August 21, 2007

Cornell Named Hottest Ivy

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Ithaca is cold, as the t-shirts proclaim, but Cornell is now the hottest Ivy, according to an article in last week’s Newsweek magazine. The article provides no precise definition of “hot,” but it certainly is not talking about Cornell’s hot weather or its burning good looks. In the article’s own words, the subjective survey of what Newsweek considers to be the 25 hottest universities is simply a “quick and colorful snapshot of today’s most interesting schools.”
The blurb on Cornell focuses on its comprehensive education — its hotel school, “world-class engineering college and top-flight liberal arts, science and fine arts.”
President David Skorton also emphasized this aspect of the University and mentioned several other reasons why students choose Cornell. These include the faculty, student body and beautiful campus.
“I have spent a lot of time getting to know the undergraduates and a lot of time asking them why they chose Cornell. It’s only the students’ opinions that matter, not mine,” said Skorton.
Newsweek also refers to Skorton’s own character as part of a Cornellian’s pride. Not only is he the first in his family to have a college education, but he is also a cardiologist, jazz musician and computer scientist, according to Newsweek.
But the one distinct feature the article highlights is that no other Ivy League school can come close to Cornell’s status as a land-grant university.
“We have a formal land-grant public service mission… [Cornell] has some features of a big school … It has a lot of athletic spirit and a marching band, as well as having a private school feel,” said Skorton.
Certainly, however, many more components mesh together to create Cornell.
“I think a lot of interesting things have happened to Cornell in the past five or six years. It is ever more apparent that Cornell is a wonderful school to have an undergraduate education,” said Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’67. He pointed out Cornell’s nanotechnology facility, Mars Rover and “fantastic alumni organization that tangibly supports Cornell.”
Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for Student and Academic Services, highlighted two other areas Cornell has been developing — the living and learning experience of the students and their health and well-being. The growth of the North Campus and West Campus residential systems, as well as the newly built Noyes Community Recreation Center, are evidence of progress.
“All these things come together to create a whole greater than the parts,” Hubbell said.
Though it is difficult to say what specifically prompted Cornell’s new status as the hottest Ivy, recently, and more tangibly, the number of undergraduate applications to Cornell has surged, according to Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment. In the past four years, applications have increased by 49 percent.
The “slogan,” as Hubbell referred to it, will continue to serve as positive publicity.
“A little publicity goes a long way, especially when it’s Newsweek. It will continue to attract students and faculty and staff … It affirms our place because we are in competition with other universities,” Hubbell said.
While today Cornellians past and present can revel and rave on behalf of their alma mater, universities are constantly battling waves of trends, as the Newsweek article mentions. What may be hot today may not be tomorrow.
“I’m always hesitant to shout these things from the rooftops,” said Murphy. “If you ask students what motivates them to attend a university, guidebooks are certainly not in the top five.”
Nevertheless, being hottest now is certainly welcome affirmation of Cornell’s success as a university.
“I am delighted and thrilled to see the faculty and students and staff recognized,” Skorton said.