Skip to main content

Section IV

Goal Areas: Objectives and Actions

Introduction

The umbrella goals of the university (see Section II) define the broad areas within which this strategic plan develops specific objectives and actions. This section identifies the main objectives (ends) within each of these goal areas and a series of actions (means) for achieving each objective. The objectives specify particular directions within the goal areas. The action items for each objective identify a few key ways to make significant progress on these objectives over the next five years. Some of these involve resources and some do not. The actions for a given objective should be read as a package, but it is feasible to phase in the actions on the basis of priority, cost, opportunity, timeliness, and the like. Decisions about phasing in the objectives or actions are part of the implementation stage of the strategic plan.

It also is important to recognize that the university is currently making significant efforts and achieving successes in several of these areas. By including an objective related to ongoing efforts, this plan affirms the importance of such activities and proposes to focus more energy on that area and push it even higher on the university's agenda. Whereas all of the objectives are important as such, resource constraints (time, effort, money) will make it essential to set priorities among the objectives for the next five years, and with this in mind, each section concludes with a statement of priorities among the objectives. These priorities suggest which objectives should be addressed first and thus have implications for the phasing in of efforts directed at each objective.

Overview of Objectives

Below is a listing of the objectives in the plan. There are five to seven objectives for each umbrella goal. Priorities among these objectives are established in this section. The next section (V) develops strategic initiatives that draw on themes of these priorities.

Faculty Excellence

  1. Increase the size and quality of faculty in strategically important academic areas.
  2. Significantly increase the diversity of faculty through new hires and enhanced retention efforts.
  3. Ensure competitive faculty compensation.
  4. Develop and implement policies to retain highly valued faculty.
  5. Devise and implement new mechanisms or policies for rewarding outstanding faculty and for continually assessing faculty performance as scholars and teachers.
  6. Foster an exciting intellectual environment by providing opportunities for more dialogue and engagement.
  7. Develop ways to enable faculty to focus their time on being highly productive in their core academic activities (research, scholarship, and creativity; teaching; public engagement).

Educational Excellence

  1. Create and sustain a culture that supports teaching excellence in all academic units.
  2. Strengthen institutional structures that promote pedagogical innovations both centrally and within colleges and programs.
  3. Provide a more unified and shared educational experience for Cornell undergraduates.
  4. Strengthen the educational impact of international opportunities and experiences for students.
  5. Promote the health and well-being of students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) as a foundation for academic and life success.
  6. Strengthen efforts to attract and educate an excellent and diverse body of undergraduate students.
  7. Strengthen the capacity of graduate and professional programs to recruit and educate a diverse body of the very best students.

Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creativity

  1. Increase the number of Cornell departments or graduate fields that have achieved world leadership in their areas.
  2. Build and maintain world leadership in a select set of departments within the following broad areas: humanities and the arts; life sciences and agricultural sciences; physical sciences and engineering; social sciences; and professional schools and programs.
  3. Strengthen support for and recognition of important interdisciplinary areas, while ensuring excellence in disciplines as a foundation.
  4. Significantly improve institution-wide services for the administration and support of research grants (including government, foundation, and industry funding).
  5. Maintain and selectively strengthen in cost-effective ways the core infrastructures for research, scholarship, and creativity, including in particular libraries and shared research facilities.
  6. Encourage productive, mutually beneficial collaborations between faculty and students in Ithaca-based programs and faculty and students at Weill Cornell Medical College and Graduate School.

Excellence in Public Engagement

  1. Make public engagement a distinctive feature of education at Cornell.
  2. Construct a unified concept and vision for the university's public engagement mission.
  3. Develop rigorous, systematic evaluations of all outreach and extension programs.
  4. Strongly connect public engagement to on-campus research and educational strengths.
  5. Promote stronger collaborations and partnerships between the university and stakeholders that can make use of and strengthen Cornell's research (e.g., business, K-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, government).

Staff Excellence

  1. Give priority to retention of highly qualified staff in valued positions as the university reorganizes to address budgetary constraints.
  2. Attract a talented and diverse workforce to Cornell.
  3. Be an exemplary employer across the entire spectrum of staff.
  4. Provide job skill training to staff in a variety of venues.
  5. Sustain and, wherever possible, enhance flexibility in the workplace and workforce.
  6. Work with the local community to keep Ithaca and Tompkins County vibrant places to live and work.

In addition to these five goal areas, a separate section (VI) on excellence in organizational stewardship develops objectives and actions for creating and sustaining the necessary resource conditions for achieving academic excellence. Topics include financial resources; capital and physical facilities; and information technology. These are enabling conditions for the five goal areas above.

As a whole, the objectives suggest that the university should move on a significant number of fronts to keep abreast of the competition, respond to a rapidly changing environment, and enhance academic strengths. Resource constraints (e.g., money and time) will make this difficult in some cases, but there are low-cost (or even no-cost) action items for most objectives and, as noted above, attention to the objectives can be phased in over the five-year period. The priorities at the end of each section provide a framework or guide for addressing such issues.

FACULTY EXCELLENCE

Introduction

There is a critical need to renew the faculty ranks proactively, given anticipated retirements over the next ten to fifteen years. It is essential to keep abreast of and deal with intense competition for faculty, to reduce losses of valued faculty through enhanced retention efforts, and to take advantage of an historic opportunity to increase the diversity of the faculty as a whole. This section emphasizes these issues.

Objectives and Actions

Objective 1: Increase the size and quality of faculty in strategically important academic areas.

Rationale: Many Cornell departments are already relatively small, compared to peer institutions, and it is critical to maintain or selectively enhance faculty size in distinguished departments that are too small, and to have the capacity to invest in faculty positions in areas of substantial potential and opportunity.

Actions:

  1. Emphasize a faculty recruitment strategy of building from the bottom (recruiting new Ph.D.s and "rising stars") over the next five years, recognizing that this may not be appropriate for all units or at all times within a given unit.
  2. In strategically important areas, where a significant percentage of high-quality faculty are nearing retirement, pre-fill during the next five years a significant proportion of expected faculty retirements across the next ten years.
  3. Enhance and sustain state-of-the-art dual-career efforts and support designed to offset the disadvantages of a small, geographically isolated community. 10
  4. Develop regular, systematic, and transparent mechanisms for reallocating faculty positions across academic units in order to strengthen select areas.
  5. Increase funding for new faculty positions by making this a priority of fund-raising.

Objective 2: Significantly increase the diversity of faculty through new hires and enhanced retention efforts.

