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The Aim of AEM (and Reimagining Cornell)

Just before the holiday break, Provost Fuchs (and President Skorton) released some guidance on the state of 'reimagining Cornell'.

Most of the guidance was expected: e.g., the University needs to explore a public policy unit, AAP needs to become a broader design college and work with DEA and Textiles/Fashion Apparel, all of the units need to explore revenue-enhancing graduate and continuing education programs.

However, there was one directive that was strongly worded. My own emphasis is added:

AEM will at present not become a school, but the college and the department, with input from the Provost's Office, will conduct a detailed analysis of the future evolution of the department. This analysis will consider, among other questions, whether the creation of a management oriented school is appropriate in light of the differing areas of focus within the current department.

The last clause is important. It's obtusely worded but it hints at the fact that significantly less than half of the AEM faculty can be considered traditional business faculty -- the rest are really experts in agricultural economics, resource economics, trade, and development. Which isn't exactly what most undergraduate students in AEM want to study, with its mover-and-shaker student body and high rankings.

So what will be AEM's future role in the Ag College? It sounds like it won't become a school within CALS anytime soon. My hunch is that it will get merged out into an undergraduate business college, while the resource and development economics components of the program will become part of the new public policy unit. Meanwhile, the animal science and agriculture programs in CALS will contain some joint-appointments for farm management.

Here's what Fuchs said about the management sciences at Cornell:

Building on the management sciences task force report and the additional studies requested from CALS/AEM and SHA, the Dean of the Johnson School will take lead responsibility for developing, in conjunction with CALS/AEM and SHA, a detailed plan for improving the quality and impact of management sciences and business education and scholarship at Cornell. This will include careful review of the appropriate degree of integration of the three units.

Perhaps for proponents of AgEc, this is discouraging, but I take this as a good sign. It shows that the University realizes that there are severe inefficiencies in undergraduate business education, and that it is willing to tell the colleges what to do for the betterment of the University. Because right now, despite the University's continued excellence, the whole is less than the some of its parts, and Cornell could be even stronger.

Where the politics get interesting is this: Neither the Johnson School nor the Hotel School want AEM. The Johnson School feels that its niche as a small, graduate-only program will be compromised -- it wants to be more like Dartmouth's Tuck and Northwestern's Kellog than Penn's Wharton and Michigan's Ross. (The later two have undergraduates in their mix as well.) Meanwhile, the Hotel School is fiercely independent and likes to brag that it is one of a few hospitality schools in the country that is not part of another academic department and infamously manages all of its finances in house.

My bet is that the Johnson school will end up with AEM.

After all, Skorton issued this final directive:

Decisions should be made as much as possible with the intention of optimizing the quality and value of colleges, individual units, and the entire university but, if a conflict exists, it should be decided in favor of the greater university.

Now what to do about Communication...

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on January 05, 2010 (#)

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