BJ SIASOCO: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the Cornell University Assembly's annual president's address to staff. I'm BJ Siasoco and as the chair of the Employee Assembly, I'm excited to welcome all of you here in Call Auditorium and those watching via livestream on Cornell Cast. Numbering almost 8,000 people, Cornell staff members touch all corners of the university, from labs to the library, academic advising to athletics, and our beautiful gardens and public safety.
Our students and faculty encounter staff morning, noon, and night in ways both seen and unseen. The employee assembly is pleased to host this event to provide the opportunity for staff to engage with and hear from President Garrett. We also pleased to present the Annual Employee Assembly Appreciation award, recognizing the contributions of honored staff members. Here to present this award is executive vice chair of the Employee Assembly, Greg Mezey.
GREG MEZEY: Thanks, BJ. Good afternoon. I'm Greg Mezey. And I'm here to present the 2015 Employee Assembly Appreciation award. On behalf of the entire EA, it's my pleasure to recognize the Cornell University Police Department for their dedication and commitment of outstanding service to the Cornell University community.
The EA chose to recognize our colleagues at CUPD because of their tireless 24/7 efforts providing resources, education and programming that serve daily to increase community and personal safety, trust and well-being, while supporting the educational mission of the university. You are likely familiar with the efforts of the uniformed patrol division and their ubiquitous presence on campus, providing skilled crimefighting, motorist assistance, and other safety services.
But in addition to the more visible uniformed members of the department and the daily crime logs is a division of many who truly embody the mission of service to the university. Accredited by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement, administrators, Cornell police patrols respond to violent situations, mental health and welfare checks, as well as low-level, everyday calls for assistance and actively trained for coordinated responses to active shooter incidences.
The major crime investigation unit that has an excellent solve rate for sexually motivated crimes as well as other serious offenses and provides for the safety of our visiting dignitaries and those gathering to exercise their rights to free speech. Cornell police has a premier explosive detection canine program in the southern tier, whose efforts have minimized disruption and closure of research and educational facilities, both on and off campus.
The special project manager acts as a liaison with the community groups, with all community groups, to assist with coordinated and safe, meaningful events, coordinating over 300 events annually and reviewing over 2,500 event registrations for any safety concerns. Dedicated blue light escort security staff provide walking escorts to anyone in our community and check that doors and windows are secure, lights are functioning, and the over 300 blue light phones are working.
The Cornell police 911 center telecommunication staff are available 24/7 to connect members of our community to the robust resources at Cornell, as well as connecting them with police, fire, and medical response. The Access Control program coordinates with new and major renovation projects, as well as department inquiries to manage over 3,400 devices, allowing for keyless entry as well as portal control monitoring and video surveillance systems. The Cleary Management Program keeps the university in compliance with state and federal mandates and the accreditation office keeps us in compliance with professional campus law enforcement best practices.
The Office of Professional Development trains staff in-house not only for compliance, but also for cultural competencies, and makes sure that our community education and outreach is up to date and easily accessible. The crime prevention unit and other certified police instructors provide over 150 programs to over 21,000 participants annually-- everything from Coffee with a Cop to sexual assault awareness.
CUPD staff members are active in university-wide committees that support the student health and wellness, alcohol and drug response, bias response team, and hazing response team, as well as participating on the councils on hazing, alcohol, and other drugs, sexual violence prevention, mental health and well-being and gorge safety. Civilian and sworn staff have created solid and important partnerships with their campus colleagues in athletics, residential programs, fraternity and sororities, Dean of Students office, human resources, the diversity community, and many other student and staff organizations.
Administrative and the records staff provide the publication of the daily crime log to make sure that the court paperwork as well as judicial administrator paperwork is properly processed and delivered and provides statistical, analytical, quality control, and business continuity. Although not always appreciated by those ticketed, their national and state award-winning traffic safety program has led to a significant reduction of motor vehicle crashes related injuries on campus.
And the Cornell University Police work closely with university communications, media relations to emphasize positive efforts, transparency, and updated information that encourages the community to be informed and engaged in investing in our total safety and collaborating on weekly blue light messaging, which is sent to the entire Cornell community.
CUPD does so much, visibly and publicly, in addition to so much behind the scenes in keeping our campus and our campus community safe and secure. Taken from their own mission statement, it says, CUPD not only does it thus respond to required police services, preserve the peace, protect life and property, and recover lost and stolen property, but it also enforces, in a fair and impartial manner, the regulations which comprise the Cornell campus code of conduct, as well as applicable local, state, and federal laws.
We appreciate our role in enhancing the quality of life at Cornell by our contributions that foster a safe and secure environment, the cornerstone of academic freedom. We also recognize that justice is the foundation for peace. And to this end, our department is built on a foundation of community service and crime prevention, which respects and preserves the human dignity of all individuals served.
From the blue light escorts to the chief and every member in between, we appreciate your support of the educational mission of the university and all you do to protect the community while reflecting its collective values to the fullest extent possible. We are appreciative. I'm pleased to present this year's Employee Assembly Appreciation award to the Cornell University Police Department.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you again to CUPD for your contributions to this campus. I first met President Garrett at the 2015 Milton Konvitz lecture in Ives Hall. And after the speaker had finished, President-elect Garrett and I both raised our hands at the same time to ask a question. Dean Kevin Hallock told the audience that he would get to the students' questions before the president's, and when he handed me the microphone, I sheepishly admitted that I was a staff member, but I would gladly take that for his question.
Since taking office not yet six months ago, I have found President Garrett to be a tireless advocate for Cornell University, one who both honors where Cornell has come from and is excited to take Cornell into the future. On behalf of the staff community, represented here through the Employee Assembly, I look forward to hearing how the staff will be a part of that vision for the future. Please welcome to the stage the 13th president of Cornell University, President Elizabeth Garrett.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Thank you so much. And thank you, BJ. It has really been a pleasure to work with you and your leadership team. And I'm looking forward to doing that throughout the year. And congratulations to the Cornell University Police. I see many of them in the back, if you don't see them. There's even one with four legs and fur, right?
The cutest one of all of you, I am sorry to say. But it is great. And congratulations. It is a well-deserved recognition. And I'm so glad Chief Zoner was here to accept that on behalf of the police. I know as well as any of us here what an important role our police play in making our campus safe, in allowing us to pursue our missions. And we appreciate what you do every day. Thank you very much.
And thank you all for coming out to this event. I've met some of you along with your families and friends at the fall employees' celebration in Barton Hall last month. I've met others when I've been on my tour of the divisions in the colleges and the schools. And I'm pleased to have another opportunity to say thank you for the essential work that you do across this university to help keep Cornell at the forefront of American higher education. Your efforts support excellence in Cornell's research, teaching, and outreach. And you create an environment where faculty, students and staff together thrive.
Last month, I shared with our board of trustees three recent recognitions that reflect the work of Cornell staff. We received the 2015 Active Minds Healthy Campus award for our cohesive and innovative public health approach to student health and wellness, in recognition of the collective efforts of our students, faculty and staff to create a more healthy campus. We earned a place for the ninth year in a row on the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoptions list, of the 100 most adoption-friendly workplaces in the United States, which is one of the ways we've anticipated and responded to the emerging and increasingly diverse needs of families.
And we earned a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity, or HEED award, from Insight Into Diversity magazine, which is the only national award which recognizes campus success in inclusion and diversity. These latter two awards in particular recognize our efforts to advance a more inclusive workplace.
As you know, our student body is already very diverse-- racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, geographically, in their sexual identity, religion, and many other aspects. We must continue to recruit and retain the most talented faculty and staff, recognizing that that talent is increasingly diverse and the diversity walks hand in hand with excellence. They will bring with them a rich tapestry of difference that will sustain and enhance a culture in which we all thrive.
Our goal should not be to homogenize, but rather to find motivation in our differences, recognizing that sometimes that can be uncomfortable. But problems are better solved when we debate them vigorously with different points of view. And the process is enriched when those involved bring various backgrounds and perspectives and experiences to the table.
It is clear that we reach better solutions, we form better policies, when there is a diversity of views that is heard and a diversity of experiences that are honored. We have many training and development programs already in place that support staff as they learn about and traverse this ever more diverse environment. And we will continue to look to you for advice as we work to improve these programs.
Now, one final bit of good news. Just last week, vice president Mary Opperman was inducted into the National Academy of Human Resources, in recognition for her exceptional leadership and stature among her peers nationally, including in the corporate world.
One of the highlights of my week is I got to attend the dinner with Mary and her children and some of our colleagues, including the chair of our board of trustees. And it really was wonderful to see the respect with which Mary is held across the country. Doesn't surprise us, but it is nice when other people recognize that level of excellence. And as you know, Mary has been vitally involved in making Cornell a progressive workplace and encouraging all of us to keep up our good work.
No matter what specific role we play at Cornell, if we are based in a school or a college or an administrative unit, each of us contributes to the academic mission of the university. It's a two-part mission, really-- training the next generation of leaders through Cornell's undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs and creating an environment in which faculty can pursue research, creative work, scholarship, and engagement that will change the world.
