For more than a century Cornell has operated in New York City, dating to the opening of what is now Weill Cornell Medicine in 1898. In addition to the medical college, numerous schools and colleges, including Engineering, Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR), Human Ecology, Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP), and several others currently maintain academic programs based in the city. Cornell Tech, which opened its campus on Roosevelt Island in fall 2017, represents an enormous expansion of Cornell’s NYC presence.
Our ability to operate academic programs in NYC creates unprecedented opportunities for the entire university. These include:
- Direct access by Cornell students and faculty to the cultural opportunities of one of the world’s greatest cities.
- Connections to industry and educational and cultural institutions that can offer collaborative research possibilities and internships.
- Pathways for Cornell students and faculty to engage firsthand in defining problems and developing solutions to meet the needs of city environments in a world that is increasingly urban.
- Potential ways to address dual-career needs for faculty and staff; for example, through “hybrid” jobs that might include part-time telecommuting.
And, of course, there are exciting possibilities that come from rich collaborations across our three main campuses: Ithaca, Cornell Tech, and Weill Cornell Medicine.
At the same time, we are not and do not seek to be an urban university. A distinctive feature of Cornell is its Ithaca campus, the basis for the university’s core culture. Thus, as we explore how to capitalize on our expanding NYC footprint, we must first and foremost look to ideas that complement, enhance, and enrich work done in Ithaca.
The goal of this committee is to envision what Cornell’s presence in NYC might look like over the next decade. This is intentionally a “visioning” committee, with no guarantee for the resources to implement the specific vision that arises. However, only by giving voice to the imagination of our faculty can we chart a path, determine what is desirable and feasible, and identify or generate resources to execute the vision.
Notably, the visioning group has not been asked to address Cornell Tech’s or Weill Cornell Medicine’s future plans. Planning for the next phase of Cornell Tech (Phase II) is underway, and those plans must be developed under clear guidelines specified in our agreement with the City of New York. Similarly, Weill Cornell Medicine, like all of Cornell’s individual schools and colleges, conducts long-range planning. The visioning committee is encouraged to learn about the evolving plans for Cornell Tech and Weill Cornell Medicine, and to take those plans into account. However, the focus of the visioning committee is on activities in NYC more broadly. Some of these activities might be situated on Roosevelt Island or the Weill Cornell Medicine campus, but this would be a secondary consideration.
By definition, visioning exercises are wide-ranging; nevertheless, the committee should, at a minimum, consider the following questions:
- Are the opportunities listed above the right ones? How might they be refined (e.g., are there particular cultural opportunities on which we should focus)? Are there other opportunities that should be added?
- What specific types of programs—educational, research, outreach/public engagement—should we consider locating in NYC? Should we focus on one of these areas (educational versus research versus outreach/public engagement)? How do the recommended programs complement and enhance our work in Ithaca?
- How should we be thinking about our physical presence in the city? For example, should we focus on programs where students and faculty spend extended periods of time (e.g., a semester) in NYC, or is it better to focus on short-term visits? If additional space in NYC is needed for our programs, is it essential that it be in Manhattan, or might it make sense to consider the other boroughs, especially the western part of Queens and the South Bronx?
- Are there opportunities to enhance the stature of our professional and graduate programs through the establishment of complementary NYC–based experiences?
- Are there programs that we should consider that would bring people from NYC to Ithaca for short- or long-term visits?
- How might we use our relative proximity to NYC to address dual-career issues that arise in faculty recruitment and retention?
Again, these are starting points; one of the committee’s key responsibilities is to think broadly and creatively about possibilities.
The other responsibility of the committee is to solicit input from the wider university community, especially the faculty, using whatever approach they feel best (e.g., town halls, attendance at faculty meetings, or email or web surveys). The committee is encouraged to meet directly with the vice president for alumni affairs and development and the vice president for university relations and their staff, who can also arrange meetings with other key stakeholders (e.g., alumni).
The committee should meet with the president and provost at least once before the end of the 2017 fall semester to provide an interim report, and should produce a final report by May 1, 2018. The president and the provost are available to meet with the committee additionally as needed, and will also request that academic deans, including at Cornell Tech and Weill Cornell Medicine, make themselves available. Administrative staff support will be provided.