Martha E. Pollack is the fourteenth president of Cornell University and professor of computer science, information science, and linguistics. She took office on April 17, 2017.
As the only land-grant university in the Ivy League, Cornell combines the highest standards of teaching and research with an exceptional breadth and depth of expertise. President Pollack is committed to building upon Cornell’s academic distinction and unique strengths, while also sustaining and enhancing its culture of “educational verve” by investing in new, evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning. She sees Cornell’s founding commitment to diversity and equity as central to its identity and its success, and has engaged the entire university in the work of building an open, inclusive community whose members communicate effectively across difference. In her leadership of Cornell’s many units and campuses, she works to cultivate productive and meaningful synergies across disciplines and geographies, realizing a vision of “One Cornell” that capitalizes on the complementary strengths of our urban and rural identities.
Consistent with these priorities, President Pollack, in close collaboration with the provost, has supported the radical collaborations initiative, which fosters academic excellence at Cornell by bringing together faculty from across the university to work on large-scale issues that require a breadth of intellectual perspective. She has also encouraged the expansion of active and engaged learning efforts at Cornell, which are now in practice across the university.
In her first year as president, Pollack commissioned a Faculty Visioning Committee on Cornell in New York City, which developed both short- and long-term recommendations to enhance collaborations across Cornell’s Ithaca and New York City campuses and provide pathways for students and faculty to engage firsthand in addressing and testing solutions to urban problems in an increasingly urban world. Other committee recommendations have led to an initial set of projects including research on urban biodiversity, a collaboration between the medical and law schools on enhanced care for immigrants, and a major conference on technology and ethical life planned for the fall of 2020.
Pollack has also commissioned a Task Force on Campus Climate, which developed a broad suite of recommendations aimed at making Cornell more equitable and inclusive. Among the recommendations already implemented are the creation of an online course for faculty, Teaching and Learning in the Diverse Classroom, the integration of an Intergroup Dialogue Project experience into freshman orientation, and the creation of Colleague Network Groups, which provide inclusive mentoring for staff.
Additionally, Pollack oversaw the adoption of a new policy governing consensual relations between students and faculty and initiated substantial changes to policies for fraternities and sororities, designed to end hazing and other serious misconduct, and to promote safety and encourage responsible leadership. She established the Free Speech Presidential Speaker Series, bringing distinguished scholars to campus to explore this critical issue. As part of her commitment to accessibility and inclusion, she has made affordability and socioeconomic diversity a major focus of her philanthropic goals for Cornell.
Pollack was previously provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, where she was also professor of computer science and information. As Michigan’s chief academic officer and chief budget officer, she was responsible for an academic enterprise including 19 schools and colleges and a number of research units, libraries, and museums, as well as all academic support units. Before that, she served as Michigan’s vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs and as dean of its School of Information. She has also served on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh and as a member of the technical staff at SRI International.
An expert in artificial intelligence with a research focus on natural-language processing, automated planning, and the design of assistive technology for people with cognitive impairment, Pollack is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. Among her other honors are the Computers and Thought Award, one of the highest honors given to a young scientist in artificial intelligence, and the Sarah Goddard Power Award, recognizing significant achievement in advancing the careers of women in academia.
Pollack’s professional service has included membership on the university advisory board for Coursera; on the board of directors of the Computer Research Association, where she was also secretary; and on the advisory committee of the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science (CISE) directorate. She has held leadership roles in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, culminating in service as its president, and has been a member of the executive committee of the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence, for which she was also program chair. She also served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence, as well as on the editorial board of several other major AI journals.
Pollack is currently a member of the board of directors of IBM.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics at Dartmouth College and an M.S. and Ph.D. in computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania.