Welcome back message from President Skorton

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome to the start of the new academic year. Whether you have been a member of the Cornell community for decades or are just joining us, in Ithaca, New York City, Geneva, Washington, Doha, or elsewhere, I hope you share my enthusiasm for the year ahead.

New to Cornell this semester are two academic deans: Gretchen Ritter '83, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Haym Hirsh, dean of the Faculty of Computing and Information Science. Professor Fredrik Logevall, director of the Einaudi Center for International Studies and recipient of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for history, has taken on additional responsibilities as vice provost for international affairs. Among the outstanding new appointments at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC) is Augustine Choi, who joined us from Harvard on August 1 as chair of the WCMC Department of Medicine and physician-in-chief at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The 3,282 members of the Class of 2017 were selected from about 40,000 applicants. They come from 48 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, and from 51 countries and include the highest number of students of color ever reported in a Cornell first-year class. Also joining us this year in Ithaca are 1,889 new graduate students, 561 new transfer students, and a substantial number of new professional school students.

Starting at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City this semester are 101 MD students, including 18 MD-PhD students, who come to us from 19 states and 58 different undergraduate institutions. They were selected from almost 6,300 applicants, making this year's class even more selective than last year's. The incoming class at Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar has 41 students from 19 countries.

Like our first-year and transfer students, many of us on campus and in the greater Ithaca community read When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka during the summer, and it has provided a common intellectual focus for our first days together as well as insights into a troubling period in American history.

Also bringing us together across disciplines and colleges again this year are University Courses, designed to foster intellectual discovery, promote debate, and address complex issues through the perspective of multiple disciplines. This year's courses range from chemical ecology, to personal genomics, to "How Hollywood Has Influenced the Way We See, Think, and Talk."

Over the summer we continued to work on issues related to the campus climate that emerged with renewed urgency last year. An increasing number of students have been willing to report incidents of hazing and other inappropriate behavior and to ask for help, and we are continuing to work with student groups, as well as with their national and international organizations, to define new member intake and education programs that are positive experiences for all involved. During these first days of the semester, and throughout the year, we continue our efforts to support all members of our community to feel safe and appreciated for what they bring to our community and empowered to contribute to campus life. Several programs during Orientation, including a new program on sexual consent and assault prevention, helped new students understand their responsibilities and the expectations and aspirations of our community.

One of our university-wide goals is to keep our surrounding communities vibrant and economically strong. Cornell's power as an engine of economic development extends from Ithaca to the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, which is playing an important role in the state's agricultural economy, and to New York City, where the Weill Cornell Medical College and several other programs contribute to the economy of the metro New York region.

Weill Cornell, for example, is a founding member of the New York Genome Center (NYGC), an independent, nonprofit organization that aims to become one of the largest genomics research facilities in North America. Over the next five years, NYGC expects to create more than 500 science-related jobs.

This summer the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management announced a new MBA program at Cornell Tech for those with a degree in science or technology and relevant work experience; the first students will begin the one-year program in May 2014. Cornell Tech continues to add students and faculty while operating in temporary space generously donated for our use by Google, Inc. in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. Although still in its early stages, Cornell Tech offers a new model for how universities, industry, the venture community, private philanthropy, and government can cooperate to promote economic development.

Sierra, the official magazine of the Sierra Club, recently ranked Cornell fifth among the nation's "Ten Coolest Schools" for the environmental mindset on campus. We will continue campus-wide efforts on sustainability, energy conservation and environmental responsibility, as exemplified by our Climate Action Plan's commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. We know that the issue of divesting from fossil fuel companies remains a priority for some of our colleagues, and we will continue to keep the dialogue alive.

On the Ithaca campus Gates Hall and the renovations to Stocking Hall and Warren Hall are nearing completion, and we have begun preliminary work for Klarman Hall, our new humanities building. We will be opening the Belfer Research Building at WCMC in January 2014, with the arrival of new faculty, and moving forward with the expansion of our clinical enterprise to NewYork Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital.

Cornell staff, together with faculty and students, are critical to the university's excellence, and we remain committed to creating an environment that allows them to thrive and to do their best work. We look forward to partnering with the Employee Survey Response Team on the issues of position evaluation and analysis, workload management, career development and professional growth, and recognition of excellent work (among others) to create a climate that welcomes and supports all members of our workforce.

I hope you share my pride in all that we have accomplished individually and collectively in recent months and my resolve to make our university even stronger during the new academic year. Please join me in welcoming our new community members and in continuing the progress we have made together. Here's to a wonderful year.

-- David J. Skorton