Dear Members of the Cornell Community,
On this first day of classes on the Ithaca campus, I want to welcome everyone to the new academic year. Whether you just arrived or have been a member of the Cornell community for years, I hope you find the start of the year as exciting and invigorating as I do. It’s a time to consider opportunities and possibilities, to implement plans, to be both reflective and bold.
If you are new to Cornell, welcome! You have joined a truly exceptional community, with over 40,000 people—faculty, staff and students—who come from across the country and around the world, each with a distinct background, expertise and life experience. Today’s world requires people with varied perspectives to join together to tackle complex issues—as a friend of mine once wrote, “The complexity of modern problems often precludes any one person from fully understanding them.” Cornell’s continuing success as a university comes from the willingness of our community members to listen to and learn from one another, to synthesize ideas and to collaborate.
As we contemplate the coming academic year, I want to share with you four university-wide priorities that build on our strengths and will underpin many of our activities this year and in years to come:
Support a culture of educational verve. Our students are already benefiting from new evidence-based approaches to education that are being adopted here and that involve active and engaged learning and the exploration of new technologies. Alongside traditional lectures, labs and studios, these approaches to teaching and learning encourage the development of critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving and teamwork skills, all of which prepare students to thrive.
Bolster Cornell’s academic distinction. We must continue to attract and retain outstanding faculty, students and staff who contribute to and benefit from the distinctive strengths that arise from our unique status as an Ivy League school that is also a land-grant university, from our extraordinary breadth of expertise, and from our commitment to the critical value of both the liberal arts and professional education.
Uphold the university’s civic responsibilities, notably including our commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment for all community members. Three interconnected principles form the core of Cornell’s civic responsibilities: defending the notion of knowledge and truth; protecting freedom of speech; and creating a truly diverse, inclusive and egalitarian community in which all groups are treated equitably. Within the past year, the university has implemented new initiatives aimed at achieving these goals, and within the next few weeks we will provide a comprehensive update on additional plans arising from the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate. Chief among them will be the opportunity to come together around a new and powerful statement of our core university values.
Continue on our path toward becoming “One Cornell.” Cornell has a remarkable ability to create intellectual synergies within as well as across each of our three main campuses in Ithaca and New York City. We are well-positioned to build on the complementary strengths of our vibrant rural and urban campuses, creating extraordinary experiences for our students and faculty and providing a robust foundation for a wide range of cutting-edge research. Last academic year, a faculty committee developed a vision to capitalize on our New York City activities with ideas that enhance and enrich our work in Ithaca. We will be updating the community on this important initiative later in the semester.
Although I have only been at Cornell for about 16 months, I have already come to appreciate what a special place it is. As we advance these priorities, we will make it even stronger and more distinctive.
It is my absolute pleasure to work with all of you and to welcome you to the new academic year.
Martha E. Pollack