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Program 'hubs' will define CornellNYC tech campus

In planning a multidisciplinary, entrepreneurial and research-based campus in New York City, Cornell leaders are developing tech campus programs under interdisciplinary domains, or hubs, rather than using the traditional university organization of colleges, schools and departments.

"The new campus will be organized around areas of interdisciplinary research which are also relevant to commercial impact, rather than traditional academic departments," said Cornell President David Skorton. "This will facilitate more meaningful collaboration and better align the campus with Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg's vision for success."

"Our proposal," said Provost Kent Fuchs, "would initially organize the campus around four main research hubs: Mobile Social Interaction; Intelligent, Trustworthy Services; Technologies for a Healthier Life; and Smart Technologies for the Built Environment." Faculty leaders are helping to define the academic content of each hub for the final project proposal, due to the New York City Economic Development Corp. Oct. 28, Fuchs said.

It is expected that faculty and graduate students from many areas -- not limited to engineering and computer science -- will be involved in each of these hubs. Fuchs foresees faculty from, for example, the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management; Architecture, Art and Planning; and the College of Human Ecology; as well as experts in humanities and the arts contributing to the hubs. The goal is to leave room for development and change; in five years, the hubs could be completely different, depending on the growth of technology in particular areas, Fuchs said.

Even so, disciplines within the hubs will have traditional homes in departments and schools in Ithaca. This way, the campus can be closely tied to technology commercialization, but still function with the high academic standards for which Cornell is already well known, in such disciplines as engineering, math, computer science and physical sciences.

"We will still do scholarly research that gets published and changes the knowledge base worldwide," Fuchs said.

Faculty who want to be involved in more traditional science, math or engineering would likely be in Ithaca, Fuchs said. Those who want to be engaged in near-term technology development and want their research to form the basis for new companies and to add to existing technologies might be a better fit for the New York campus. However, there likely will be significant interaction and travel between the campuses.

"The technology world is undergoing rapid change, with the user perspective playing an increasingly important role in the design of systems and online services," said Dan Huttenlocher, dean of the Faculty of Computing and Information Science. "This is an arena in which both Cornell and New York City already excel."

For example, Huttenlocher said, Cornell has led the creation of an interdisciplinary, user-centric approach in the academic world, with its Faculty of Computing and Information Science, and the cross-cutting nature of its research in the computing sciences.

In the commercial world, he said, New York is well known as the home of the leading advertising and media technology companies as well as leading user-focused online communities.

"As partners, Cornell and New York City will catalyze the creation of exciting new companies and technologies -- and new jobs -- in New York," Huttenlocher said.