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June 2010

Embracing the Cornell Experience: Three Themes

Rising sophomore KA writes to MetaEzra:

I'm a Cornell freshman.. or I suppose a "rising sophomore." I had an incredible first year filled with the traditional ups and downs that come with beginning your college years. I'm quite happy with my decision to attend Cornell. That said, I'm glad to take a break from Ithaca for these summer months and reflect on the year. I'm wondering: what "made" your years at Cornell? I'd like to become more involved on campus, but I'm not quite sure what I'd like to do. I simply want to embrace the Cornell experience as fully as possible.

The challenge, of course, is that there is no one quintessential Cornell experience; everybody's experience will be varied and unique. As I wrote way back when in The Muse:

Cornell does not make you. Just as the first students at Ezraís university helped construct the buildings they studied in, you must make Cornell for yourself. It is for this reason that we cannot possibly understand this place until we have finished our own time at Cornell. There is no definitive Cornell experience ó every experience here is unique and tailor-made by the individual student.

Now, I can't tell you to exactly mimic what made my Cornell experience so great -- but I can prescribe some broad themes that students might want to follow. I had a fantastic professor sophomore year who once told me that any list of two items can certainly be expanded to three. And any list of four items or more is far too lengthy, and can usually be boiled down to three. So in that spirit, what follows are three broad recommendations to current or future Cornell students.

Matthew Nagowski | June 20, 2010 (#)

So How's That Campaign Coming?

Launched in the fall of 2006, it's been almost four years since the 'Far Above' capital campaign was publicly announced. At the time, three billion had been targeted for the Ithaca campus with an additional one billion for Weill Cornell.

Today, $2.758 billion has been raised, far above the $1.258 billion we were at three years ago in June of 2007. But obviously the campaign has been hindered by the depths of the great recession.

The Ithaca campus campaign stood at $1.623 billion as of March 2010. You can probably add to that the $125 MM in gifts that were announced over Reunion weekend (including the Dyson gift). That brings the sum to $1.748 billion.

What's interesting is how much father along the Weill Cornell campaign is. If you net out the difference between the Ithaca subtotal and the campaign total, the Weill 'Discoveries That Make a Difference' campaign stands at $1.01 billion, a bit over its original goal and at 78 percent of its new goal of $1.3 billion. (The amount must have been increased to $1.3 billion somewhere along the way, although the Far Above campaign website still lists an overall $4 billion goal).

So apparently wealthy New Yorkers care more about life-saving research and services than basic research and education a five hour drive from Manhattan.

Below the fold is a more exhaustive breakout of the Ithaca campaign totals, courtesy of the 2010-2011 financial plan.

Matthew Nagowski | June 16, 2010 (#)

College: The Sequel

As one of my numerous Sun buddies who also didn't make it to Reunion (what's up with that?), former Associate Editor Erica Stein '05 offers up some valuable insights about what our college experience feels like from the vantage point of grad school. See if this movie sounds familiar:

College is a rousing, linear coming-of-age story with joyful, tearful climaxes. Grad school, by contrast, is an indie flick with annoying characters and no plot that lasts hours longer than it needs to. Working at a college without actually being in college gives you an odd sense of suspension and motionlessness. It inspires instant nostalgia and an accelerating sense of your own aging. The kids leave every year like clockwork while you stay put, your cultural references ever more out of date (seriously, I have students who have never seen The Princess Bride).

Not to mention, none of them know what the Hot Truck is (and who cares about your adopted football team?). The whole thing is worth a read:

I canít "tell you about my experience." I can only remind you of the ache in your legs at 9:03 a.m. when youíre only halfway up the steps to Baker Hall. The glow of accomplishment from a well-sunk beruit ball and a well-written paper. And the way that the temperature drops 10 degrees and you can breathe again when you step into Goldwin Smith on a hot day.

Check out the piece in The Sun's Reunion issue.

Andy Guess | June 14, 2010 (#)

Reunions Wrap-Up

The most striking aspect of Reunions? The number of faces you recognize as somebody that you knew and liked to hang out with, but realizing you have no idea who they are or how you knew them. It must of happened dozens of times over the weekend, and everybody was chatting about the phenomenon. And to think that only a sixth or so of my graduating class showed up.

As a corollary, I don't think I expected Reunions to be an avenue to make new friends. But several great new friendships were forged over the weekend!

I really enjoyed how mellow and welcoming the campus was. While walking by Beebe Lake and Balch, Ankit and I must have been greeted by everybody who crossed our paths.

It's easy to forget just how absolutely lovely the campus and Ithaca are. From Beebe Lake to Ithaca Falls, the Farmers Market to Sunset Park, there's just one stunning vista after another. To say nothing of the Slope.

