Since September 2017, the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business has actively collaborated with the City of Ithaca to hold a professional program, titled LEADBold, which the University is hoping will enhance the region’s public engagement initiative by sharing the resources of Cornell professors with the greater community.
Held at the Tompkins County Public Library, LEADBold, which stands for “learning, engaging, anticipating, demonstrating boldly,” is a pro-bono professional development program for individuals employed within the Ithaca and Tompkins County area to enhance their learning and knowledge.
According to Candace Maxian, assistant director of external relations for Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, the main goal of LEADBold is to apply the knowledge and skills taught at Cornell to residents of Tompkins County in order to create a community-level learning experience.
“This whole program exemplifies Cornell SC Johnson College’s public engagement effort,” Maxian said. “Public engagement is something that our college feels very strongly about, and this is an opportunity to put that idea into action.”
The program consists of workshops, including a faculty-led presentation followed by Q&A, that have ranged in topics from “Effective Management Communication” to “I am too Young, Why Should I Think About Retirement.”
According to Maxian, feedback from program participants has been extremely positive.
“People are enjoying the seminars and learning something new and interesting,” Maxian said. “It is a mutually beneficial and collaborative situation.”
Rohit Verma, dean of external relations of the business college, mentioned that the creation of LEADBold had its challenges and took a lot of effort from both sides for the program to start running.
For example, Verma stated that one of the main challenges of the program was encouraging professors on campus to perform the workshops for the Ithaca community pro-bono.
“One of the biggest challenges when you start something new is to create the program without knowing how it will get supported,” Verma said. “In the long run, we would like to identify and develop resources that can support something like this on a much bigger scale.”
Verma explained that the main goal of the College of Business is to teach, which means that the faculty must bring real world problems and issues into the classroom.
The engagement with the community allows Cornell to connect with and learn from the surrounding community, leveraging real-world issues and using them to enhance what is taught to students.
“This program is part of our larger effort to make public engagement an integral part of our work at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business,” Verma said. “It will help our students, so they can apply their knowledge for real problems and make a positive impact to the society.”
Joseph Thomas, interim dean of the business college, said that he is pleased the college has the ability to provide employees within the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County the opportunity to engage with the Cornell campus.
“I am also very thankful to the City of Ithaca for providing valuable information and data for an MBA immersion project this semester as part of this collaboration,” Thomas said. “Such support allows us to bring ‘real-world’ context within our educational programs to enhance student learning and significantly add to their Cornell experience.”
Verma said that once more faculty begin to focus their energy at looking at their issues locally, Cornell’s research program will become relevant and applicable on a wider scale.
“Cornell is a major research university because we seek out and develop new knowledge,” Verma said. “New knowledge, especially related to business and social sciences, cannot always be created in the lab. We have to go out in the community, to identify and explore complex problems and attempt to solve them.”
Verma explained that the ability and willingness of the campus to help residents of Tompkins County and vice versa will extend the benefits of public engagement to the entire community.
“We would like to see our college as a much more integrated part of the Ithaca community,” Verma said. “If we can find a way to engage faculty and students with the community, then together we can make the area which hosts our university and college much better off.”
Mayor of Ithaca Svante Myrick ’09 expressed appreciation for the program.
“We’re grateful for LEADBold – it has provided City employees with valuable information and education that has enabled us to better serve the public,” Myrick said.