At a time when many have criticized American universities for their resemblance to corporations, Cornell’s extensive relationships with large for-profit companies prove little to the contrary. Over the past few years, the University has instituted a number of decentralized offices that work within individual colleges and through independent programs to connect with corporations for the purpose of research, philanthropy and recruiting.
The Cornell Center for Materials Research was created over four decades ago with the goal of providing mutual benefits to Cornell and corporations of all sizes. Larger companies have the option of outsourcing their research to Cornell professors and students for a cost that is determined by the length of time researchers are hired for.
“The companies meet with the faculty members and explain what they want to do,” said Michélle van de Walle, industrial partnerships director of CCMR. “The point is that the industry supports specific faculty or students to focus on real-life problems. Any company where there is a fit is welcome.”
Van de Walle spends time connecting with companies through symposiums and conferences. The corporations that end up working with Cornell — which include, among others, General Motors, Kraft and Kodak — have access to the University’s equipment and researchers.
The center also focuses on work with startup companies, entrepreneurs and local businesses. Through a partnership with the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic these groups with expertise, seminars and access to the University’s resources. According to van de Walle, CCMR and Cornell’s faculty have helped spur the creation of a number of successful businesses, such as e2e Materials and Novomer.
“The point of CCMR is unique because we work with companies in different phases,” said van de Walle. “We work with entrepreneurs, start-ups, small, medium and large companies. We try to support the campus by helping to promote these collaborations.”
Many of the University’s individual colleges also have offices designed to make contacts with corporations. In the Johnson School of Management, the office of Corporate Programs works with companies to help recruit students, as well as bring speakers into classrooms and work with companies that want to give to the Johnson School.
“A lot of what we do is developing relationships with companies and looking for ways to help them get visibility among students,” said Gail Fink, director of corporate programs at the Johnson school.
Citi, a banking and investment company, has especially close ties with the Johnson School for recruiting purposes because of the high caliber of Cornell students.
“Citi recruits at a number of universities across the globe. However, the relationship between Citi and Cornell is particularly close, and we have always considered the school to be one of our strongest partners,” said Debbie Bertan, Citi’s director of campus strategy. “Cornell is one of only a handful of target schools where we recruit both at the BA and MBA level. Each year we hire a number of Cornell students for positions in our programs.”
In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Business Partnerships and Corporate Relations Office focuses fairly evenly on soliciting corporate gifts, helping to connect faculty and companies doing research, aiding companies in recruiting students and licensing technology.
“It’s hard to say who’s the biggest resource,” said Jennifer Drumluk, director of business partnerships and corporate relations in CALS. “Agricultural companies are very supportive of the College, as well as companies involved with food science, like PepsiCo and General Mills.”
CALS is also open to creative relationships with corporations. Recently, Ernst & Young gave $800,000 to the College’s Undergraduate Business Program in order to add advanced accounting courses to the curriculum.
“In the wake of high-profile corporate accounting scandals and increased regulatory requirements, there has been an increased demand for students with a deeper understanding of accounting practices,” Jerry Goldman ’72, deputy vice chairman at Ernst & Young told the Cornell Chronicle.
Cornell is also home to the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization, which helps connect companies with cutting edge technology. The Office of Sponsored Programs works to connect Corporations to faculty members performing relevant research as well.
As a whole, Cornell’s different corporate programs are estimated to receive about $500 million per year, according to Laurie Robinson, vice president of alumni affairs and development. Much of this comes from corporations that match individual gifts to the University and from Fortune 500 companies, putting Cornell on track with many other major research universities in terms of corporate involvement.
“We’re right in there with the pack in the size [of our corporate relations programs],” said Robinson. “M.I.T. has invested a lot in corporate development, but they have a huge research arm and they’re unusual.”