I was pretty impressed with Sandy Weill, although I didn't agree with his perspective that Wall Street financiers should be paid as much as they are on account of 'that's what the market is willing to pay them'. Weill, of all people, should know that wealth should be made by providing products that add value to the society, and not by speculating on pieces of paper in a zero-sum (and often negative-sum) game.

There were a lot of other lectures I would have liked to attend. Kind of like college. I also never knew Ithaca could get so hot. Give me twenty degrees and snowing over 89 degrees with 95% humidity anyday.

Amazing that more people didn't wear carnelian and white to Cornelliana night. We'll have to work on that.

As to news and politics from the University, the two big announcements were $125 MM in new gifts to be announced in the next month and a new $100 MM fund to retain and hire new faculty. Interesting that no other major funding commitments (aside from Dyson) were announced over the weekend. I wonder if Weill's first-ever return to campus for Reunions has something to do with the $125 MM.

Overheard Snippets 1: Hotel School Prof: "I can't believed they named AEM for only $25 MM. Hotel School would cost $100 MM +." Graduate student: "Lot's of chatter about a new policy school." Staffer: "Even with all of layoffs it's striking that nobody can get truly fired from this place. Even for child porn."

Overheard Snippets 2: Class of 1955: "So is that your class's Reunion Blazer?" Class of 1960: "You mean they accept men now?!" Class of 2005: "Tell me again why I left Ithaca?" Class of 2010: "We don't know each other, but we know each other." Class of 2005: "I know we can't serve beer after 1AM, but we can still provide it, right?"

Oh, and kudos to the members of the Class of 2010 and 2011 who spotted the blazer and accosted me at Cornelliana Night and in the Arts Quad Rock 'N Roll Tent. I never knew there was such a following among current students.

Matthew Nagowski | June 13, 2010 (#)

Cornellians in Politics Roundup

Since "Mini Super Tuesday" has been getting lots of media attention over the last few days, and Reunion weekend is ongoing, I believe this is an appropriate time for a survey of the Cornellians who are currently in politics.

Rob Andrews, J.D. '82, U.S. Representative (D-NJ)
Andrews has served the heavily Democratic 1st District since 1990. His first election, with a nine-point margin of victory, was his most competitive. He challenged Sen. Frank Lautenberg for the Democratic nomination in 2008, while Andrews's wife ran in the Democratic primary for his Congressional seat. Andrews lost to Lautenberg, but his wife won; Andrews then angered some people by replacing his wife on the Congressional ballot. Still, he cruised to a 46-point margin of victory that fall.

Bajrakitiyabha, LL.M. '02, J.S.D. '05, Princess of Thailand
I know very little about Bajrakitiyabha or the Thai royal family, but here's an interview (with a Cornell mention!) about her efforts to assist incarcerated women.

Ken Dryden, B.A. '69, Canadian Member of Parliament
Dryden lost four games in three seasons in goal for the Cornell men's hockey team, leading Cornell to three Frozen Four appearances and the NCAA title in 1967. Dryden won six Stanley Cups and numerous accolades during his eight years playing for the Montreal Canadiens. In the prime of his hockey career, Dryden took off a year to finish his law degree at McGill. Dryden has served in the Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party since 2004, and in 2006 he ran unsuccessfully for his party's leadership role.

Bob Filner, B.A. '63, Ph.D '69, U.S. Representative (D-CA)
Filner taught at San Diego State before running for Congress in 1992. He represents a strong Democratic district, but he's needed to win several close primary elections to remain in office. Filner's Republican opponent this November is a former tank commander who was wounded in Fallujah.

Gabrielle Giffords, M.R.P. '96, U.S. Representative (D-AZ)
Giffords, who represents a district (8th) in which Republicans outnumber Democrats, should expect a strong challenge this fall. She's been in the national news recently for calling for more federal assistance along the border; her district is one of two in Arizona which borders Mexico. Giffords married an astronaut and is a Rhodes Scholar.

Mark Kirk, B.A. '81, U.S. Representative (R-IL)
Kirk is the Republican candidate for Senate in Illinois. He's gotten some pretty bad attention recently for lying on the campaign trail and campaigning while on active military duty. Kirk has served in the House since 2000 and defeated Democrat Dan Seals in each of the last two elections.