Whether we care for the campus grounds or maintain advanced research equipment, counsel students, or manage payroll or process travel reimbursements, motivate donors, or carry out the myriad of other ways and functions in which a research university operates, we are all engaged in the academic mission and the academic enterprise. We are all citizens of the university and contributors to that success.
And I think one of the things that I noted the most in Greg's description of our police was his tying the work that they do to our academic mission, tying it, even to academic freedom, which does require an environment of safety and calmness and justice. And I think that's the kind of thing that often is overlooked, or sometimes we may forget.
The further one is from a classroom or from a dorm room or some of the places where the academic activity obviously goes on, it can be sometimes difficult to remember how important the roles you play are. But we could not do the work-- we faculty and our students, that we do, without the support of our exceptional staff.
The importance of our staff, I think, is reflected in this university's very unusual governance structure. Cornell is one of the few private universities in the country with two students, two faculty-- I think it's four faculty, actually-- is it two? Two, sorry. And one employee-- that's why I have those guys over there. They kind of signal me-- and one employee as a full voting member of our 64 member board of trustees.
Additionally, staff serve on two shared governance groups-- the university assembly and the employee assembly, which sponsors this address and the appreciation award that our police just received. Staff members and faculty also serve together on committees, task forces, and other bodies that consider issues of broad concern to the university community, from the sustainable operation of our campuses to our approaches to sexual violence, education, and prevention, and our efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. These are valuable initiatives that give staff members a voice in how the university is run and allow us to make better decisions because those voices are heard.
I also want to thank you for your support of the United Way. United Way agencies help thousands of Cornell staff members every year inside and outside of Tompkins County. And if you haven't already done so, you can contribute online or by using a pledge card that we all will soon receive. And I note that all of your contributions will go directly to the activities of the United Way so that it will have real impact in our communities.
Now of course, Cornell, like other major research universities, is struggling to move forward on all aspects of our academic mission in a climate of constrained resources. We need to be creative in our approaches, and we can't afford to let our processes or procedures be part of the problem. Many of you may have seen the memo I sent out to provosts, deans, and vice presidents in August, asking them to assess processes and procedures and work to eliminate burdensome paperwork and other administrative burdens, where the goals of the process can be met more efficiently.
These assessments are underway and due in just about a month. And I expect they will provide a foundation for ongoing and regular review of our processes to ensure that our resources are directed to current priorities and that we achieve our academic goals as efficiently as possible.
In other words-- and let me underline this-- this isn't a once in a lifetime kind of analysis, but it's something that we all need to be doing at all times in our operations so that we are sure that what we're doing is being done in the best and least burdensome manner possible. One of the benefits of reducing bureaucracy will be to free faculty to spend more time on activities that increase our academic excellence through research, teaching, and outreach; students, to focus on their education and growth, and in many cases, relieve the burden on staff as well.
Now, we've been working on this for a while now. I know this was part of what was being done before I came to Cornell. And already there's more to do. I think it's gratifying to note that our efforts in this regard are already beginning to show fruit. As some of you know, Cornell began a lean process improvement initiative in 2013 to help teams from colleges and units address their workload challenges.
This initiative has already yielded $2 million in savings in units ranging from athletics to alumni affairs and development to the animal health diagnostic center to the Cornell store. And along with monetary savings, which is important, many units reported increased job satisfaction and morale and the reduction of stress among staff workers, which is a goal of lean process as much as is saving resources. To give you an example, Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine has improved about 10 processes using the lean process improvement framework, including a system for monthly invoicing.
Before implementation of the new system, it took four hours on the first day of every month-- and it didn't matter when the first day was, even a Saturday, Sunday or holiday-- to generate the monthly invoice file. With the College's new system, the time needed has been reduced to an hour or less. And that's translated into 156 hours that we can give back to the person who is generating the file who previously had to give up weekends and holidays for this work.
Here's another example that you may have read about in the Chronicle. PS2, the second of Cornell's streamlining activities, was centered on Cornell's use of e-procurement tools, or called e-shopped. A member of the facilities management procurement team was one of the 11 volunteers who participated in the session and contributed greatly to the end result.
One of the challenges this team member had identified because this team member was a person working on this on the front lines was searching the products needed by dozens of tradespeople across multiple suppliers, and creating multiple shopping baskets for each job. The work was easier when suppliers could create a custom quote that could be retrieved from the vendor's website. But smaller suppliers didn't have that technology to create an automatic custom quote.