Rationale: Diversity is a high priority over the next five years, important in principle given core values of the institution and of significant educational value to students and programs (see Appendix B). Having a more diverse faculty is also important because of the increasing diversity of the student body and larger society. The next five to ten years offer an unusual period of opportunity for Cornell to increase the diversity of its faculty, given prospective faculty retirements.

Actions:

  1. Develop specific goals for gender, racial, and ethnic diversity of faculty in all units that take account of both the pool of available candidates (pipeline) and the importance of critical mass within units or fields.
  2. Expand the pools from which we recruit faculty by more broadly defining faculty positions, wherever possible.
  3. To enhance pipelines of racially and ethnically diverse faculty candidates, develop stronger ties to faculty at institutions that historically educate African American, Hispanic, or Native American students.
  4. Ensure that colleges and departments give appropriate attention to diversity throughout the recruitment process, from the point at which positions are defined, to the short lists and interview lists, to the final decision stage.
  5. Develop in each college an efficient mechanism for monitoring progress in searches and retention (e.g., by assigning this task to an individual or faculty committee) based on accepted best practices.
  6. Make more proactive and expeditious efforts to reduce the departures of high-quality faculty who contribute to the gender and racial/ethnic diversity of the university community. [See objective 5 below.]
  7. Establish better funding mechanisms at the center of the university and in colleges to promote and encourage vigorous efforts to recruit, nurture, and retain a diverse faculty in terms of gender and race/ethnicity.

Objective 3: Ensure competitive faculty compensation.

Rationale: The university has invested substantial resources over the last ten years to raise average faculty salaries to a competitive level among its peers, and it cannot afford to lose ground on this dimension.

Actions:

  1. Keep average faculty salaries at or above the median among peer institutions.
  2. Benchmark and regularly assess fringe benefits to ensure that these remain abreast of the competition, including work/life issues.
  3. Assess and benchmark start-up packages and ongoing support for research, defining a set of peer universities for this purpose.

Objective 4: Develop and implement policies to retain highly valued faculty.

Rationale: The competitive environment within higher education makes retention of outstanding faculty a critical issue and growing challenge. The most effective strategy is prevention, that is, ensuring that highly valued faculty have a vibrant intellectual environment, excellent students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional), and the resources to achieve their professional goals and aspirations. At the same time, it is important to be proactive and prompt when highly valued faculty are being courted or have offers from other universities.

Actions:

  1. Enhance efforts to retain highly valued faculty by ensuring that they have strong support for their research, teaching, and public engagement.
  2. When working to retain highly valued faculty who have offers, be proactive by making counteroffers promptly and addressing work-life issues (e.g., dual careers) early.
  3. Make aggressive and extraordinary efforts to retain early- to mid-career faculty who are "rising stars" or highly promising or accomplished for their career stage.

Objective 5: Devise and implement new mechanisms or policies for rewarding outstanding faculty and for continually assessing faculty performance as scholars and teachers.

Rationale: To retain and nurture outstanding faculty (including non-tenure-track faculty), all available means of recognition and reward are important, not only salary. Relatively modest measures may reap significant benefits. This also implies well-understood methods or metrics of assessing the quality of the research, teaching, and public engagement, appropriate to the discipline or field.

Actions:

  1. Develop a provost fund for providing special monetary rewards (bonuses, summer pay, and seed funds for research) for exceptional academic accomplishments.
  2. Assess whether there is sufficient merit differentiation in salary decisions within colleges and departments to reward faculty who already are or are likely to become leaders in their discipline or field.
  3. Develop a campus-wide effort to nominate candidates every year for national prizes, awards, and membership in distinguished societies.
  4. Give special recognition to and publicize faculty who receive distinguished academic awards and honors from their peers.
  5. Develop in each college or academic unit performance assessments for all faculty to promote excellence in faculty teaching, research, and public engagement and to ensure it is recognized and rewarded.

Objective 6: Foster an exciting intellectual environment by providing opportunities for more dialogue and engagement.

Rationale: The intellectual environment is critical to the attractiveness of Cornell and to the retention of faculty. A negative department culture is commonly mentioned in exit interviews, and, as one example of impact, this is a key factor in the departure of women from the faculty.

Actions:

  1. Devise new ways to foster constructive dialogue on important intellectual issues among faculty, students, and staff within and across academic units.
  2. Promote intellectually rewarding cross-department, cross-college, or interdisciplinary collaborations among faculty.
  3. Develop a revamped faculty club on campus and ensure that there are conversation spaces for faculty, postdocs, and graduate/professional students across areas of campus.
  4. Assist department chairs in their efforts to create and sustain a positive department culture in which faculty engage in constructive exchange on their scholarship and work together effectively as department or program colleagues. [NOTE: Also, see objective 6 under Staff Excellence.]

Objective 7: Develop ways to enable faculty to focus their time on being highly productive in their core academic activities (research, scholarship, and creativity; teaching; public engagement).

Rationale: In many areas, this plan proposes action items that require more faculty effort and time (e.g., on teaching excellence), and therefore it is important to re-assess how the institution is currently using the time of faculty. Every effort should be made to focus that time on teaching, scholarship, and public engagement. Below are several possible measures.

Actions:

  1. Have the provost, deans, and department chairs review how they use faculty time to accomplish administrative tasks.
  2. Streamline university and college procedures that make substantial use of faculty time and draw them away from their core academic activities (e.g., reduce the number or size of faculty committees).
  3. Carefully consider the impact of staff on faculty productivity in their core academic activities when deciding staffing levels and functions.
  4. Develop creative ways to use new technologies to reduce administrative burdens on faculty.

Conclusion: Faculty Priorities

Faculty renewal and faculty diversity are the two highest priorities here. Across the next ten years, it is reasonable to expect a significant proportion of current faculty to enter retirement- in 2008-2009, nearly half of Cornell professorial faculty members were 55 or older. Renewal of the faculty ranks is a major issue for the institution at a time when the capacity of the university to recruit faculty has been hampered by budgetary problems and the national financial downturn in 2008-2009. The large number of anticipated retirements also is an opportunity to increase the diversity of the faculty ranks at a rate faster than has occurred in the past. While there have been small-to-modest gains in the gender diversity of faculty ranks over the last ten years, there has been little progress toward greater racial and ethnic diversity. Forthcoming retirements offer an historic opportunity to build greater diversity.