Clinton and Bush Cabinet Appointees
Obama doesn't have any Cornellians in his Cabinet, but there have been plenty over the last 18 years:
Sandy Berger, B.A. '67, National Security Advisor (1997-2001)
Samuel Bodman, B.S. '61, Secretary of Energy (2005-2009)
Stephen Hadley, B.A. '69, National Security Advisor (2005-2009)
Janet Reno, B.A. '60, Attorney General (1993-2001)
Paul Wolfowitz, B.A. '65, Deputy Secretary of Defense (2001-05)

See also:
William Brownfield, B.A. '74, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia (formerly to Chile and Venezuela)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, B.A. '54, Associate Justice, Supreme Court
Ann Coulter, B.A. '84
Keith Olbermann, B.S. '79
Michelle Rhee, B.A. '92, Chancellor of Schools, District of Columbia

Elie Bilmes | June 11, 2010 (#)

Matt and Andy: Reunion Weekend Free-For-All

The Sun recently approached MetaEzra, asking if we wouldn't be interested in writing a reunion op-ed piece for the first collegiate member of the Associated Press. And so Andy came out of the woodwork for the first time on this side of the Sweet Sixteen. What follows is an extended version of what will run in the print edition this weekend:

Andy: Matt, it's hard to believe how long we've been at it as proto-Cornell bloggers. Or I should say, you've been at it and I've chipped in here or there on topics that I know something about. Needless to say, as someone who I imagine had the "Alma Mater" memorized before he ever set foot on campus, you leave very few gaps to fill. But that's OK, I tell myself -- I've been living a packed five years away from Ithaca (actually, four and a half, since I didn't actually graduate with the rest of you)! I've been seeing the world, getting fired from internships, exploring the world of journalism and finally deciding that, after all this, it was time for a return to academia. But not at Cornell.

Which brings me to my opening salvo in this Reunion-themed dialogue: I don't think it's worth it, at least not this soon after graduation. Over the past few months, I've invited friends who are attending to dissuade me -- to explain why I should travel up to Ithaca to relive our college days and immerse myself in nostalgia with people I haven't seen or spoken with in close to five years. No one has successfully done so, but I'll concede I may simply be set in my ways. After all, I've been back to Ithaca at least three times since I left the Hill with my last boxes in tow, and I remember each trip fondly. I often reminisce about Cornell with the many classmates I've kept in touch with. But every time I returned to Ithaca, I knew fewer and fewer people there; my connection to the place was more distant and tenuous with each passing year. My sole remaining link, and one I cherish, is the professors I remain in touch with (and who I am now permitted to call by their first names).

So, what's bringing you back on this weekend of all weekends? What am I, along with the countless others who can't or won't make it to Reunion this year, missing out on?

Matthew Nagowski | June 09, 2010 (#)

Fuchs and Skorton Did Not Want AEM in CALS

John Dyson's remarks at the press conference today are fascinating:

We learn a couple of things:

-- The announcement has been close to seven to eight years in the making.

-- There was a very serious initiative from the Provost (and presumably, backed by some members of the Board of Trustees) to peel AEM out of the Ag School and presumably place it into some more logical arrangement with Hotel, the Johnson School, and perhaps ILR.

-- Trustee Stephen Ashley wrote an eight page paper trying to convince Day Hall on the reasons why Ag Ec (e.g. ARME, AEM, and now Dyson) needed to stay in CALS. I imagine many AgEc alums feel this way even though there's no compelling reason as to why a business program can't stand outside of the agricultural college and still offer comparative advantages in food management and agribusiness.

-- Long phone calls and conversations ensued between Day Hall and Dyson as to whether or not AEM could be taken out of the College of Ag and Life Sciences.

-- Apparently money talks more than eight-page papers. And something must have happened within the last couple of weeks to prompt the announcement. But the announcement had to be postponed as to not compromise state funding for CALS.

-- No word yet on whether or not more walls will go up around admissions and advising within the Dyson School vis-a-vis the rest of Ag.

-- John Dyson seems a bit too keen on rankings.

-- But the Dyson School is to stay in CALS. For now.

Matthew Nagowski | June 08, 2010 (#)

Breaking: Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

As reported by AP:

The family of John Dyson, a former chairman of the New York Power Authority, is giving $25 million to Cornell University to establish a school of applied economics and management.

The school will be named after Dyson's late father, Charles, a pioneer in the high-finance field of leveraged buyouts who helped organize the International Monetary Fund.

Some 800 graduate and undergraduate students are enrolled at Cornell's Department of Applied Economics and Management, which opened in 1909. The gift will elevate the department to the status of a school.

Dyson, a Cornell graduate, was named to head the power authority by Gov. Hugh Carey, served as a deputy mayor under New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and launched a highly rated winery in the Hudson Valley.

Some quick notes:

-- I haven't seen a full press release yet, but from the looks of it, it seems that the AEM program will be staying in CALS for the time being despite Provost Fuch's earlier indication that 'AEM at present will not become a school' and my own insignificant opinions that it is a bit inefficient to have business faculty scattered across five different undergraduate colleges.

