Julia Montgomery Poggi ’25, right, at the University of Ghana.

Global Hubs deepens networks between Cornell and world

A Cornell government professor will lead a field course in Ecuador in January on the politics of sustainable development in Latin America. A local Cornell alumni club is organizing events to help visiting Cornell faculty share their research and connect with alumni in Singapore.

This summer, three STEM field students from Imperial College London studied at Cornell and, in exchange, three Cornell STEM students went to Imperial. And by spring 2023, students will have new opportunities to experience study abroad at universities in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

All of these connections are made possible by an ambitious and innovative new initiative that expands opportunities, provides infrastructure and greases the wheels for faculty, alumni and students across the university to engage with 20 partner universities in 11 locations. In these locations, Cornellians will network, teach, collaborate, intern and study. Officially launched in August, the initiative – called Cornell Global Hubs – is reciprocal for members of these strategically selected peer institutions to similarly travel to and engage with Cornell.

“A key benefit of having specific partners in Global Hubs is to integrate collaborations at all levels – faculty, students and alumni,” said Luo Zuo, professor of accounting in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Daniel Bilezikian ’23, right, studied at Imperial College London.

“That’s not possible with any other form of collaboration,” said Zuo, who is the faculty lead for a Global Hubs partnership between Cornell and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), where Zuo is an alumnus.

Cornellians interested in learning more about particular Hubs locations can begin with a query through the Global Hubs website, or by contacting liaison Sebnem Ozkan, Global Hubs associate director, or faculty leaders for each hub.

One of the innovative aspects of the Global Hubs initiative is that it builds on mutual interests and exchange rather than on physical centers abroad.

“The hubs are, in a sense, the institutionalization of strong relationships in strategic places,” said Wendy Wolford, vice provost for international affairs and the Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor in the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “In some cases, the hubs are doorways into a region.”

Global Hubs is creating new opportunities and networks for Cornell and its partners. For starters, Cornell negotiated universitywide exchange agreements with partner universities for study abroad; previous exchange programs were limited to specific colleges. The initiative provides a bridge for students from diverse fields, with the goal of developing curricular pathways for all majors, including computer science and engineering, to travel and study or intern.

There is a growing awareness of the need to understand the potential impacts of technology on humans – both good and bad – so the broader perspective one gets from such an exchange will be immensely valuable for students in computing and engineering,” said Nate Foster, professor of computer science in the College of Engineering and faculty lead for the Global Hubs relationship with the University of Edinburgh.

Generally speaking, a priority of the initiative is to support study abroad for those from underrepresented backgrounds.

Applications for spring semester study abroad in seven hub locations are currently open, with a deadline of Sept. 15. Cornell students already traveled to hubs in the United Kingdom, Australia, Zambia, Ghana and Ecuador for study and internships in summer 2022.  

For faculty, Global Hubs provides support with logistics of working and teaching abroad, contacts at partner universities and access to networks.

Kenneth Roberts, the Richard J. Schwartz Professor of Government and faculty lead for the Ecuador hub, will be teaching a two-week Engaged Learning field course for Cornell students in Ecuador in January on the politics of sustainable development in Latin America. Roberts is working with the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies’ Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program and Global Hubs partner Universidad San Francisco de Quito to develop a student internship program, along with research and teaching collaborations on topics that range from public health to political polarization and the environmental effects of mining.

Zuo has plans to foster interdisciplinary sustainability research between environmental scientists and financial economists at Cornell’s Ithaca and New York City campuses and HKUST’s Hong Kong and Guangzhou campuses.

The initiative has launched a curriculum grant competition that funds faculty with creative ideas for collaborative teaching, and starting in mid-September, faculty can apply for seed funds to support research collaborations with colleagues based at Global Hubs institutions.    

“Students go where their professors go,” Wolford said. “Students being involved in faculty research is really what makes Cornell very exciting and different and what students get excited about.”

Marina Bay, Singapore, where Sara Hishinuma ’24 studied at the National University of Singapore this summer.

Global Hubs also improves communication to international alumni so they are abreast of Cornell activities in their hubs, making it easier for them to help visiting faculty make local connections and support students with local job and internship placements.

“The hub can serve as a convenient one-stop point of contact between local alumni and various parts of the university to bridge the distances and time zones that separate us,” said Singapore-based Mark Hansen ’79, managing director at Asian Leadership Institute.

The idea for Global Hubs took form in 2018 and included discussions with university leadership, college deans and faculty. More than 60 faculty members served on subcommittees assessing potential locations. Led by Global Cornell, the planners considered data about existing college partnerships, faculty partnerships, travel and study abroad. They accounted for existing and potential partner universities with excellent reputations, English language classes, and semesters and curricula that match Cornell’s.

They also looked for geographic diversity, since in the past 85% of Cornell students have studied abroad in the U.K. and Australia. Currently, there are 20 partner universities in the 11 Global Hubs locations: Australia, China, Denmark, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Zambia. More hubs and partners are expected to be added in the future.   

Faculty and students want to take advantage of opportunities around the world and to help address global grand challenges that humanity faces, Wolford said.

“There are huge challenges in front of the planet and our global society – from climate change to migration and inequality to geopolitics – and we can only truly engage on them if we do so internationally,” she said.

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Becka Bowyer