Presidential Archives

Call to Engagement: Eight Questions

The Call to Engagement invites discussion of the eight questions provided below. These questions are intended to explore fundamental issues regarding the future for the university. There are no right or wrong answers. Your input is valuable because each voice in this discussion serves to enrich the voices that have come before and will come after. Each voice will nurture a better understanding of what can be possible on the horizon for Cornell.

  1. What should we be teaching our students? What intellectual dispositions, character traits, and essential knowledge should we be nurturing? How can we inspire our undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become intellectual and moral leaders of their communities? How can we prepare them for well-rounded lives that incorporate artistic, athletic, cultural, humanitarian, political, and social dimensions?
  2. How should we be teaching? Have new technologies and research on how students learn created possibilities for better pedagogy, or are they mere distractions? What kind of mentorship, inside and outside the classroom, should we provide our students at the different stages of their educations?
  3. Whom should we be teaching? What mix of undergraduates, graduate students, professional students, and non-degree students will best help Cornell achieve its educational mission?
  4. Where should we be present? As our world has changed, we have added new places where we teach those who would earn Cornell degrees. How much should we be extending ourselves, our resources, and our reputation around the globe?
  5. What does our land-grant mission mean today? What forms of extension and public service are the best modern expression of Senator Morrill’s program for having outstanding universities contribute to the practical education of society? Should we do more to ensure that the fruits of our research become part of the fabric of the larger society?
  6. How should we collaborate? We already collaborate with other great universities in the United States and around the world, on projects large and small. What other institutional partnerships, international and domestic, might permit a scale of endeavor that would allow us to accomplish things we cannot do alone? With whom might we collaborate, closer to home, to enhance the upstate New York economy and/or strengthen our ties to New York City?
  7. Should we be identifying special domains of research emphasis where Cornell is unusually well situated to make enduring and significant contributions? Can such an identification be reconciled with the highly adaptive decentralization that has been one of the hallmarks of research innovation at Cornell? We have already identified some candidates for special emphasis: information science and computing technology, post-genomic life sciences, and nanotechnology. Additional themes that have the potential to draw on multiple disciplines where Cornell has great strength might include: technology and society; race and religion; globalization’s consequences; humanity’s relationship to the natural and built environment; peace, liberty, and security; and global health.
  8. How should the university be organized? Our complex web of institutional structures and processes has, for the most part, provided a healthy mix of stability and flexibility. But are some features anachronisms? Do new forms of knowledge production and dissemination require different structures? Might organizational changes better enable faculty, students, and staff to achieve their individual and institutional ambitions?