Thus, the Strategic Planning Advisory Council proposes priorities based on objectives 1 and 2: (1) Enhance the capacity of the institution to recruit and rebuild an outstanding core of faculty in order to maintain and strengthen departments and programs, especially those that are strategically important to the university and have academic strength or potential strength that makes them worthy of investment. Increasing faculty size in strategically important academic areas, pre-filling positions when strategically advantageous, focusing on hiring new Ph.D.s or "rising stars," and dealing with dual-career problems created by our location are especially important actions here. (2) Substantially strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of Cornell faculty by setting explicit targets for gender and underrepresented minorities and by improving recruitment processes and accountability mechanisms from the start of a search to its completion. Efficient mechanisms are important to send consistent signals about diversity and to ensure that departments and colleges are held accountable for making progress. The action items for diversity (Objective 2) should be treated as a package.

EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE

Introduction

The emphasis of this section is (a) the excellence of faculty teaching, (b) international and public engagement aspects of education, and (c) the health and well-being of students. Faculty teaching is a component of the faculty excellence priority of this plan; involvement in international and public engagement experiences enables students to take full advantage of Cornell's educational breadth; and health and well-being are foundations or pre-conditions for academic and life success. Over the last 15 years or so, the university has invested heavily in the student living-learning environment and achieved great success in providing an impressive range of educational and co-curricular activities outside formal class work. Cornell has many outside-the-classroom educational and co-curricular activities (e.g., North and West Campus programs) beyond those treated in this plan. While such existing strengths should be maintained and nurtured, this strategic plan argues that, for the next five years, the university should give special attention to enhancing faculty teaching, enriching opportunities in the international and public engagement arenas, and promoting students' overall health and well-being. The health and well-being of students deserve special attention, because increasing reports indicate that excessive stress is negatively affecting students' learning.

Objectives and Actions

Objective 1: Create and sustain a culture that supports teaching excellence in all academic units.

Rationale: Cornell, like most top-tier research universities, has a strong culture in support of research and scholarship. It should have an equally strong culture in support of outstanding teaching. Effective teaching is a central responsibility of departments and programs, and a key component of each individual faculty member's professional activity. This means, for example, that faculty members should remain actively involved in teaching across their careers, recognizing that loads may vary due to other responsibilities or research grant support. The institution needs to ensure that the best scholars are in the classroom, where they have an important impact on students' education and serve as good models for junior faculty. Involvement in mentoring and advising is also important. Moreover, "signals" from top to bottom of the institution need to convey consistently the value of effective teaching, advising, and mentoring.

Actions:

  1. Ensure that all academic units have a robust form of assessment that generates full information, includes some type of student feedback and peer assessment, and provides feedback to teachers that enables them to improve their teaching continually.
  2. Strengthen Cornell's resources for instructional support, through integrated efforts that involve both central and college-based activities, so that faculty (especially junior faculty) have easy access to new pedagogies and "best practices" for being effective teachers.
  3. Recognize and celebrate in new ways pedagogical innovation and strong teachers who are responsive to students and rigorous in their approach to teaching.
  4. Ensure that academic leaders (chairs, deans, and the provost) communicate clear expectations about the importance of teaching and advising, and that they hold programs and individual faculty responsible for demonstrating teaching effectiveness (e.g., rewarding excellent teaching in resource allocations and salary decisions).
  5. Examine current policies on course reductions and "buy-outs" of teaching, and assess whether alternative forms of relief (e.g., from administrative and committee responsibilities) or monetary rewards (e.g., summer salary, research monies) can effectively substitute for course reductions.
  6. Ensure that senior faculty members with teaching appointments remain actively involved in and committed to teaching and mentoring students over their careers at Cornell.

Objective 2: Strengthen institutional structures that promote pedagogical innovations both centrally and within colleges and programs.

Rationale: Faculty have many reasons not to devote more time to enhance the innovativeness of their teaching, adopt new pedagogies, or experiment with new methods, given the opportunity costs of such time investments (e.g., time from research and other professional activities). There is a national market for excellent research, but no comparable market for excellent teaching, which makes the local institutional policies, practices, and priorities of particular importance for teaching.

Actions:

  1. Strengthen the capacity (administrative and budgetary) of the office of the provost to facilitate and support educational innovations.
  2. Encourage faculty to experiment with new pedagogies (e.g., field-based learning) and new technologies, recognizing the different pedagogies appropriate for different disciplines and programs.
  3. Establish funds to provide summer salary or other forms of support to faculty with creative proposals for new courses that meet important educational needs of students and that cross intellectual boundaries.
  4. Encourage more courses that involve team teaching across colleges or disciplines within them by being more flexible about faculty teaching credits.
  5. Promote and support educational innovations beyond the classroom (e.g., service learning), taking advantage of Cornell's living-learning environment on campus and its public engagement mission and related programs.

Objective 3: Provide a more unified and shared educational experience for Cornell undergraduates.

Rationale: Cornell is the most educationally diverse research university among its peers. This objective is designed to increase the extent to which Cornell students experience that educational diversity by adding convergent or common intellectual experiences early in their time at Cornell. For example, these could involve additional living-learning programs on North Campus, common courses for Cornell students, or courses in colleges around a common theme. The idea is to promote a more fully shared educational experience at the university, while recognizing and building on the distinctiveness of college-based educational programs.

Actions:

  1. Develop coordinated sets of core competencies in colleges and at the institutional level to help guide teaching and programming. [See Appendix C.]
  2. Create a series of common intellectual experiences within the first two years directed at core competencies, including living-learning programs and formal coursework.
  3. Have colleges reassess their programs and make appropriate revisions in their courses and course requirements to realize core competencies in ways that are suitable for particular colleges, disciplines, or interdisciplinary fields.
  4. Encourage students to cross college and program boundaries in pursuit of their educational goals, and encourage colleges to reduce the inherent difficulties (posed by transfer pricing policies and college constraints).

Objective 4: Strengthen the educational impact of international opportunities and experiences for students.

Rationale: International education and experiences could be a distinguishing feature of a Cornell education, especially when combined with field-based (service) learning and other ways that Cornell students can and do engage the world and encounter students from other cultures. Cultural awareness and sensitivity are important core competencies that international programs and experiences help to develop. We need to be clear about what we want students to gain from these experiences, and the development of learning outcomes (see Appendix C) will make this more feasible. International opportunities also are a way to increase the involvement of undergraduates in research. [See Appendix C.]

Actions:

  1. Evaluate tuition, financial aid, and administrative structures for study abroad programs (external and Cornell-based) to ensure that they are affordable, sustainable and of high quality.
  2. As a complement to credit programs, expand noncredit opportunities such as international internships, global service learning, and summer work experiences with an important educational component.
  3. Assess the appropriate proportions of international students in programs, considering (i) the quality of the applicant pools, (ii) the educational value of having students from diverse international and cultural backgrounds interact with domestic students, and (iii) the costs of attracting the very best of these international students.
  4. Ensure that faculty participation and involvement in international programs (including study abroad) are sufficient to promote and sustain high-quality educational experiences for students.
  5. Create inter-university collaborations with top-tier universities abroad in order to foster two-way flows of students, while being selective about the number of such programs.

