March 17, 2014

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT: An Update on Cornell NYC Tech

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By ROSS GITLIN

Just last week, in a message to the Cornell community, President David Skorton announced that he would become the thirteenth Secretary of the Smithsonian. In picking President Skorton, the Smithsonian has selected an incredibly thoughtful and visionary leader. President Skorton will continue to lead us strongly through our University’s sesquicentennial, then move on to his new role as Secretary. Perhaps one of the most important and enduring legacies that he will leave behind is Cornell NYC Tech.

In 2010, the New York City Economic Development Corporation requested proposals from academic institutions to design and build a world-class applied sciences and engineering graduate school in New York City. The City would provide land and a capital investment to the institution with the best proposal — a modern land grant. The City received seven qualifying responses from seventeen of the world’s best institutions. Cornell, in partnership with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, won the competition and is in the process of building a new campus on Roosevelt Island.

Cornell Tech is currently operating out of a temporary space donated by Google in Chelsea. Google has committed to providing up to 60,000 square feet in its New York building through 2017. The space is an open and collaborative environment where students, staff and faculty interact regularly, reflecting the entrepreneurial spirit of the school and its programs. By 2017, the first phase of construction on Roosevelt Island, which includes the first academic building, a corporate colocation building, where companies can interact with students, and a residential facility, will be complete. At that time, students, staff and faculty will transition from their temporary location in Chelsea to the Roosevelt Island location — a campus built for the twenty-first century.

The Tech Campus houses the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute. It is a 50/50 co-owned institute between Technion and Cornell. The Institute, at full capacity, will comprise approximately one-third of all campus activity; and it will be the center of three educational and research hubs, focusing on Connective Media, Healthier Life and the Built Environment. Starting this fall, students will be able to study towards a Master of Science in Information Systems with a specialization in Connective Media — the first program available through the Institute.

Additionally, starting this summer, The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management will begin offering a one year MBA Program at the Tech Campus. These two new degree programs, the M.S. in Information Systems and the Johnson MBA, will complement the programs already available at the Tech Campus. As it stands right now, students can study only towards a Master of Engineering in Computer Science or undertake Doctoral work under the guidance of the faculty in the City. Cornell Tech will continue to grow and offer more programs as we progress through the decade, and by 2019, the leadership of Cornell Tech hopes to be able to offer eight masters degree programs.

Undergraduates, too, will have plenty of opportunities to learn at Cornell Tech. Already at its temporary home in Chelsea, Cornell Tech has had several undergraduate interns. As the campus transitions to its permanent home on Roosevelt Island, opportunities for undergraduates will surface — perhaps through a program such as a ‘Semester at Cornell Tech’ or through other exciting initiatives.

The academic programs at Cornell Tech are preparing our fellow students to be at the forefront of a rapidly-changing technological landscape. The interdisciplinary nature of study and the daily interactions that students have with top companies are equipping them with the tools necessary to be leaders in existing tech-oriented organizations; advance technological innovation and create the next Facebook, Amazon or Google.

The academic programs at Cornell Tech are preparing our fellow students to be at the forefront of a rapidly-changing technological landscape.

The impact Cornell Tech will have on New York City’s economy will be tremendous. In attracting the best and brightest students and faculty, Cornell Tech will eventually spin off groundbreaking companies. These companies will be developed and commercialized, leading to a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in the City. The NYCEDC estimates that the Applied Sciences Initiative will generate over $6 billion in economic growth for the City’s economy.

Not only will Cornell Tech greatly benefit New York City, but it will also benefit our Cornell campus in Ithaca. Cornell Tech will increase our University’s visibility, both nationally and internationally. Moreover, Cornell Tech provides us with an opportunity to invest in companies created by students at the University; and, furthermore, the Tech campus will likely attract increased donations in support of Cornell. Finally, the presence of Cornell NYC Tech in New York City will provide Cornell with an extraordinary leadership role in an ever-expanding information age.

In the years to come, I look forward to seeing the impact that students, staff and faculty at Cornell Tech will have on our University, New York’s economy and the world.

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