October 30, 2007

University Council Aids Students, Cornell

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It is likely that many students will graduate from Cornell without ever interacting with members of Cornell’s University Council. However, what is even more likely is that the Council’s decisions will impact students’ every day lives and their college experiences.
The Cornell University Council was founded in 1950 by Francis H. Scheetz ’16. Its establishment formed a permanent group of advisors to help Cornell with fundraising and development work. Since then, the Council has expanded its functions and now has a large array of advisory committees that serve Cornell in various fields.
The Council’s annual meeting was held from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20 and included President David Skorton’s annual State of the University address.
Skorton reported to the University Council that this year Cornell raised $754.8 million dollars, and the Cornell Annual Fund raised $18.4 million, a 29 percent increase from 2006.
Many students, including Daniel Rodriguez ’11, wish they could have heard Skorton’s address.
“I wish the Council publicized its events more and encouraged students to get involved,” Rodriguez said. “Since I have no idea what kind of stuff they do … Considering how active our student population is, I would think there is a large student audience who would also want to participate.”
Mike Wine ’09 had also never heard of the Council.
“I think students should be able to play a role. While I probably wouldn’t be one of the students, there are definitely many people who would be interested,” he said.
Stephen Kresovich, Cornell’s vice provost for life sciences, is one of the current faculty members who feels the Council is effective.
“The Council is an important group of leaders supporting University initiatives and building an extended network of individuals that provide counsel and insights to make Cornell a stronger institution. It’s an active, thoughtful, supportive group, so it’s energizing to participate in these activities,” he said.
Marisue Taube ’75, director of the Office of Councils, expressed how the alumni really enjoy helping improve Cornell life.
“Alumni receive great satisfaction from their involvements, and Cornell is extremely grateful for their help and support. Because of their knowledge and commitment, Council members are the best ambassadors we could hope for. They are enthusiastic, helpful and always willing to assist when asked.”
She also explained how the Council influences students’ lives despite the fact that students’ are unaware of its presence.
“Most council members are donors, so council members individually and collectively have a huge impact on the students here, but it’s invisible to the students right now, or at least until they get older and want to connect more with alumni,” Taube said.
The Council’s mission, according to its website, is “to provide an opportunity to exchange information between the University and the communities to mobilize alumni in focused efforts that benefit the University and provide the University with a source of expertise.”
The Council includes various committees that address all areas of Cornell life. Currently, there are 440 members on the Council who operate on a four-year rotating term schedule.
Taube further described the Council members’ myriad of duties, explaining how they function as representatives for Cornell in both their home cities and businesses.
“Their role as ambassadors for Cornell include representing Cornell to prospective students, assisting with governmental relations, hosting faculty for events, chairing and serving on Cornell volunteer organizations, participating in their college advisory groups, mentoring Cornell students and recent grads and, in general, responding to requests for assistance in their cities, businesses or regions,” Taube said.
Meanwhile, many students still wish that the Council would share its duties more openly with students.
“The Council sounds like a pretty official commission. I would hope that whatever they do is for my benefit, but in reality I have absolutely no idea what they are doing. I’m actually a little unnerved that I’ve never heard of it,” Rodriguez said.
Wine agreed with Rodriguez and believed students should be updated on the Council’s operations.
“I’m sure the Council will impact my next couple of years here so I’d like to know more. They sound like important people and it would be interesting to hear updates on what they’re doing,” Wine said.