Objective 5: Promote the health and well-being of students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) as a foundation for academic and life success.

Rationale: This objective is included because Cornell University has a rigorous and demanding educational environment, and students experiencing excessive pressures will have difficulty achieving academic success. Uncertainties in the job market and competition for post-graduate study further accentuate the stresses students face, making health and well-being programs even more important. Handling such pressures is an important part of the learning experience and is a life skill that Cornell should develop and nurture. Thus, the Strategic Planning Advisory Council believes that over the next five years, health and well-being of students should be a priority in the student services area. The following action items exemplify a few directions for achieving this objective.

Actions:

  1. Promote a campus-wide culture in which asking for help is a sign of wisdom and strength.
  2. Ensure that there are sufficient resources for proactive outreach and intervention and timely availability of services to students experiencing excessive stress or showing evidence of mental health issues.
  3. Ensure that faculty, as teachers and advisors, recognize the importance of student health and well-being for learning, academic success, and general success in life.
  4. Make the health and well-being of students a community-wide responsibility by strengthening efforts to ensure that all members of the university community (faculty, staff, and students) have the information and training to recognize signs of excessive stress and know how to get assistance for themselves or others.
  5. As preventive measures for reducing isolation and alienation, develop new ways to foster closer ties between faculty and students (e.g., through improved advising, academic programming on North and West Campus), and a stronger sense of community among students within and outside of their formal class work.

Objective 6: Strengthen efforts to attract and educate an excellent and diverse body of undergraduate students.

Rationale: Attracting an excellent and diverse student body is a critical aspect of being a top university, and competition for students is growing. Having a diverse student body is integral to Cornell's core value of embracing difference and diversity (e.g., see Appendix B). Diversity generates important educational benefits because it brings students in contact with those different from themselves and gives them the experience of living in and learning from a diverse and collaborative community. This is particularly important in a global, multicultural society and world. Excellent, highly ranked departments and faculty are crucial to attracting students, as are competitive award packages. Below are several ways that Cornell can do a better job of highlighting certain university strengths to attract the most promising and diverse student body possible-especially by emphasizing the breadth and comprehensiveness of its programs and the opportunities for working closely with outstanding faculty. The implication is that in recruiting undergraduate students, the university needs to more effectively or consistently bring to the foreground the personal attention from faculty, research opportunities, and prospects for service learning available to students at Cornell.

Actions:

  1. Maintain need-blind admissions and the competitiveness of financial packages for undergraduate students.
  2. In order to increase significantly the proportion of underrepresented minorities and also students from other cultures, develop targets and plans for enhancing diversity, as well as support mechanisms designed to facilitate and promote the academic success and retention of minorities at Cornell.
  3. Redesign the university web site to highlight the special opportunities that students have at Cornell to work closely with faculty and the wide variety of courses and programs available to Cornell students.
  4. In recruiting students, emphasize the capacity of Cornell to provide opportunities for undergraduate research (e.g., Presidential Research Scholars), study abroad, civic engagement, field-based learning, advising and mentoring by faculty, and the advantages of its living-learning environment.
  5. Expand (in collaboration with colleges) institutional mechanisms to involve undergraduates in research with faculty, and encourage faculty to actively involve undergraduates in their research projects.
  6. Develop more effective ways to ensure students have access to advising of high quality by, for example, developing "best practices" for faculty advisors, clarifying the appropriate role of faculty advisors, and making better use of the internet to compile information for students.
  7. Support strong efforts to build pipelines (e.g., through charter schools, summer programs, and the like) that significantly increase success in the recruiting of minority students.
  8. Explore whether some of Cornell's named scholarships could be used more effectively to enhance the yield among the very best applicants to Cornell.

Objective 7: Strengthen the capacity of graduate and professional programs to recruit and educate a diverse body of the very best students.

Rationale: The quality of graduate students is critical to the stature of departments and programs and to the recruitment and retention of faculty. Enhancing diversity is critical to building a strong pipeline of candidates into the academic fields. The emphasis here is on maintaining the university's competitiveness (the first three items) and improving the field system. 11

Actions:

  1. Maintain competitive stipends and health benefits for graduate students.
  2. Make fellowships more widely available to entering Ph.D. students, especially in disciplines or fields that are high in quality and important to the university, and where fellowships are essential to maintain competitiveness.
  3. Examine the feasibility and trade-offs of continuing to reduce graduate tuition rates to the levels of peer institutions.
  4. Develop a stronger, more organized web presentation on graduate education at Cornell that highlights Cornell's research infrastructure, its distinguished faculty, and the opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary work.
  5. To increase significantly the proportion of underrepresented minorities in graduate programs over the next five years, establish targets for diversity and develop plans for achieving them in graduate fields and professions where women and minorities are underrepresented.
  6. Consolidate graduate fields or reorganize small fields into clusters if and when such reorganizations have a strong academic justification, create a "critical mass" of graduate students, and enhance the research of Ph.D. students.
  7. Create effective mechanisms at the institutional level for supporting the development of graduate students as teachers, including the possibility of seed funds if needed to promote development and preparation.
  8. Expand professional master's programs where market-based opportunities dovetail with the academic strengths of a Cornell program, taking account of any adverse effects on current programs of high quality.
  9. Develop regular mechanisms at the institutional level for assessing the quality and impact of professional master's programs.

    [NOTE: See Objective 1 under Public Engagement.]

Conclusion: Education Priorities

While all of the objectives are important to move on in some way, improving teaching, enhancing the diversity of the student body, and nurturing student health and well-being are the priorities proposed by the Strategic Planning Advisory Council for the next five years. Overall, Cornell should strive for a commitment to excellence in teaching that is unsurpassed among major research universities. This requires a university-wide cultural shift. Specifically: (1) Creating a culture of support for teaching across each and every academic unit of the university, by consistently aligning symbolic signals, assessments, opportunities for innovation, faculty rewards and recognition, and the teaching components of graduate education.

In addition, (2) it is important to increase the diversity of the undergraduate and graduate student body, both to improve the quality of the education that Cornell undergraduate and graduate students receive and to build on the fact that the university is an influential pipeline for diversity into occupations and professions where minorities or women are underrepresented. Finally, given the pressures faced by students today at major research universities, Cornell University should enhance efforts to (3) foster health and well-being of students through greater awareness of health issues, proactive outreach to address excessive stress, and stronger ties between faculty and students. These three priorities, along with others here and in subsequent sections, will contribute to providing students a distinctive education that appropriately leverages Cornell's uniqueness and strengths.

