March 26, 2013

Tech Campus’ Inaugural Class Settles Into the Semester

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Two months into their first semester at Cornell NYC Tech, the eight graduate students in the school’s beta class have been getting a taste of what life in the entrepreneurial world is like through working on industry projects and participating in informative workshops.

Students chose entrepreneurial projects — which were proposed by companies that students will work with throughout the semester — to work on just days after the tech campus’ first classes began in late January, according to tech campus Dean Daniel Huttenlocher.

Companies proposed one or two projects that students would be able to work on, Huttenlocher said. There were approximately 30 projects proposed, according to Cathy Dove, vice president of the tech campus. Students’ projects will be revealed at the conclusion of the semester.

“The idea of this structure is that we’re using the companies to bring the real world nature of the problems to the table, but we’re having this done in the University context where we still know how to guide the students,” Huttenlocher said. “It’s an on-campus experience with a company,”

In their proposal, companies said what they thought the final outcome of the project would be, as well as how the creation of intellectual property will be handled.

Most of the companies working with students are either those that were involved in the process Cornell worked on to earn the right to build the campus in New York City or those that have had close working relations with Huttenlocher or Greg Pass, chief entrepreneurial officer of the tech campus, Huttenlocher said.

He added that, in the future, a more systematic approach for how companies can propose ideas for students to work on will be established.

In addition to having a traditional faculty advisor, each student enrolled in the Master of Engineering Program in Computer Science also has a mentor from the tech industry, Huttenlocher said.

“I think it’s great for the companies and for the students to have this kind of engagement,” he said.

Students have also been exposed to the entrepeneureal aspect of their curriculum through talks with various industry members. Rather than having a traditional week of classes, the tech campus’ curriculum has been condensed into four days — lasting Monday through Thursday — with Friday being a practicum day, according to Huttenlocher.

Dove described the practicums as “fabulous” and said they were giving students “amazing interactions.”

Each of the workshops is lead by a person or group from the tech industry and lasts about two to four hours, according to Huttenlocher. Some of the speakers have included members from the design firm IDEO, attorneys who discussed intellectual property protection and a panel of early stage entrepreneurs.

“[The practicums] tend to be things where people are sharing experiences or spending a couple of hours in a workshop teaching some specific skills,” Huttenlocher said. “Those have been going great.”

Various organizations have also been understanding and helpful to the tech campus’ cause, Huttenlocher said.

In late February, a $2.5-million graduate fellowship was established by James and Marilyn Simons, the founders of the Simons Foundation, to provide financial assistance for students at the tech campus.

Currently, about two dozen industry partners have been working with the tech campus through the student projects and practicums, according to Huttenlocher.

Dove also said Google — the host of the campus’ current home in Manhattan — has been incredibly supportive of the school.

“Google has been amazing, and that really reflects on how important they think this initiative is,” she said.

In addition, Dove said in a statement to the Roosevelt Island community that students have already forged connections with industry partners.

“It’s been an exciting and rewarding couple of months as both the students and faculty jumped right into exploring the new academic model that we’re introducing at Cornell Tech,” she said in the statement.

Original Author: Tyler Alicea