The team member and his colleagues worked with key suppliers on a low-tech method of creating a custom quote in an e-shop shopping cart, where it could be reviewed by a Cornell customer for potential approval. This new method is more flexible than the old system and it saves time and effort. In fact, it's now been deployed across the entire campus and over 500 e-shop users are now taking advantage of this innovative approach to procurement.
Process changes can also increase efficiency in a way that directly improves the student experience. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is reinventing its student services model of one-on-one training and advising by investing in customer relationship management technologies like those used successfully in industry. The goal is to empower people on the front lines-- coaches, student organizations, academic advisers, research centers, and alumni with tools that allow them to be a formal part of the student support system.
The technologies include a social media platform called Chatter, where students can get reliable answers to questions from peers and staff members, where faculty can follow their advisees, and where the central advising unit staff can ensure that students are getting the correct information about graduation requirements and other topics. And the system's now getting about 11,000 logins a month. A CALS mentoring platform allows alumni to connect with students for career conversations, resume critiques, and mock interviews, and will ultimately enable entire clubs, coaches, and departments to set up mentoring programs between their alumni and our students.
A case management system lets faculty advisors alert CALS student service professionals about students who are struggling academically so that they can be connected faster, with important resources. This process used to take weeks, and it involved collecting information from upwards of 200 students from lists, emails, phone calls, and Excel spreadsheets. And this is in a situation where time is of the essence, to make sure that our students succeed and have the support that they need.
With this new system, this can now be done in a matter of minutes. And CALS expects the system to decrease the number of students who end up in crisis at the end of each semester. An online speakers bureau is being planned for 2016, which will help professors, clubs, and unit organizers to engage directly with our alumni. And here is the final bit of good news about this system.
CALS' student services approach has been so successful that it has secured $150,000 of a foundation grant to build products that are now being adopted by other universities. Take another example. Five central university units-- the Einaudi Center, Cornell abroad center for cultural dialogue engaged learning and research and the Office of Academic diversity initiatives recently created a common application for undergraduate students seeking financial support from Cornell for their off-campus experiences. The initiative increases access to information and it simplifies the application process for undergraduate students while allocating funding in a more efficient, inclusive, and equitable way.
Now, these are all examples of the kinds of things that I hope emerge from this process. You will notice that none of the things that we were trying to solve were created because of bad motives or because people weren't doing the right thing. They evolved because a university like ours, which is so big, tends to behave incrementally. Or one unit makes a decision without thinking about what other units are doing.
Take the example I just gave you about five university units, each having their own application process. Now, nothing was badly motivated by that. Each one of them knew it in an application. What had to happen was an outside perspective to say, you guys are all going after the same information. Students are having to do this five times. Let's do it once and make sure it works more efficiently.
There are lots of ways that this can be accomplished. Looking at structures-- do we have the right number of committees? Are there overlapping jurisdictions? Are we creating new committees or task forces for issues that could be dealt with by existing structures? Do we have multiple approvals for a decision that really needs just one approval and other notifications. Or maybe if we're approving 99% of the questions, the default should just be yes, unless you hear back from us that there's a question or that the answer is no.
In other words, there are many ways that we could make our decisions in a way that is less burdensome for faculty, students, and staff and still achieves our perspectives. There's an interesting-- as you probably know, I study organizations. And there's interesting scholarship which contrasts what's called police patrol, police patrol regulation, which is when you look at every situation. You're always there. You're patrolling you're looking at every house, versus fire alarm, which is where you put your resources to the emergencies or the problematic issues that you see.
And I think with response to everything we do, we have to ask ourselves, are there such pervasive or difficult problems that we need to do police patrol, or is this an area where 90% of the time everything's OK, and what we want to do is focus on that 10% that needs our extra resources? And that's just a question we don't take enough time to ask often, because we're busy in our lives. We're doing our work. This is a kind of initiative asking us to focus on those questions.
This sort of analysis and emphasis on streamlining and reducing burdens is not a one time initiative, but a way of operating for a modern university that wants to be nimble, flexible, resilient, and responsive. The challenge I put out to you today is how to build on the efforts like those I've highlighted to create a stronger connection among all of us and the academic mission of the university, so that all who work on our campuses see ourselves not only in the context of specific responsibilities, but also as essential to advancing the university's position as one of the world's great research universities.
Speaking at the installation of a university chancellor many years ago, the late John Masefield, the poet laureate of Great Britain, recited a poem that I think still captures the spirit of great research universities like Cornell. "There are very few earthly things more splendid than a university. Wherever a university stands, it stands and shines. Wherever it exists, the free minds of men and women too, urged on to full and fair inquiry, may still bring wisdom into human affairs. To be a member of one of these great societies must ever be a glad distinction"
I invite you to consider ways in which all of us who carry out the necessary work of Cornell cannot only feel the satisfaction of a job well done, not only the support that a caring community and enlightened workplace makes possible, but also pride in being a member of one of these great societies that stands and shines, a great society which plays such an important role in advancing knowledge, discovering new knowledge, preparing the next generation for leadership, contributing to the solutions to the world's most difficult problems, and providing the world a basis for hope in the future.
I for one will be working closely with you, with Mary Opperman and the other leaders of this university with our shared governance groups and with others on campus. And I will use the bully pulpit of my presidency to advance that goal.
I thank you for your work. You are not thanked often enough, but do know that I appreciate it and understand how hard you work and how important it is to our success. And I am very glad to be with you today, look forward to more conversations, and I'm very happy to take any questions. Thank you.
BILLY KEPNER: Thank you, President Garrett. I'm Billy Kepner, and I'm the vice chair of communications for the Employee Assembly. And in anticipation of your address today, we did solicit questions from the staff community and received over 60 questions.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Well, we're going to be here a long time.
BILLY KEPNER: So because of that, I'd like to frame the first question. And you already answered the first part about it. Many of the questions that we got were really about the burden of bureaucracy memo. And thank you for bringing that up. Thank you for stealing my thunder. But one of the main themes that was in those questions was when staff was expressing fear of when they hear the word "steamlining." For them, it resonated with staff layoffs. And I wondered if you could provide some insight into that.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Well, it is not aimed at staff layoffs. And you'll also notice that the memo doesn't actually talk about reduction in costs or put out a figure of cost reductions. Because I really am focused in this on burden. If you just think to your lives, there's a lot of your life that you're spending in the workplace-- maybe at home too, but I can't help on that-- in the workplace on things that you just know could be done better.
And maybe you don't think you have an avenue to make that known, or maybe it would take more than you to affect that change. Or maybe you need more information. You suspect there's an inefficiency, but you need more information. Or maybe, using the CALS example, the way that we need to solve it is an investment in certain kinds of technology. And I think what this memo is about is empowering staff who may well know more about these things than faculty and students.
As a faculty member, you kind of know, geez, I'm filling out a lot of forms that seem redundant. But you may not have a deep sense of why that is, whether there's a good reason or it just sort of accumulated that way. So a lot of it really is in trying to empower people to have a voice in helping us identify those things. Now, does that mean costs will be reduced? Often in many cases, it does. Sometimes it actually involves an investment in technology or something that will, in the end, yield benefits.
Sometimes the reduction is just in the hours one is spending on work that one doesn't have to do. That then frees one up to do other things. And there's always more that we want to do as a university. Does that mean there won't be some changes in staffing? I can't promise that. And I can't promise that going forward. We always have to be thinking about current priorities and past priorities.
There will be some things we used to do that we just no longer do as a university. And that may yield some changes in staffing. Often, though, it also opens up some new opportunities that with retraining or other kinds of ways people can move into. But this is not aimed at reducing staff or actually reducing cost with any specific target. It is about making our processes better so that we focus on things that are important.
BILLY KEPNER: Well, thank you for your thoughtful answer. So we'll now rotate between questions from the floor and from those watching remotely and others that were submitted online. For those that are here, we have two mics. You'll see people around the room from the Employee Assembly.
And for those of you that are playing the at home or in your office edition, of the president's address, if you can submit a question online, right above where my head is, it says ask a question. Just click that and fill that out. So are there questions in the audience? Please stand. Now, there must be a question. In the back? Did I see your hand go up?
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: This reminds me of my classes. Everyone's in the back as far away. They're quiet until we get a little time.
BILLY KEPNER: Right there. There's our first question.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Excellent.
JAMES JONES-ROUNDS: Hi. Thank you, President Garrett.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Tell me who you are and where you work.
JAMES JONES-ROUNDS: All right. My name is James Jones-Rounds and I work in human development. I wanted to ask what your vision is for continuing Cornell's excellence in the field of sustainability.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Yeah, and you know, I was really glad yesterday to get to address the President's Committee on Sustainability. I appeared-- I think there may even be a story today in the Chronicle about that speech and my discussion. I think one of the signatures of Cornell is that we are the university that is doing perhaps the most important research work in the areas of sustainability, dealing with the variability of climate under current conditions, and energy issues, questions of renewable energy and how we deal with a world which is running out of fossil fuels that have problematic climate affects and a world that needs to move toward renewable fuels.
