The Cornell Tech campus in New York City.

Donor support keeps Cornell Tech on the move

Building on the social-impact mission of Cornell Tech and its world-class technical depth in the heart of New York City, gifts from generous donors continue to promote radical collaboration and allow cutting-edge programming to flourish. As Cornell Tech rapidly evolves, recent gifts have enabled the expansion of transformative impact-oriented programming and deep research expertise.

Break Through Tech program grows

Cornell Tech continues to expand its Break Through Tech program in partnership with Second Muse and funded by Pivotal Ventures (the investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates), the Cognizant U.S. Foundation and Verizon.

Break Through Tech Chicago is now up and running at the University of Illinois, Chicago. This is the first stop for the GET (Gender Equity in Tech) Cities initiative. GET Cities targets gender equality in up-and-coming tech hubs. Chicago was chosen as the first of three hubs; the second hub will be selected by the end of this year. Break Through Tech New York continues to flourish. The original Break Through Tech program started in 2016, and some of the program’s first students graduated in the spring.

Break Through Tech aims to create ecosystems that span classrooms, workplaces and the community to propel women in tech forward, with a particular emphasis on welcoming Black, Latina, Indigenous and first-generation college-bound women and nonbinary students. By providing resources and creating opportunities for academic and professional growth, the program works to ensure that more women are able to discover and pursue their interests and talents in order to positively impact the future of tech.

Over the past eight months, Break Through Tech has stayed focused on the community it serves and its mission, and without exception, all of the program's offerings pivoted to the digital space as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Year after year, WiTNY, now Break Through Tech, has made progress getting women at CUNY, the largest and most diverse urban, public college system in the country, to pursue degrees and careers in tech,” said Judith Spitz, executive director of the Break Through Tech Initiative. “So many of the students we work with never thought the tech industry had a place for them, and the program has been transformational in their lives. Thanks to the new funding from Pivotal Ventures and the Cognizant U.S. Foundation and Verizon, we can scale the model nationally to continue to shift the tech workforce towards inclusivity and diversity.”

As Break Through Tech looks ahead to 2021, they plan to stay focused on their mission to accelerate gender equality in tech.

Find out more about Break Through Tech.

Professorship endowed by Don Follett ’52, Mibs Follett ’51

Building on the Follett Family Fellowship, Don Follett ’52 and Mibs Follett ’51 recently endowed the Don and Mibs Follett Professorship at Cornell Tech. The $5 million endowment will support priority short-term faculty recruiting needs, while establishing a strategic senior faculty position for the campus’ future.

In the coming years, the Follett endowment will support junior faculty and visiting faculty from Ithaca. This flexible support will help the burgeoning campus achieve its ambitious goal of faculty expansion to keep pace with the growing tech ecosystem in New York City. In time, the endowment will be used to award a named position to a senior faculty member, helping to strengthen Cornell Tech’s reputation as a research leader on the global stage.

Established last year, the Follett Family Fellowship encourages Cornell Engineering graduates to pursue master’s degrees at Cornell Tech, boosting the pipeline of students between the two campuses. The $2.5 million fellowship endowment helps Cornell Tech recruit a talented, diverse and high-performing pool of students; in turn, it aids Cornell in retaining top students. In keeping with the work the Follett Family Fellowship has started, the Follett Family Professorship furthers the important bridge building between the University's two campuses, strengthening the connection between Ithaca and NYC and arming Cornell Tech with the resources to achieve its research vision.

“As Cornell Tech looks towards the future, philanthropy is essential to building a campus that reflects New York City’s unparalleled scope and ambition, along with the university’s long history of leadership in engineering and computer science,” said Greg Morrisett, the Jack and Rilla Neafsey Dean and Vice Provost of Cornell Tech. “Between their fellowship and now professorship, Don and Mibs Follett are some of the leading contributors to this important connection between Ithaca and New York City, sharing the same cross-campus mission as great programs like the Sabanci Bridge and Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity.”

Find out more about the Follett Family Fellowship.

Gift supports Cornell Tech faculty, A&S visiting journalist program

A $5 million gift from Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 and Barry Zubrow, announced last month, will support two vital university programs, one in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) and the other at Cornell Tech.

The Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 and Barry Zubrow Fund for Faculty Development at Cornell Tech will be used to support the recruitment and retention of exceptional faculty and postdoctoral fellows, as well as for startup funding for new faculty. The new fund will offer Morrisett support to tackle his top faculty priority: doubling the size of the campus’ 30-person faculty body over the next five years.

“Deep technical expertise in fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and trustworthy and human-centered computing will power the next decade of high impact and transformative work,” Morrisett said. “The Zubrow Fund for Faculty Development will enable Cornell Tech to advance our deep research expertise and create the academic environment necessary to drive such transformative change.”

Additionally, The Jan and Barry Zubrow Distinguished Visiting Journalism Fellows Fund in the College of Arts and Sciences will provide support for the Distinguished Visiting Journalist Program in A&S.

Find out more about the gift from the Zubrows.

This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of Ezra magazine.

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli