November 1, 2004

Lehman Unveils New Plans for Expansion

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President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 unveiled his vision of expanding Cornell’s international and scientific breadth during his State of the University address on Friday morning, proposing that the school should strive at the scientific forefront of three particular fields by 2015, the University’s 150th anniversary.

Speaking in front of a predominantly trustee and alumni audience at Statler Auditorium, Lehman most notably proposed creating a new facility to be completed within the next five to six years, solely for the field of computing and information science. Lehman noted that the study is currently divided among a variety of colleges. The affiliated majors are now under the umbrella of the Faculty of Computing and Information Science.

In addition, Lehman also voiced his intention to further Cornell’s role both in areas pertaining to the genomics revolution. Already, Cornell is investing approximately $500 million in the New Life Sciences Initiative to expand University research in the sciences and is also co-sponsoring the Bridging the Rift Initiative in the Middle East, which would create a “Library of Life.”

Finally, Lehman emphasized the need for Cornell to also use its resources to examine sustainability in the age of development. Considering the expansion of the global economy and technological development, Lehman said that the University’s reach would enable it to tackle these issues.

“I think those are the three areas that are really the most pressing ones we’re going to face and the challenges are so complex, that we just need every effort from every direction that we can get to solve them,” said President Emeritus Frank H. T. Rhodes.

Lehman also addressed his vision of Cornell being increasingly integrated in the global community as a “transnational University.” Already, along with BTR and the Weill Medical College in Qatar, Lehman has started to build relations between foreign institutions, and will be traveling to China this week to complete agreements between the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering with Peking University and Ching-hua University, respectively.

The agreement with Ching-hua will be a research partnership in areas such as nanotechnology while the pact with Peking will enable those who are in the new China and Asia-Pacific Studies major to study abroad in China for a semester. CAPS will be offered in Fall 2005.

In addition, Lehman said the School of Hotel Administration is close to signing an agreement with the Nanyang Technical University — a deal which could possibly be finalized this week. The pact would create a joint-degree program between the two schools.

In coinciding with his theme of integration, Lehman said that the prospect of maintaining Cornell’s socioeconomic diversity will be challenging — citing the importance of maintaining steady tuition rates, while providing strong financial aid programs which would enable the University to continue its need-blind admissions policy. To tackle this issue, Lehman said that Cornell would have to work hard to lobby both local and national government bodies.

“I know that he’s, as is everyone, very concerned about tuition and ensuring that kids can attend Cornell and they’re not excluded from this University just because of tuition,” said student-elected trustee Jackie Koppell ’05.

In accomplishing his vision over the next 11 years, especially with the three particular research areas he addressed, Lehman said that over the next couple of months, faculty members and deans will be assembled by Provost Biddy Martin in each field to implement plans in the upcoming years.

“All of these areas are very big. They are very important and they require the marshalling of a lot of human and financial resources,” Lehman said. “We have to be able to, at the same time we are doing work in these areas, also [support] our core strength in every discipline on campus. That is a critical challenge.”

Over the majority of his young tenure, Lehman devoted time to learning about the different parts of the University and gathering ideas for a potential vision — a perspective he unveiled on Friday. One method Lehman used to develop ideas is through his Call to Engagement –a campus-wide e-mail that asked the University community to reflect on broad questions concerning Cornell.

After considering over 1,000 e-mails, Lehman released a report reflecting on the Call on Oct. 13, and said that the influence of the responses “cannot possibly be overstated.”

But while Lehman took over a year to formulate and present his vision, much of the work is still to come.

“I think President Lehman has established a road map for the University where we want to travel over the next 11 years to the year 2015,” said Board of Trustees Chair Peter C. Meinig ’62. “What I really like about [the three areas he spoke about] is there’s a destination, but it’s very inclusive. It includes all areas of the University and we are going to build on the great strengths that we have at Cornell for many, many years.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Editor