Not only are we producing, I think, the very best scholarship and research in this arena, but we're also using our campuses as a living laboratory. I am not aware of any other university where there's such a close connection between faculty and students who care about this and our staff, who actually work in facilities and infrastructure and properties. And again, I think sometimes when you're in an institution for a long time, you don't have a sense of how different it can be, because it's normal to you.
I'm really not aware of any such partnership between faculty, students, and staff to think about how we use our own campus as a living laboratory. And you think about all of the things that have been done with respect to energy use here, to get us off of coal, moved more toward renewables. We're going to continue to move toward wind and solar.
We've got a very interesting research project going on now, led by the engineering school, in thinking about deep earth heating, which I think not only could change the way we heat and use energy on this campus, but I think could fundamentally reshape energy in the world, if we could prove that it works and it can be scaled up. So we're doing this amazing work. We also have amazing outreach. And we're doing it in interdisciplinary ways.
It's not just science, but you think about the Atkinson Center for Sustainable Development. You've got people who are working in the science. You've got social scientists who are thinking about behavior and affecting policy. You've got humanists thinking about how we portray these kinds of issues in literature, in movies, maybe to communicate better with people how urgent these needs are, even though some of the effects are very far into the future.
It's really amazing. We've got our extension programs that allow us to be out in the state. And then we're creating new academic programs for our students, like environmental majors and minors. One of the projects funded by Engage Cornell is to create a minor in sustainable food systems. So we've got all of this happening on campus. And what I really want to do is A, to encourage that. And that's what the President's Committee is doing.
We also have now a senior executive leadership team thinking about ways we can move forward on this. Joe Molina's office is working on a communications plan to make sure that the world knows what we're doing so that we can affect how the world approaches these issues. And so we ought to be the place that when anyone in the world has a question about sustainability, climate change, environmental issues, energy, the first thing they should think is, I got to call somebody at Cornell, because they know more about this than anybody else.
And that's my goal, is to increase that visibility, to continue to do that kind of work, to train the next generation of leaders to go out and make a difference in the world. Whenever a big issue like this comes up, whether it is an issue of sustainability and energy, an issue of the effective inequality on our society, our democratic institutions, opportunities for education, my first response is always, what can a university, whose goals are research, creative work, public outreach and teaching, what can we do within our mission that will have the most impact?
And I think we're already doing that on these issues. What we need to do is make sure more people know about it. And not to say that we're hiding our light under a bushel. I think we are known. But I want us to even have greater visibility in these areas. So that's among the things that we are doing and we will continue to do.
BILLY KEPNER: Marie, do we have a question online?
SPEAKER 5: We do. Here's the question. Sometimes achieving efficiencies in processes requires significant investment in infrastructure, such as the CALS customer relationship management system you spoke of. How do you suggest we find this sometimes significant monetary and staff resources for those infrastructure investments? Will any new funding be made available for this?
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Well, I think that-- certainly, and I even mentioned that I think in the response to Billy's question, that sometimes what you have to do is invest for the long run. I think what needs to be done is to identify those areas of investment where we believe that there will be payoff in the long run. We do an analysis of that and what the payoff is.
And then the conversations take place with the deans, with the provost about whether that is an investment that ought to be made within the resources that we have. This initiative does not come with a pot of money. What it comes with is the challenge to people who oversee those budgets to think about how to invest their resources, sometimes in year one, that will yield returns in say, years 2 through 10.
And those are analyses that we're capable of doing, we can think about, and we can make those kinds of careful investments. And I think they need to be identified. And I think technology is actually a place where there really can be very beneficial assessments. And say something else about the CALS initiative that I'm really excited about.
Many of you have heard me talk about career services as an emphasis of mine. Because I think we have to focus on the value of the educational experience here for our students. And the value is plentiful. But one of the values is that when our students graduate as undergraduates, they are on a trajectory to the careers that they are hoping to have. And that means that we have to have conversations with them from their first year here about how their decisions are affecting the trajectory for their career that they will have when they graduate in four years.
Now, I think that is absolutely compatible with being a great liberal arts institution. Because we know that a career path is going to be very varied. It's going to have lots of unexpected twists and turns. And the best foundation for the bravery, the resilience, the empathy that one needs to succeed is the liberal arts, the arts and humanities and the other of the liberal arts, that teaches one to be resilient, to be a critical thinker, to be able to be flexible with changes in environment and time.
But it does mean we have to look-- we have a great career services operation at the central level. But we've got to look hard at how we can be better. And what CALS is doing, I think, could be a real model for the rest of us. I also met with some of the staff and faculty in ILR. And they're doing some really interesting things. We know there are other schools.