EXCELLENCE IN RESEARCH, SCHOLARSHIP, AND CREATIVITY

Introduction

This section emphasizes the importance of raising the quality and stature of select departments to a position of academic leadership and of providing support for research, scholarship, and creativity in a careful, strategic, and cost-effective way. The latter is particularly important because of the increasing costs of research, the competitive environment for external support for research, and the financial pressures on areas with less potential for external funding (i.e., humanities and the arts).

Objectives and Actions

Objective 1: Increase the number of Cornell departments or graduate fields that have achieved world leadership in their areas.

Rationale: In the short term, this is imperative to preserve academic excellence, even in a period of limited resources. For the longer term, a distinguished institution of higher education must achieve leadership in a significant number of departments, disciplines, or fields. In 1995 National Research Council (NRC) rankings, nineteen of Cornell's graduate fields were ranked in the top ten (in the U.S.), and currently four of Cornell's professional schools or programs are ranked first or second in their respective fields. A set of well-understood and transparent criteria is needed to define the academic success and stature of departments and graduate fields.

Actions:

  1. Increase by at least five the number of disciplines or graduate fields in the top ten among U.S. peers using criteria such as those specified by the National Research Council (NRC); maintain the current number one ranking of several Cornell schools or colleges; and move at least one professional school into the top ten among its peers.
  2. Identify and support departments that become or already are world leaders in their disciplines or fields.
  3. Develop better data, criteria, and procedures for evaluating and tracking the quality of research, scholarship, and creativity of faculty, departments, and colleges.
  4. Require departments to develop strategic plans for enhancing or achieving academic distinction and leadership.
  5. Selectively invest in departments that demonstrate the greatest capacity to build on current strengths and achieve new intellectual heights in research and graduate education and disinvest in those with the lowest capacity.

Objective 2: Build and maintain world leadership in a select set of departments within the following broad areas: humanities and the arts; life sciences and agricultural sciences; physical sciences and engineering; social sciences; and professional schools and programs.

Rationale: Cornell must achieve and maintain academic distinction in a reasonable representation of departments within these broad areas, given the breadth and comprehensiveness of its mission. This implies that it is important to set priorities among departments and programs within these groupings. It is also critical to promote greater coordination and collaboration that enhance opportunities for departments to improve their stature. Cornell's history of academic distinction in several professional schools, which interweave the pursuit of fundamental knowledge with its use and impact on the world, also should be enhanced and nurtured. While it may not be feasible for every department to reach the pinnacle in its field, each should have aspirations that are ambitious yet realistic.

Actions:

  1. In order to develop new academic initiatives and advice on fields for strategic investment or disinvestment, use current internal advisory groups for the life sciences and social sciences and establish internal faculty advisory groups for humanities and the arts, physical sciences and engineering, and agricultural sciences drawing on the diversity that exists in these groups of faculty. 12
  2. Consider more formal cross-college structures of coordination (e.g., steering committees, shared departments, super-departments, mergers) in disciplines or fields where these would significantly enhance academic excellence and reputation and/or improve the utilization of faculty resources. 13
  3. Encourage efforts of professional programs and schools to enhance academic quality and generate ties of mutual benefit to basic disciplines.
  4. Eliminate, consolidate, or downsize academic departments or programs that (i) are no longer strategically important to the university, or (ii) are of weak quality and do not have the prospect of becoming strong in a reasonable period of time.
  5. Promote and support new initiatives that develop "cutting-edge" research and scholarship synergies across these academic groupings (e.g., life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering; humanities and social sciences; life sciences and social sciences; professional programs and basic disciplines).

Objective 3: Strengthen support for and recognition of important interdisciplinary areas, while ensuring excellence in disciplines as a foundation.

Rationale: Interdisciplinary research including international area studies, grounded in strong disciplines, is an historic strength of Cornell. Interdisciplinary work is important to remaining in the forefront of scholarship and research and to contributing to solutions for societal challenges (e.g., poverty, environment). Moreover, interdisciplinary research and scholarship are ways to enhance or leverage the distinctiveness of Cornell and to act as "one university." It is important to stress that strong disciplines are a necessary condition for strong interdisciplinary efforts or programs.

Actions:

  1. Encourage departments to (a) recruit faculty likely to have an impact beyond the hiring unit, and (b) include faculty from more than one discipline or college on faculty search committees.
  2. Ensure support and encouragement for untenured faculty whose scholarly work extends beyond traditional department structures, including clear expectations that their interdisciplinary or cross-departmental research will be fairly evaluated in renewal, tenure, and promotion decisions.
  3. Promote grassroots development of new interdisciplinary initiatives by improving the capacity of colleges and the provost's office to identify, set priorities among, and nurture interdisciplinary efforts emerging from the faculty.
  4. Establish more effective procedures for encouraging and supporting the preparation of interdisciplinary proposals for external grants, traineeships, or contracts with a broad impact across departments and colleges.
  5. Regularly assess interdisciplinary programs to ensure that they involve faculty from multiple academic units and are magnets for excellence; and phase out those that do not meet rigorous standards.
  6. Examine whether existing seed funds across campus are being used effectively to stimulate major new interdisciplinary initiatives.

Objective 4: Significantly improve institution-wide services for the administration and support of research grants (including government, foundation, and industry funding).

Rationale: The university needs to minimize administrative burdens on researchers and work to facilitate better their capacity to compete for research funding. Such investments could be paid back promptly by increasing grant support across the university. University-wide efforts and practices should foster and sustain a culture of proactive, solution-oriented, collaborative, customer-focused administrative services where actively consulting and partnering with researchers is the norm.

Actions:

  1. Identify and eliminate administrative barriers to successful competition for external funding, including those associated with the negotiation of intellectual property.
  2. Develop and successfully implement financial accounting and research administration systems in a manner that identifies and meets the needs of all stakeholders: administrators, faculty, and support staff both in units as well as centrally.
  3. Keep abreast of external regulatory trends (and proposed changes) and ensure that the regulatory requirements are adequately met, but be careful not to impose unnecessary bureaucratic constraints on investigators.
  4. Develop and maintain efficient staffing structures for research administration across campus in order to handle the administrative aspects of the research process as much as possible (e.g., for proposal development, financial management, contract management, protocol administration, human subjects review, data stewardship, and hiring).
  5. Establish clear expectations, qualifications, and competencies for research administrators and train or hire highly qualified individuals to serve in these roles in all colleges.
  6. In support of excellence in research, review performance of research administrators with established performance standards, including customer satisfaction and assessment by researchers and college research officers.
  7. Effectively participate in advocacy directed at funding agencies in support of the needs of higher education, principles of academic freedom, and capacities to conduct fundamental research.

Objective 5: Maintain and selectively strengthen in cost-effective ways the core infrastructures for research, scholarship, and creativity, including in particular libraries and shared research facilities.

Rationale: The financial challenges of the institution are exerting significant pressures on these resources, which are essential to the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty and to Cornell's academic reputation. The libraries are a well-recognized strength of the university, and Cornell has exercised national and international leadership in the development of "state-of-the-art" shared research facilities. In light of constrained resources, it is important to define and track the changing needs of diverse users of these facilities and to invest selectively to ensure effective and efficient support for faculty and student research.

Objective 5A. University Library

Rationale: The library is foundational to excellence in virtually all departments and programs. It is the "core facility" for humanists who, in particular, need access to books and monographs; natural and social scientists need access in particular to digital resources, open source journals, and the like. It is also important to emphasize that the libraries are integral to the educational experience of students at all levels. However, recent cuts to the budget for library acquisitions and burgeoning publication costs have threatened the competitive standing of Cornell's library, and this problem could hamper attempts to recruit outstanding faculty, especially in the humanities. Strengthening the collections and ensuring that they are at a competitive level should be a high priority, as should be a recognition and understanding of the differential needs in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Actions:

  1. Assess how the university libraries are supporting the research and scholarship of faculty.
  2. Develop deeper engagement between faculty and librarians across campus in order to identify priorities for collection building; to enhance support for new, under-supported, or interdisciplinary fields; and to respond to emerging needs in areas such as data curation, visual resources, and digital culture.
  3. Ensure that collaborations and partnerships with other libraries serve the needs of faculty and students at Cornell and strengthen faculty scholarship and productivity.
  4. Examine and track the library needs of students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) to ensure strong services to support their academic work.

Objective 5B. Shared Research Facilities

Rationale: Cornell should strive to remain a leader in the development and provision of core research facilities for local, national, and international science communities. Financial pressures and constraints mean that strategic choices will need to be made. The action items below suggest some guiding principles.

Actions:

  1. Selectively maintain and promote core shared facilities in the sciences and social sciences, taking account of the research needs of local, national, and international scientific communities, external funding opportunities, and cost efficiency.
  2. Review the university's investments in shared research facilities on a regular basis to ensure that these facilities maximize impact on the productivity and reputation of the university in national and international domains.
  3. When investing central resources to support shared research facilities, give priority to those facilities that have external matching funds and those that serve multiple research groups on and off campus in order to enhance Cornell's academic stature.

Objective 6: Encourage productive, mutually beneficial collaborations between faculty and students in Ithaca-based programs and faculty and students at Weill Cornell Medical College and Graduate School.

Rationale: The geographical separation of the university's main campus and the medical school creates special challenges and makes it difficult to take full advantage of potential synergies in research, teaching, and clinical programs. Some challenges are historical and cultural and others are administrative. Historically, Cornell's Ithaca-based campus and the medical school have had few academic ties across related disciplines or fields, and administratively, there are unique and special obstacles to collaboration. This is changing, in part because of new capabilities in electronic communication and intercampus transportation, and in part because of increasing potential for cross-fertilization between basic and applied biological sciences (e.g., importance of "translational research") and between engineering and medical fields. Recent examples of growing collaborations include joint retreats, collaborative seed grants in biomedical science, and dual faculty appointments. Such collaborations can generate "value added" results in research and strengthen the university's competitive position in the recruitment and retention of faculty. It is important to continue and to nurture this momentum over the next five years. The actions below exemplify some of the important steps to enable fruitful collaborations among the faculty.

Actions:

  1. Develop mechanisms that allow graduate students to engage in research and coursework on both campuses by addressing issues such as academic requirements, student housing, and health insurance.
  2. Identify areas of common and complementary interest between the life sciences and other academic disciplines, and nurture these by encouraging joint retreats or joint seminars among interested faculty in both locations.
  3. Assess the main administrative barriers to collaboration by faculty and students and to joint externally funded research projects, and work to resolve those.
  4. Explore additional joint recruitment efforts and joint appointments that would be of mutual advantage to Cornell's Ithaca-based and Weill Cornell programs.

Conclusion: Research Priorities

The Strategic Planning Advisory Council recommends three interrelated priorities for research, scholarship, and creativity. First and foremost is (1) to selectively nurture and build world leadership in a greater number of departments within each of the major academic groupings: life sciences and agricultural sciences; physical sciences and engineering; social sciences; humanities and the arts; and professional schools and programs. Focus is needed within each of these areas, but to reach the aspirations of this plan, it is important to achieve world leadership in more departments. Building innovative bridges across them may be critical (e.g., physical and life sciences, life and social sciences, humanities and the social sciences). This is a longer-term priority, whereas the next two address immediate problems or needs.

Those immediate problems involve the university libraries, shared research facilities, and support for externally funded research grants. (2) As indicated by Objective 5, the university libraries and shared research facilities need special attention over the next five years because of financial pressures on these core infrastructures and the changing and varied needs across disciplines and fields. Given the prospective costs of such facilities, the university needs to be focused and strategic in how it defines and works to meet the current and future needs within and across disciplines and fields. Finally, (3) as indicated by Objective 3, it is important to make expeditious changes in how the university supports and administers external research grant funding (see relevant action items). Solving such problems should yield benefits in the form of greater external research funding that could offset the additional costs required. The second and third priorities are important to the first but also to the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty.

EXCELLENCE IN PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

Introduction

Public engagement refers to the proactive involvement of faculty, students, and staff designed to have an impact on the world outside the university, from local to global communities. It subsumes the full panoply of ways that Cornell's faculty, staff, and students make meaningful contributions to local, societal, and global issues (e.g., problems of environmental sustainability, health, and poverty), from participating in public discourse or the performing arts to applied research and formal extension programs. Conceiving of the university's outreach mission as "public engagement" is an important shift because it recasts that mission in broader and more inclusive terms.14

Objectives and Actions

Objective 1: Make public engagement a distinctive feature of education at Cornell.

Rationale: Cornell has a unique capacity to interweave public engagement with its educational and research programs for students, given its status and history as a private university with a land grant mission. An integration of fundamental science with application of that knowledge and its use for the public good should be a distinguishing feature of Cornell programs.

