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Skorton and the State of New York

Loyal readers will recall an earlier article suggesting the need for Cornell to reinforce its attention to Upstate New York and to help facilitate Upstate New York’s (eventual?) turnaround.

Well, the Albany Times-Union reports today just that:

In an interview last week, Skorton outlined his vision for the 20,440-student university. Like the 64-campus SUNY system, Cornell, Skorton says, should play an important role in a variety of initiatives, including efforts to improve K-12 education and attempts to reverse the economic slide that has afflicted much of upstate…

Skorton also wants Cornell to fully participate in efforts to boost the local and state economy. Cornell is already a major player in that area and lawmakers are well aware of its importance.

I would ideally like to see Cornell go one or two steps further and actively re-organize its teaching, research and extension operations to better serve New York State. Over the long-term this might involve re-organizing Cornell’s undergraduate business programs (why are programs in AEM, PAM, Human Resources, Organizational Behavior, the Hotel School, and ORIE so disparate?) while dissolving the social-science/policy oriented disciplines in the Schools of Agriculture, Human Ecology, and ILR to create a new college of applied social sciences and public policy that would have an explicit outreach agenda, similar to what Harvard has done with it’s Kennedy School of Government.

Of course, this couldn’t be done without the State of New York on board, as the institutional politics and momentum of Cornell's colleges are such that no amount of strong-arming by Biddy Martin or David Skorton could get them to change their ways. Just look at what happened with the administration tried to dissolve the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, or appoint a business-school professor to become ILR’s dean...

I hope to write about these issues further, but in the interim, I am pleased. That David Skorton – barely two months into his new job – is giving lip service to these issues, striving to develop connections with the State of New York, and is already stewarding developments that address the Upstate’s plight, is inherently a good thing.

So much of a good thing, in fact, that I am actually considering biting the bullet and finally donating some money of my hard earned money to my beloved alma mater—as a vote of confidence in David Skorton’s leadership.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 05, 2006 (#)

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