The College of Engineering has some amazing examples of this. We need to also share that across the campus so people can learn and adopt some of it at the central level to the extent it makes sense to do centrally as opposed to in the colleges, so that we're all learning from one another and we are benefiting as a university from some of the great innovations that we see in our units.
BILLY KEPNER: Well, you answered Sheri Mahaney from Cornell Career Service's question. Thank you.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Excellent. We're on, what, 55 now?
BILLY KEPNER: Yeah, we're doing good. So the next question is from Joe [? Debracci, ?] from Alumni Affairs and Development. President Garrett, you are off to a great start, making some much needed changes in the culture at Cornell by focusing us to be more efficient and by encouraging leadership to speed the decision process.
What are some of the challenges you've encountered here and how are you overcoming them? What can we as staff due to support these needed shifts?
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: It's interesting. I haven't found enormous challenges here. There are opportunities. There are new things to learn. But what I've found is that everybody has been so supportive and welcoming, eager to share their experiences, their advice and their input, that when I have questions, I have that ability to go out. I will also say that I believe a leader is only as good as the people she surrounds herself with.
And I've always said, no matter what leadership role I have, if you want to judge me as a leader, look at the people who are on my team. And I'm hoping that they'll actually be perceived as even greater leaders than I am, because that is what one hopes. And I think if you look at the team that has stayed with me, that worked with David Skorton, but also the new people that I brought in, the new provost, our new vice president for student and campus life, you see some truly exceptional leaders who spend enormous amounts of time working on the success of this institution.
And so I think that may be one of the reasons that I struggle to think of a challenge. They're here making sure that we work through it together. Lots of opportunities-- in all fairness, I put out this memo in part because I do think one of the challenges Cornell faces and other institutions is over time, an accumulation of burdens that don't get looked at in a comprehensive way.
I don't know that that's a challenge unique to Cornell, but I do think that's a challenge we have to undergo. I would say, here's another challenge, in all fairness. And it's both an attractive part of Cornell, but it is a bit of a challenge. One of the things I love about Cornell is that we're actually a pretty modest place.
We're full of nice people who like each other, who work well together, who celebrate each other's success but who kind of do their work and hope to be recognized because of that work, or actually don't even think about being recognized. They're just doing great work. And one thing I think we have to do as leaders, whether it's deans, staff leaders, university leaders, is to really hold up and celebrate the work of our modest faculty and staff and students and to make sure that they're recognized, as Mary was, with a national academy, internationally and nationally.
And I actually prefer working with modest as opposed to immodest people. They're better to surround oneself with. But I just look at all of our faculty and I see how many are in the academies. We should be very, very proud of that, and other distinctions. But there's so many more who deserve those kinds of distinctions. So one thing we are working on is to think about ways we can do more to celebrate our staff, faculty, and of course, our great students.
BILLY KEPNER: That's great. So do we have another question from the audience? Anyone?
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: I see a hand here. If you stand up, people can see you better.
BILLY KEPNER: Thank you.
SPEAKER 7: Hi, my name's Lori Sonken, and I'm with the Institute for the Social Sciences. And I wanted to pick up on what you said about sustainability. I applaud what Cornell has done in the sustainable world, the work of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the work of many Cornell professors-- David Wolfe, Bob Howarth, many others.
I'm thinking, though, along the lines that we should practice what we preach, on a much smaller scale than what these researchers have done, I've worked in several offices. And they all have those little Keurig coffee things. They're so annoying. They just dump plastic right into the landfill. I see those huge water trucks on campus every day.
We have this huge water bubblers. Maybe we could save a little money if we got rid of that and maybe put in water filters. We have all these vendors that bring food on campus every day. Maybe we should require the vendors to use compostable supplies. These are just some ideas that might make us be even more sustainable and a leader.
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Great. Thank you for sharing those.
Thank you for sharing those. We've taken a note of them. We have to analyze all of them to see what their effects are, whether you have effects that you don't anticipate. But I think they're all things that we should follow up on and think through.
BILLY KEPNER: So we'll take another question from--
SPEAKER 8: Many of us have ideas for change, but we are constantly told we don't have the resources, even though the change provided ROI in the future. How do we address this?
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Well, I am trying as best I can to bring additional resources to the university. But the reality is that all universities have constrained resources. Choices have to be made. Priorities have to be set. Not everything is going to be funded. I would encourage people to bring their ideas forward. But that doesn't mean all of them will be adopted or move forward immediately.
We are trying to bring additional resources to the university. And I think the university's on a very good financial trajectory. The provosts, working with our vice president for budget, Paul Streeter, working with our executive vice president Joanne DeStefano, and the deans have been working very hard to get our budget into a place where we've got internal balance.