-- So we'll have the Johnson Graduate School of Management and the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in the New York State College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Confusing much?

-- The AEM website has already been re-branded as the 'Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management'.

-- This isn't the first time the Dyson family has given to the University.

--Sometimes I kind of feel bad for those students who actually want to study agricultural or resource economics.

Matthew Nagowski | June 08, 2010 (#)

Reunion Week!

As it's nearing Reunions Weekend and I've now been an alumnus of Cornell for a full year longer than I actually was enrolled as a student (gulp), I'll be enjoying the second-half of this week in Ithaca at my very first Cornell reunion decked-out in full Big Red regalia.

To commemorate reunions, I've re-arranged the site a bit over the last month or so. On top of giving the banner logo a fresh new look, I've also added a Twitter box to your right, where I hope to live-blog reunions in both words and pictures. (A test picture just went up this evening; don't expect much from my circa-2003 cell phone.) Additionally, you can now interact with MetaEzra on Facebook if that's your cup of tea.

Other than a surprise post that Andy (!) and I have for all of you on Wednesday, it's going to be a pretty quiet week or so around here from me.

But don't be surprised if Elie shows up.

Matthew Nagowski | June 07, 2010 (#)

Elie's Graduation Post

For those of you who missed Elie's fantastic graduation ruminations, be sure to give them a read. He captures a quintessential understanding of Cornell student life: there is no one defining experience:

I wrote a few weeks ago that there was "no broad sense of the Cornell community." I may have been wrong. You have to wait four years, but on graduation day, there is an undeniable sense of community. With everyone in the black robes, with the packed stadium, and the perfect sunshine, it was a strikingly positive final memory of Cornell.

Cornell is an anonymous place. Of the 130 people who shared my major, I had never spoken to half of them. But Cornell works because it allows each person to create a distinct experience. What binds us together is the realization that we each passed through this place and came out as a different person. Sometimes, as students travel along these solitary paths, they lose their direction and tragedy ensues. For most, though, this journey is immensely rewarding.

My one graduation wish for Cornell is that I hope that my alma mater will seek its own identity in the higher education community. Stop obsessing about being one of the Ivies, and start being Cornell. Stop worrying about the rankings, and celebrate the large student body and our lack of extreme exclusivity. Stop worrying that we are located so far from major metropolitan areas, and celebrate all that Ithaca and its miserable winters have to offer. Stop worrying that our name is being associated with tragedy, and celebrate that our name is associated with unprecedented athletic success.

Just as students at Cornell seek their own paths, so may Cornell diverge from what is expected of it. As this happens, perhaps Cornell will move away from the unfortunate combination of grade inflation and the hook-up culture. It's hard to gain much from Cornell when you're scraping out a 3.5 while never leaving Collegetown and its bars.

But I don't want to end on a negative note. I am a proud Cornellian, and I will forever be one.

Hard not to agree with that.

Elie also mentions that he hopes to contribute to MetaEzra in the future, a prospect I welcome with open arms. This project was always intended to be a group blog reflecting a diversity of alumni voices.

But he's too modest in suggesting that he might have to restrict himself to sports topics on this blog -- over the years he has proved himself to have a commanding knowledge and an insightful perspective of all things Cornell, and I seriously doubt I was as perceptive as him when I was an undergraduate.

He leaves us with a riddle. Where can we find the the following inscription in Ithaca: 'Here may you too find beauty - goodness - truth.' My shot-in-the-dark guess is the Quaker meditation hut by Ithaca Falls, an idyllic local if you've never stumbled upon it.

Matthew Nagowski | June 03, 2010 (#)

Gifting Demographics

As it's my reunion year, I've taken special interest in the annual Reunion Campaigns that each returning class year holds.

Looking at which classes have met or exceeded their fund-raising targets, a striking generational trend becomes evident:


The Baby Boomers -- those alums who came of age between 1965 and 1980 -- clearly fall far short of their fundraising expectations relative to the 'Greatest Generation' or the Gen Xers or even my own cohort of Millenials.

Sociologists or demographers could probably explain this trend better than I can, but there's clearly something about the Boomer generation that makes them less generous than their counterparts. I don't think the Great Recession can have much to do with it, because our economic morass probably affects younger generations the most and giving expectations have been dialed down across the board. I'm also not certain if this is a trend specific to Cornell, but there were certainly events occurring on campus during the late-60s and 70s that might hinder giving levels.

But hey, I already joined the Ivy Society. Have you?

Matthew Nagowski | June 02, 2010 (#)

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)