NYC visioning committee reports high interest, growth potential

Members of the President’s Visioning Committee on Cornell in New York City held an open forum and discussion March 27, sharing findings from a recent campus survey and asking for additional feedback to help shape the parameters and scope of their recommendations.

The 11-member faculty committee’s charge is to envision what the university’s presence in New York City broadly could look like over the next decade by identifying ideas that complement, enrich and enhance the work of the Ithaca campus through educational, research and public engagement programs.

Committee Chair Noliwe Rooks, associate professor of Africana studies and feminist, gender and sexuality studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that President Martha E. Pollack purposely formed the group as a visioning committee, not as a task force, so that recommendations, not implementation, would be the goal.

About 50 people attended the forum, which was livestreamed so that NYC-based Cornellians could participate and also ask questions in real time.

Of the 2,600 surveys sent in February to faculty members, extension staff, academic leadership, student support services staff and others, 649 were completed, Rooks said. Nearly 75 percent of all respondents said they expected to have at least “some” collaborations between Ithaca or Geneva and the New York City campuses or programs, and almost a third said they expected to have “constant and ongoing” collaborations.

Survey respondents also reported heavy interest in collaborations with Weill Cornell Medicine, exploring student engaged learning opportunities, pursuing new collaborations on faculty research and grant-funded collaborative projects, and taking advantage of the NYC area’s expanded communities for outreach activities and using the urban environment for studies and teaching.

“Extension is central to what we’re doing there,” Rooks said.

Rooks said one finding the committee didn’t expect was a heightened interest by Cornellians in NYC in working with and partnering with faculty, students and staff in Ithaca.

“We needed to be thinking in both directions,” Rooks said, adding that NYC-based faculty want more access to experts in Ithaca and expanded potential collaborations.

Survey respondents expressed interest in expanding connections and collaborations with industry, and they also saw huge benefits to recruitment, retention and dual-career couples if challenges to improving and growing collaborations can be overcome. Challenges primarily included housing and transportation access, general hurdles inherent to multiple campus collaborations and differing policies and processes. For example, some of Cornell’s colleges and schools allow joint appointments in Ithaca and NYC, but others do not.

The committee began its work in December with a visit to many of Cornell’s program sites in New York City. Rooks said she was impressed with the scope of the footprint the university already has.

“I didn’t know our presence was already so robust – and long-standing,” she said.

Committee members have since also engaged in discussions with deans and department chairs over the past two months.

Four main areas of interest have emerged from the committee’s work so far which are likely to be the focus of many of its recommendations: Engaged Cornell work in NYC; research and educational partnerships with schools, government agencies and nonprofits; arts and cultural collaborations; and professional programs.

Diane Burton, a committee member and ILR School faculty member who also is the provost’s fellow for public engagement, said there also is great desire for more flexible space being made available for researchers wanting to collaborate, to host meetings and for other work-related activities in NYC. She pointed to the recent announcement of the ILR School’s expansion in Manhattan as progress already underway toward meeting that need.

Rooks asked for Cornellians to continue to send questions, feedback and ideas to the committee via email.

“The goal is not to reproduce Ithaca in New York City,” she explained, saying that their work is not to add or replicate standalone degree programs, but to find collaborative opportunities, “having people working together in NYC across colleges. It’s an opportunity to expand what Cornell does.”

“Those are the lanes that are guiding us as we put together a more robust proposal,” she said.

Recommendations from the committee are due to Pollack on May 1.

Next steps include updating the website with the survey results so they can be widely shared; and the committee will host a series of small-group discussion sessions April 5-13 in New York City and Ithaca hosted by faculty members that will delve into specific collaboration focus areas. Because there are a limited number of spots in those small-group discussion sessions, they will first be offered to respondents who completed the survey, Rooks said.

A recording of the March 27 forum is available online.

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli