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.
President Pollack aspires to sustain and enhance Cornell’s academic distinction, to support a culture of educational “verve,” and to ensure that Cornell fulfills its civic responsibilities. Emphasizing the university’s obligation to promote humane and rational values, she supports investing in faculty and in an environment conducive to their success. She also aims to develop synergies among and within Cornell’s campuses, building on the vision of “One Cornell.” A Cornell education, she believes, must foster the joy of discovery, set students on a path for lifelong learning, and teach them to seek the truth, assess evidence, and determine the reliability of information. Toward these ends, she encourages openness to new approaches to teaching and learning. Among her highest priorities are a triad of civic responsibilities: standing up for knowledge, evidence, and reason; protecting freedom of expression; and creating a community that is truly diverse, inclusive, and egalitarian.
Pollack was previously the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. As the university’s chief academic officer and chief budget officer, she was responsible for an academic enterprise that serves more than 43,000 students and includes 19 schools and colleges plus freestanding research units, libraries, museums, and gardens. She championed engaged learning and innovation in teaching, including the use of learning analytics, through the creation of the Office for Academic Innovation; developed strategies that expanded financial aid to increase student access, and that decreased undergraduate class size; created a new multidisciplinary School for Environment and Sustainability; and launched cross-campus academic initiatives to develop solutions to poverty, to advance humanities scholarship, and to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Prior to becoming provost, Pollack was the University of Michigan’s vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, and earlier served as dean of the School of Information. She first joined Michigan’s faculty in 2000, having previously been a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh, and before that a member of the technical staff in the Artificial Intelligence Center at SRI International, in Menlo Park, California.
Pollack is a computer scientist with research expertise in artificial intelligence. She first explored this topic as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, earning her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in 1979 with a self-designed interdisciplinary major in linguistics and along the way taking as many math courses as a math major. She earned her master’s (1984) and Ph.D. (1986) degrees in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania, writing a doctoral dissertation on natural-language processing by computers. She subsequently conducted research and published widely on automated planning, temporal reasoning, and constraint satisfaction. A particular focus of her work has been the design of intelligent technology to assist people with cognitive impairment, a topic on which she testified before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Aging.
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. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Intel, DARPA, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
In addition to receiving numerous awards for her research, Pollack has been honored for her professional service, for example, with the University of Michigan’s Sarah Goddard Power Award for her efforts to increase the representation of and improve the climate for women and underrepresented minorities in science and engineering, and the Michigan ACE Distinguished Women in Higher Education Leadership Award. She has served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, as president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, as a member of the Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Division, and as a member of the board of directors of the Computing Research Association.
Pollack also served on the Steering Committee of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, the academic partnership between Cornell and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology at Cornell Tech, from 2014 to 2017.
Pollack was raised in Stamford, Connecticut, and is married to Ken Gottschlich, an engineer and jazz musician by training. They have two grown children, Anna and Nicholas.