February 1, 2016

O’TOOLE| Enhancing Business Education at Cornell

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This past weekend, the Board of Trustees created the Cornell College of Business. In a meeting held entirely in open session, the Board unanimously voted to change Cornell’s bylaws to add the College of Business as one of the University’s major colleges, schools and other major academic units.

This vote came after several hours of impressively thoughtful and respectful presentation and discussion. However, this vote was also preceded by over a month of controversy about the administration’s intention to create a College of Business consisting of the School of Hotel Administration, the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

My initial reaction to the news of this initiative was — like many of yours — mixed. I was excited about the possibilities that this could create for our students, faculty, staff and broader University. But I was also concerned about the seeming lack of constituent input and poor communication of the concept.

However, since the initial announcement, my excitement has grown and my concerns have shrunk. President Garrett and Provost Kotlikoff have presented a bold vision to vastly improve undergraduate and graduate business education at Cornell, about which you have and will continue to hear many details. They have proceeded thoughtfully with a concept that already addresses many of the concerns and needs expressed by students, staff, faculty and alumni from each of the programs that will be united under the new College of Business, and those who are not included in the new College. And they will now engage in deeper conversations with these important constituencies to flesh out the structure and implementation of the new College of Business and ensure that the identities of these three schools and their academic programs are enhanced, rather than diminished.

As a trustee, I believe that the College of Business will improve Cornell.

It will give our strong business programs the attention and stature they deserve and it will make our institution stronger overall. The College of Business will further Cornell’s mission of serving the world’s needs, as the only business school with the expertise to address the world’s major challenges: sustainability, shared prosperity and wealth imbalance.

As a student, I believe that the academic and student experience will improve for those students who are studying business at Cornell.

Cornell’s vast curriculum is one of its greatest strengths, but its resulting decentralization is one of its greatest challenges. Opportunities for collaboration are among the most valuable experiences that students have at a diverse institution like Cornell. As an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt and professional student at Cornell, I remember best my coursework and extracurricular activities that expanded my interests and connected me with people with whom I would not ordinarily interact in my field.

The Cornell College of Business will integrate our business curricula, providing students with the opportunity to pursue a more interesting and well-rounded business education.  Further, the student life experience will be enhanced by close collaborations between students and faculty with similar interests but different perspectives and expertise.

It was for these reasons that the Board of Trustees unanimously supported the administration’s bold vision to transform our University. This change was visionary, necessary and will transform Cornell to the benefit of our University and its students.

Annie O’Toole is the graduate student-elected trustee. She can be reached a  [email protected]. Trustee Viewpoint appears on alternate Tuesdays this semester.