October 26, 2015

Garrett Emphasizes Student, Faculty Experience at Address

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President Elizabeth Garrett spoke about her commitment to supporting faculty, the student experience at Cornell and cross-campus collaboration in her inaugural State of the University Address Friday morning to attendees of the 65th joint Trustee-Council Annual Meeting.

The theme of the weekend-long meeting was “Global Cornell,” according to Board of Trustees Chair Robert S. Harrison ’76, who opened the program. Cornell is at the vanguard of addressing numerous global challenges, with both students and faculty “making a difference on a global scale,” he said.


President Elizabeth Garrett addresses Trustees and members of the Cornell University Council at a meeting Friday in Myron Taylor Hall. (Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Staff Photographer)

Garrett echoed a similar vision of Cornell’s presence and growth on the global stage.

Speaking first about faculty, Garrett announced that the University had raised $638 million for faculty support, including $59 million for faculty renewal, and announced a goal of hiring 80 to 100 new faculty members “and perhaps more in the coming years.”

“Our commitment to great faculty spans the disciplines,” Garrett said, referencing construction projects such as Klarman Hall that will benefit the humanities departments, as well as new grants for science, technology, engineering and mathematics research such as a recent grant of nearly $5 million awarded to The Center for Advanced Computing.

Garrett also noted that many current undertakings involve interdepartmental collaboration between the arts and sciences, with “those two disciplines learn[ing] new things about themselves through the eyes of the other.”

Cornell is especially successful with its grant proposal acceptance rate, according to Garrett. Among the successes this year was an $8-million grant and an invitation to participate in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program, awarded by the National Science Foundation to The Nanoscale Science and Technology Facility.

The University is also now partnering with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to open a $10 million cancer center dedicated to developing nanotechnology therapies, Garrett said.

These efforts towards advancement must continue and must be intensified, according to Garrett, who said that Cornell needs to be “creative in seeking support for the research in all of our disciplines” and “must continue to aggressively seek funding, from governmental agencies as well as philanthropic sources.”

In light of “the entrepreneurial spirit [that] has always characterized what we do,” Garrett also announced a new partnership with Blackstone Launchpad, a campus-based entrepreneurship program.

Garrett said that the program’s main goals are to first help students develop their “entrepreneurial ideas” and then to convince them to stay local in order to order to reinvest their training in the regional economy.

The second major theme Garrett discussed was the student body.

“Our students are simply amazing,” she said. “It is important to provide ample support so they both contribute to and gain from the academic experience at Cornell.”

Earlier this year, Garrett presented a number of initiatives to improve the graduate and professional student experience. Moreover, the University is in the process of implementing new graduate and professional degrees across its many campuses. Some of these programs involve collaboration with international schools, such as programs run through the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute  and a new MBA program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

“We will explore how to encourage additional collaborations of this sort,” Garrett said. “These sorts of programs will keep Cornell at the forefront of the higher education.”

Garrett said she hopes to facilitate similar experiences for undergraduates at Cornell.

Engaged Cornell — a 10-year, $150 million initiative seeded with a $50 million commitment from the Einhorn Family Trust — “aims to establish community engagement and real world learning as a hallmark of the Cornell undergraduate experience,” according to Garrett.

This initiative will also work with Global Cornell to extend international opportunities to the undergraduate population. Similarly, with the help of Andrew Paul ’78, Garrett said a new College of Agriculture and Life Sciences global fellows program would support 25 to 30 undergraduates each year “in the pursuit of challenging, professionally-focused internships to enhance and complement their career goals through cultural immersion internationally.”

She also announced the opening of the University’s first international office in Shanghai, China. Cornell currently has 75 separate memorandums of agreements with Chinese institutions. More than 125 undergraduates studied abroad in China last year, while approximately 1,600 Chinese students studied at Cornell. In addition, more than 1,200 Cornell alumni live in China, with 300 of them based in Shanghai.

After discussing the myriad achievements across Cornell’s campuses, Garrett articulated her third theme: the need for cross-campus connections.

“We already have many cross campus collaborations, but we must have more, we must do better in this area,” she said.

Garrett also announced her decision to put funding towards encouraging these collaborations and “to begin a new program providing feasibility and planning grants to create new academic programs that span Cornell Tech and Ithaca.”

Describing Cornell as “at once realistic and idealistic,” Garrett challenged the Board of Trustees and council members.

“Let us build on the visionary purpose of Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, and let us embrace the quest for something better that is also part of our heritage,” she said.