Actions:

  1. Explore and assess whether or how engaging the world can become a more integral component of educational programs across campus.
  2. Strengthen the participation and leadership of faculty in public engagement programs available to students.
  3. Find new ways to work with Cornell alumni to expand the opportunities of students to engage the world (e.g., through internships, having alumni speak in classes, etc.).
  4. Ensure that it is easy and efficient for students to become aware of and access information about public engagement opportunities (e.g., service learning, internships) that serve their educational goals.
  5. Develop better institutional mechanisms for coordinating off-campus, non-classroom teaching and field-based or service learning opportunities for faculty and students.
  6. Evaluate the organizational structures through which Cornell makes available internships, educational work opportunities, and other off-campus learning to determine how they can be improved.

Objective 2: Construct a unified concept and vision for the university's public engagement mission.

Rationale: The educational and research activities of the university's outreach efforts are highly fragmented. For example, public engagement includes formal extension programs; translational research; clinical programs; technology transfer; education programs such as service learning; international engagements; and faculty involvement in public policy or as public intellectuals. This plan calls for greater connectivity among many of these disparate programs and activities, without introducing new central administrative structures or constraining academic entrepreneurialism. The administration of public engagement should be as lean as possible in order to enable a "bottom-up" entrepreneurial spirit to blossom.

Actions:

  1. Embrace a broad and inclusive definition of the land grant mission of the university that is directed at local, state, national, and global communities.
  2. Recognize and highlight the public engagement of faculty across endowed, contract, and medical colleges.
  3. Develop university-wide mechanisms to promote interconnections across forms or types of public engagement (e.g., extension, technology transfer, translational research, clinical programs, international programs, and service learning) without introducing new centralized structures.
  4. Develop an integrated and more user-friendly web portal for delivery of public engagement programs and activities, including extension.
  5. Make better use of electronic and other media to foster greater public recognition and appreciation of Cornell's public engagement accomplishments.
  6. Engage stakeholder groups and appropriate partner agencies in assessing and planning for the future of publicly supported extension activities.

Objective 3: Develop rigorous, systematic evaluations of all outreach and extension programs.

Rationale: Given objectives 1 and 2, there is need for an inventory and assessment of public engagement activities across campus. This should inform the development of a unified concept for Cornell's public engagement mission and help to identify new opportunities for public engagement to become a part of Cornell students' experience. An institution-wide approach to this assessment and common set of criteria would be important as would ongoing methods of gathering information on quality and impact.

Actions:

  1. Develop explicit criteria for evaluating programs that emphasize quality, importance to the university, and impact on society.
  2. Include an external-review component in regular evaluations of outreach programs.
  3. Establish an institutional mechanism for collecting data and information on the quality and impact of extension and outreach programs and for conducting evaluations.

Objective 4: Strongly connect public engagement to on-campus research and educational strengths.

Rationale: The strengths of the outreach mission derive from the research and educational strengths of the university and the capacity of the institution and its faculty to build and sustain enduring collaborations with stakeholders. Emphasizing the ties to on-campus research and education is an important way to establish boundaries for outreach, enhance its quality, and bring more focus and coherence to the university's public engagement programs. This should be a guiding principle and key criterion in the assessment proposed by Objective 3.

Actions:

  1. Emphasize evidence-based or scientifically based extension and outreach efforts that meet the educational or informational needs of stakeholders (ranging from local communities to New York State to international arenas).
  2. Make research an overarching theme for interconnecting community-based extension programs with on-campus research as well as with basic and applied science in the life sciences, agriculture, engineering, and medicine.
  3. Invest in and build on public engagement programs with strong, mutually beneficial ties to research and educational programs on campus, particularly those that can be funded by external grants, and reduce focus and resources directed at programs without such ties or the potential for external grants.
  4. Develop enhanced strategic partnerships between on-campus education programs and community-based extension and outreach.

Objective 5: Promote stronger collaborations and partnerships between the university and stakeholders that can make use of and strengthen Cornell's research (e.g., business, K-12 schools, nonprofit organizations, government).

Rationale: Partnerships with stakeholders are an important way for the university to identify policy-related problems and effectively bring the research expertise of faculty to bear on them. Strong outreach and extension programs tend to require productive two-way interactions between researchers and stakeholders.

Actions:

  1. Establish a clearly enunciated philosophy and policy concerning intellectual property and technology transfer.
  2. Improve university mechanisms for making technologies and knowledge that can be defined as public goods readily available to those who can benefit from them (e.g., business, industry, government).
  3. Encourage the development (e.g., in licensing agreements) of ongoing relationships between Cornell researchers and those who use Cornell research innovations for commercial purposes.
  4. Promote and support collaborations between faculty and local schools that contribute to the quality of K-12 education in New York State.
  5. Strengthen collaborations with Cornell alumni in order to promote and enhance the public impact of faculty research on the world.
  6. Explore new partnerships with state, regional, and national industries in order to promote economic development.
  7. Build a stronger footprint or base for Cornell's education, research, and outreach programs in New York City.

Conclusion: Public Engagement Priorities

Public engagement subsumes a complex and wide array of disparate programs and activities, formal and informal, with varied ties to academic strengths on campus. In the absence of an assessment, it is difficult to make firm judgments about which types of programs are most important and which are least important for the future. The most immediate and fundamental issue, therefore, is expressed by Objective 3. More specifically: (1) Implement a rigorous assessment of the quality and impact of all public engagement programs with the purpose of deciding where to invest and where to disinvest in the future. This assessment should be framed by a broad, inclusive concept and definition of public engagement (see Objective 2) that gives particular weight to how well public engagement connects to the research and educational strengths of the university (see Objective 4).

The quality of public engagement is founded on Cornell's academic strengths, yet excellence in public engagement can facilitate and enhance research and education in important ways, i.e., there can be reciprocal effects on quality. With this in mind, the second priority is (2) Make public engagement a more integral component of Cornell education and research across campus. This may not apply equally to all programs, but it should be pursued where feasible and, again, with a broad, inclusive definition of public engagement. This should enhance the distinctiveness of education and research at Cornell by taking better advantage of the fact that Cornell interweaves a private, Ivy League research university with a substantial public service mission, stemming from its history as a land grant institution.

STAFF EXCELLENCE

Introduction

Staff excellence is a critical component in virtually all of the university's academic and nonacademic activities. From postdoctoral fellows to supervisors to administrative assistants and the custodians, staff are essential to achieving the central mission of the university. Many staff, in fact, have daily contact with students and contribute significantly to the overall educational experience of students (e.g., in career, health, counseling, and advising services). Cornell's core values suggest the creation and maintenance of a workplace that provides respect, dignity, and fairness to all employees across all job classifications and units. Moreover, Cornell has a history of constructive relations with its academic and nonacademic and union and nonunion staff, as reflected in its commitment to a fair and humane workplace. Due to budgetary reductions, however, the recent period has been marked by staff reductions through retirements, attrition, and layoffs, and this has generated heightened levels of uncertainty among staff. This is a context in which to view the objectives and actions below.

