February 8, 2001

Sansalone Resigns From eCornell CAO Position Forward

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While eCornell moves forward with plans to offer classes online as early as this summer, it does so without its chief academic officer (CAO), Mary Sansalone.

Sansalone resigned her position on Dec. 1.

“She was really responsible for all the start-up work,” said Francis Pandolfi, chief executive officer of eCornell.

Sansalone has been eCornell’s CAO since last October but had worked on developing eCornell for a year before she took on the official position.

The CAO is “a senior person who understands academic affairs and acts as a bridge between Cornell and eCornell,” said Prof. William Arms, computer science, the head of the provost’s advisory committee on distance learning.

“The [original] intention was that it would become a career change [for Sansalone],” Arms said.

However, just months before eCornell — which Sansalone guided through the Cornell faculty and Board of Trustees — offers its first products, Sansalone opted to leave the company, and took a semester’s leave from the University.

Sansalone could not be reached for comment.

“She had always been considering going into academic administration, and that’s why she made the decision [to step down],” Pandolfi said.

Both Pandolfi and Arms said that there was no rush to fill the position.

Sansalone has been with the company since its inception, and she presented the proposal for eCornell to the Faculty Senate last February. The Senate ratified the proposal for eCornell as a for-profit distance learning corporation last March.

Although the University owns eCornell, eCornell operates independently. The business is run by a separate board of directors, and employs about 25 people.

The Board of Trustees voted to allocate $12 million from the Cornell endowment to eCornell in September as an investment in the start-up company.

In November, eCornell opened an office on the ground floor of 312 College Avenue. This is in addition to the corporation’s offices in New York City and the Village Green, located on Hanshaw Road near the Triphammer Mall.

Courses offered by eCornell cannot be taken for academic credit. eCornell’s courses are limited to non-degree programs in part because of a suggestion from the Arms Committee.

“We’re focusing, at the beginning anyway, on the professional schools,” Pandolfi said.

Pandolfi promised the first eCornell courses by June of this year.

“We’re hoping to bring out products that relate to the Medical School and in ILR [the School of Industrial and Labor Relations],” Pandolfi said.

“We want to get out into the market earlier than expected to test market reaction,” he added.

Pandolfi would not comment on the actual subject matter of the courses, but he did explain how eCornell courses will be conducted.

University faculty members that the company has yet to name will conceive and develop the topics of the course.

“They provide the intellectual property, you could say,” Pandolfi said. “We then take these materials and convert them into a format that can be used on the web.”

Some of the web-based amenities that eCornell’s learning specialists will include in the courses are streaming video, Power Point slides, chat room-style live discussion groups, simulations, games and personal assessment.

“I’m extremely optimistic about the future of eCornell,” Pandolfi said.

Archived article by Maggie Frank