As you know, we've long been externally balanced. We've had some internal imbalances. And we are working now to think about ways we can now generate additional revenues. Part of my job as president, in my view, is helping to try to bring those resources to the university. Whether it is advocating for federal, state, or local support, whether it is meeting with foundations to receive support, as we just received from the Mellon Foundation for our fantastic prison education program, whether it is through philanthropic gifts, as this university has been very successful in receiving.
The fact that we're at the end of a campaign, which I believe will be a historic campaign, does not mean that we are ending our work on fundraising. A private university is always working to raise those resources, thinking about new ways to bring additional resources in. You might remember that over the last few years there have been meetings about, how can we think about enhancing our revenue, maybe through some of the use of some of the land, et cetera.
Or, how can we think about additional academic programs that meet all of our requirements for excellence-- because we never do anything that is not excellent-- but also might bring more revenues to the work that we do as a university. So we will try to increase those resources. But I am a firm believer of living within your means and living within your budget.
We will do what we can. We will prioritize, but we will not be able to everything. And no matter how successful I am, we will never be able to do everything. My sense of Cornell is that we are enormously ambitious. And our ambitions will always exceed our resources. So we always have to make choices. Sometimes those are difficult, but those are choices we have to make.
BILLY KEPNER: And so I get the pleasure of asking the last question. And this one is coming from Chuck Lyons-- I can't say, I think it's Chuck Goelzer Lyons from Student and Campus Life. This is something that's very of interest to me and my colleagues that work in CALS. So during the workday, what do you do for physical and mental wellness? Can you offer any encouragement for employees to take time out during the workday for the wellness?
PRESIDENT ELIZABETH GARRETT: Well, I don't have a lot of time I can take out for it. I try not to sit all the time. So I try, sometimes when I'm on the phone or I'm thinking or I'm working, I get up and walk around, even if it's just walking around behind my desk a little bit. I work hard to exercise either before or after work as often as I can, because I think exercise is very important.
I think it's important to be cognizant of one's diet and eating and make sure that you're doing healthy things. Certainly to the extent that people are feeling stress, they need to reach out to those who can help during those times and who can provide support, et cetera. I hope everyone joins us on Sunday at 9:30 when we're going to be taking a cold weather walk. Thank God it's not going to be too cold.
Because I'm getting into this cold thing sort of gradually. I have brought you guys 70 degree weather in November. So I want that as one of my accomplishments. I'm not promising it every year, by the way. It was kind of a first year gift. And I think one ought to think about exercise and work. But I've found it's possible to sort of move around as one is doing work and to think about using the resources that we have available here.
It is very important. I just told the student assembly this. I told them that while they're studying for finals, while they feel overwhelmed by the end of the semester, they need to take time off. They need to go to movies. They need to exercise. They need to eat well. They need to spend time with friends. I will tell you another thing that is a recommendation. I think-- and this is not just about health and wellness, although I think it affects that. I encourage people to use email less. I think we--
It is amazing what picking up the phone and talking to a person can do. You can resolve it more quickly. All of us can think back to serial email discussions that could have been solved in two minutes on the phone. It's hard to tell tone. I think we've gotten into a world where we're taking kind of an easy way out. But I'm not sure it's actually the right way to respond.
And I also encourage students-- I just ran into one. Actually, one ran into me, on their cellphone, texting as they walked along. We need to unplug. And you can do that, it seems to me, some at work by using the phone, walking down the hall and actually talking to someone at their desk. I actually think that that leads to a better workplace.
It also leads to better outcomes. So I've encouraged my own staff to do that. We tend to, when there's a really difficult thing, to get on the phone together or meet together. And I would encourage you to do that well. I think you not only find that your work goes better, but I do think there's a stress to the constant email barrage that can be reduced by actually continuing actual human connections. Thank you.
BJ SIASOCO: Thank you everyone, and thank you, President Garrett. Again, we appreciate everyone coming here today. As a representative of the Employee Assembly, as the chair of the Employee Assembly, we are the organization here for you as staff members. We do have our website, assemblies.cornell.edu/ea.
Please visit us. Our meetings are the first and third of the month, mostly in the physical sciences buildings. They're welcome to anyone of the community, and especially staff as well. Please continue to engage with us. Thank you for coming, and enjoy the rest of your day. We do have lunch for you right out in the hallway.
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President Elizabeth Garrett delivered her first address to staff on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015 in Call Auditorium at Kennedy Hall. President Garrett's remarks were followed by a question and answer session.