Objectives and Actions

Objective 1: Give priority to retention of highly qualified staff in valued positions as the university reorganizes to address budgetary constraints.

Rationale: In light of constrained resources, the importance of retaining highly qualified staff and the most important positions is greater than normal.

Actions:

  1. Reward staff who assume additional duties due to the reductions in staff and who continue to excel during difficult times.
  2. Identify positions that will be needed through the administrative reviews being conducted during the 2009-2010 academic year.
  3. Clearly define skills and talents needed to excel in these positions and accurately define positions to reflect expected outcomes.
  4. Identify career ladders and training opportunities for advancement.
  5. Provide staff annual performance reviews that accurately and honestly assess performance in current positions and identify development plans for growth.
  6. Align annual and ongoing salary increase programs to performance, and maintain a clear focus on a total compensation philosophy that will attract and retain top talent.

Objective 2: Attract a talented and diverse workforce to Cornell.

Rationale: Diversity is a fundamental value of the university (see Appendix B) that applies to staff as well as to faculty and students.

Actions:

  1. Ensure, and continuously reinforce by training and communication, that hiring supervisors at all levels are aware of the operational advantages of a diverse workforce.
  2. Ensure that effective procedures are in place for reviewing positions, assessing short lists of candidates, and including diversity impact as a factor in hiring decisions.
  3. Create and share successful strategies for attracting diverse candidate pools (including more use of networks to identify candidates).
  4. Assign all new hires a mentor/advisor for 90 days.
  5. Develop and implement diversity plans for units in consultation with those units.
  6. In such plans, include explicit goals for gender, racial, and ethnic diversity for job categories in which these groups are underrepresented.
  7. Create accurate position descriptions and career path models so that new hires understand their positions and see career opportunities for the future.
  8. In order to understand better how to retain women and underrepresented minority staff, particularly in upper management positions, regularly assess their experiences at Cornell.
  9. Assess orientation programs at the university and unit levels to ensure that they are informative and enjoyable, so that new employees reach peak efficiency as soon as possible and feel welcome and valued in our community.

Objective 3: Be an exemplary employer across the entire spectrum of staff.

Rationale: Cornell has been recognized for the quality of its human resource programs, and it is important to maintain and build on its strengths in human resources.

  1. Promote family-friendly policies and practices across academic and non-academic units of the university.
  2. Recognize and celebrate the value and contributions of staff across all job groupings or classifications.
  3. Continue the university's commitment to pay all employees an hourly "living wage."
  4. Ensure that unit leaders enable all employees to take full advantage of the staff training and development opportunities.

Objective 4: Provide job skill training to staff in a variety of venues.

Rationale: Providing staff the opportunity to advance their careers, develop their talents, and improve their lives is an important aspect of being a good employer. It is also important to accomplish this in a way that actually does enhance the promotion opportunities of staff.

Actions:

  1. Increase the current job-skill offerings through the Division of Human Resources and track usage, reporting to the college/unit leadership on a regular basis.
  2. Make greater use of online short courses and training to develop needed skills and talents.
  3. Encourage staff to take advantage of the university "health and well-being" programs.
  4. Tie training to identified development plans obtained in annual performance appraisals.
  5. Require supervisors to undergo training in basic supervisory skills and to refresh and update those skills on a regular basis.

Objective 5: Sustain and, wherever possible, enhance flexibility in the workplace and workforce.

Rationale: Flexibility is essential to manage work efficiently, to ensure a healthier workforce, and to support work/life balance. Different approaches or structures are likely to be required in different units, so policies and practices need to be adaptable at the local unit level.

Actions:

  1. Reassess job design and work allocation processes in light of recent declines in the university workforce.
  2. Create more collaborative, team-oriented units or work settings in which staff explicitly share responsibility for outcomes, have complementary skills, and have the capacity (talents) to substitute for each other.
  3. Encourage supervisors to make arrangements for staff to be away from their work, if necessary, for purposes of professional development.

Objective 6: Work with the local community to keep Ithaca and Tompkins County vibrant places to live and work.

Rationale: The university and the community are highly interdependent in this respect. A vibrant community is important for many practical reasons, not the least of which is its role in the attraction and retention of outstanding faculty and staff.

Actions:

  1. Promote affordable housing and accessible transportation for members of the university community.
  2. Encourage faculty and staff to contribute time and effort to maintaining and strengthening the quality of local schools.
  3. Encourage "volunteerism" of university members on behalf of the local community.

Conclusion: Staff Excellence Priorities

The Strategic Planning Advisory Council finds it difficult to choose priorities among these objectives. All are important to pursue in some way over the next five years if Cornell is to remain a model employer, as affirmed by recent awards. However, among these important objectives, one stands out above all of the others given the priorities in previous sections: attracting a diverse staff. This objective is consistent with a key theme of the plan, namely, to enhance the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the community as a whole. Staff diversity is an important component of this effort, and in many areas, staff have a direct impact on the student experience at Cornell.

10 The university policy that precludes other university employment for a faculty member who is denied tenure may warrant reconsideration in order to allow dual-career-related exceptions under carefully defined conditions.

11 A 2007 document, entitled "A Vision Statement for a Graduate Community Initiative" (GCI) and commissioned by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, makes a number of recommendations for improving the support for and services provided to graduate students. These include proposals for a Graduate Student Center and Graduate Resource Center that would enhance institutional career services for graduate students. The GCI document warrants continued discussion and consideration by the university, with appropriate weighing of the financial trade-offs.

12 An important role of these internal advisory groups should be to identify areas of strength to build and strengthen. Recently, the Life Sciences Task Force Report (October 1, 2009) identified three such areas for the life sciences: computational biology; genetics and genomics; and molecular and cellular biology. The Social Sciences Task Force (October 1, 2009) recommends public policy for the social sciences. This strategic plan is intentionally silent on whether these are optimal areas for the life sciences or social sciences respectively. Exploring or developing such ideas further should be a key responsibility for ongoing internal advisory groups of faculty, charged with advising the university administration on specific academic directions within and across the disciplinary groups and professional schools and programs. Whereas such groups already exist for the life sciences and social sciences, they do not exist in the other areas.

13 For example, the Management Programs Task Force of October 5, 2009, suggests ways to interlink Cornell's three accredited business programs, and the Social Sciences Task Force Report of October 1, 2009, identifies a range of different models for strengthening connections within social science disciplines that crosscut colleges.

14 The term "public engagement" is adopted from President David Skorton's "State of the University" address (October 23, 2009).