts that ensure that IC is successful on every front. But she sees communicating with students and finding the holes in communication and representation as a priority.

“…I know that I can be up close and personal, with students especially, but (also with) faculty staff and community stakeholders,” she said. “…I plan to invest deeply in my time and my team’s time as an extension of the leadership team at this college to be accessible and to be part of this community.”

What does she plan to do about the looming strike and part-time faculty concerns about obtaining a living wage?

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on what the board is currently doing, and I know that those negotiations are under way,” Collado said. “It’s my hope and I have faith that the college will have a healthy resolution…”

In addition to having more than 16 years of experience as an administrator in higher education institutions, she has taught at New York University, Georgetown University, George Mason University, the New School, Middlebury College, and Lafayette College.

She said it’s important to her that students, faculty, and staff feel that they are able to be supported, mentored and be “the best at what they’re doing as they contribute to the college.

What is Collado’s leadership style?

“My leadership style is very consistent,” Collado said. “I believe in being authentic, being a visionary, being courageous, being real.”

She said that in addition to her efforts toward creating inclusive communities, she sees herself as specializing in bringing together communities that don’t usually work together, whether that includes students, faculty, staff or members of the community.

According to a news release from Ithaca College, Collado has lead innovative initiatives at other colleges and universities involving the empowerment of women, finding inclusive ways of recognizing honors students, developing “forward-looking sexual misconduct and judicial policies,” and increasing the likelihood of student success through support programs. (For more on these issues, click here. )

“I think that you find that most students will say (about her), “What you see is what you get.” I don’t shy away from tough decisions, but when I make them, I feel that the community is well-informed and engaged and very much a part of the process of getting me to a decision or important initiative that we might be taking on,” she said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said during his State of the State address earlier this year, that he would propose free tuition to city and state colleges and universities if the student and his or her family makes less than $125,000 a year. How will private residential colleges, like IC, remain relevant in the sphere of higher education if this comes to fruition?

Collado said she has an “appetite for reimagining the future of higher ed,” and she knows it’s not going to be an easy task to take on.

That’s where she’s confident that her ability to bring together public and private stakeholders will be important. For instance, she said she imagines a future where cross-sector work between community colleges and private institutions is a norm — where private and public institutions work together to create the best model for themselves and the communities they serve.

She said the college faces a future where leaders will have to make hard choices about how to keep the school relevant and affordable.

Collado said, “If we’re thinking about students at the heart of everything and every question is answered, really, with students front and center being at the, just the core of every decision we make, I know that we will be making the best decisions.”

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.