Administrators unveiled new details on the formation of the Cornell College of Business, addressing undergraduate and graduate students at an open forum in Malott Hall Wednesday.
Dean of the Johnson School of Business and incoming dean of the College of Business Soumitra Dutta said the “paramount” goal of the new college is student success.
“Our goal remains that student success in every possible manner is not just preserved but, much more importantly, strengthened and enhanced in the ways in which we believe, based on the feedback from the stakeholder groups, needs to happen,” Dutta said. “As you look at the action plans and the future, you can be assured that student success is a paramount objective for us, and we are always cognizant of the fact that your success is our success.”
Chris Barrett, deputy dean of the College of Business and co-head of the faculty governance committee, said preserving the distinct faculty programs of the three schools — Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Johnson Graduate School of Management and School of Hotel Administration — is one of the administration’s main goals.
“It’s very difficult to be one big homogenous school and have faculty that are truly dedicated to multiple student populations at once,” Barrett said. “If you mix them all together and have one single faculty looking after all of them at once, you typically are either going to gravitate towards the MBAs or the undergraduates.”
Having three distinct schools will help maintain “a really close-knit student and faculty that’s really one of the hallmarks of business education at Cornell,” Barrett said.
He also pointed out that business is one of the most popular majors and minors at Cornell, promising that the new college will be able to address popular demand in a “much more forceful and effective manner.”
Barrett explained that the new college will also strive to solve the present problem of limited elective offerings within the three schools the college will merge.
“By being able to create a community of scholars and teachers across the three schools, we can much more effectively leverage the resources in all three schools to enhance the programs for students,” he said.
The business college will be organized by school, disciplinary areas and multidisciplinary themes, and each school will retain tenure homes and primary academic units, according to Barrett. An elected faculty policy committee will be formed in the fall to provide policy input and oversight.
The two student synergy groups have helped to delineate how the college should approach curriculum and academic affairs, student and career services and student governance, according to Rohit Verma, dean designate of external relations for the college.
Among student requests were a desire for consistency in class sizes, priority access across schools, additional majors and opportunities, the improvement of cross-school course coordination and increased student input, Verma relayed. They also suggested coordinating international opportunities and career services to broaden the college’s range of offerings.
Students also requested the maintenance of the current student governance structure but expressed a desire to add a college level governance body that would interact directly with the dean.
The three alumni groups recommended ways to continue engagement and feedback as the college’s development progresses, including continuing coverage of the college’s progress and collaboration with the school’s communicators.
Dutta said the college’s next steps will be to appoint deans, associate deans and area coordinators. He stressed that the college will also continue to engage broadly across all stakeholder groups via regular community updates, periodic meetings, feedback pathways and advisory councils and governance bodies.
“All this can only happen if we do it together,” he said.
Dutta noted that each school will maintain its own admissions process and will be based in its own separate building.
“The College of Business by definition will have to embrace and celebrate the differences in cultures because all the three schools have not only their own distinctive culture but also their own distinctive focus,” he said. “The DNA of the College of Business will have to embrace these differences, celebrate these differences and use them as a strength.”
Barrett added that the administration faces the challenge of helping the faculty “see and seize the upside and structure things in a way that hedges against the downside.”
Each of the three faculty groups voiced the same concern, showing that they are all on the same page, despite initial hesitation, according to Barrett.
“The more we start to appreciate how much we have in common, the quicker we break down these natural fears that some of our colleagues hold and achieve the aspirations that most of our colleagues are seeing in this opportunity,” Barrett said.
Provost Michael Kotlikoff also addressed alumni concerns, saying that the University strives to “make this place great in the future, not just to celebrate greatness in the past.”
“There are still individuals who are never going to buy into this, who believe that the University should not change from when they went to school 30 or 40 years ago … we are doing what we think we need to do as stewards of the University,” Kotlikoff said.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the location of the open forum as Willard Straight Hall when it fact the discussion took place in Malott Hall.
A previous version of this story also attributed two final quotes about the vision for the college’s future to Chris Barrett when in fact the quotes were a response by Michael Kotlikoff to a student inquiry.