ROBERT HARRISON: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the 67th Joint Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees and the Cornell University Council. This morning it is my honor to welcome the ninth president of Cornell University, Frank Rhodes and his wife Rosa--
--the past chairman of the Board of Trustees, Harold Tanner--
--my wife, Jane, who's been joining me a Trustee Council Weekend for over two decades now.
And in her debut appearance at TCAM I am thrilled to welcome my youngest daughter, Caroline, who I am proud to say as a member of a class of 2021 and here with us today, despite the onerously early hour that these meetings begin.
And a very special welcome to all 675 trustees, council members, and guests. Thank you, everyone, for being here today. This is the first time, since I became chairman six years ago, that my friend and predecessor, Pete Meinig, has not been sitting in the front row.
Many of us in this room knew Pete very well. And every Cornellian around the world has been touched by the impact that Pete has had on the university. He and his family created the Meinig Family Scholars Program nearly 20 years ago to recognize students with academic promise and a commitment to serve their local communities. With Nancy, he founded the School of Biomedical Engineering. Also with Nancy, he led the yearlong sesquicentennial celebration to remind 230,000 Cornellians around the world about our founding revolutionary principles. And he supported every initiative the university asked him to support, large and small, for decades.
But all of us who knew Pete valued his judgment and his moral compass at least as much as his extraordinary philanthropy. Pete was the real deal, the unpretentious Pennsylvania Dutchman, the loyal Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brother, the mean square dancer in a cowboy hat and boots, mixing it up with the Meinig scholars at his annual Oklahoma barbecue, the fantasy-come-true husband, father, and grandfather, who wouldn't miss a baseball game that his grandsons had, and who hosted the ultimate family safari in Tanzania for 15 members of his very fortunate family last Christmas. Not too long ago, I asked Pete if he would adopt me.
And he was the first time he ever said no.
Aside from that rejection, Pete was always responsive to Cornellians. A couple of years ago, when I sought out someone with more gray hair and more experience than I had during the very difficult months of dealing with Beth Garrett's illness and passing, I naturally reached out to Pete for advice. And he made himself available 24/7, and I took great comfort knowing that his judgment during that institutionally critical period would be unimpeachable.
Cornell has been blessed by great leaders during my lifetime. Pete Meinig was a great leader, a legendary Cornellian, and an extraordinary friend to so many of us. Pete engendered tremendous respect from everyone because he extended great respect to everyone. He was one of a kind. I will always miss him sitting in that front row.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and Cornellians everywhere, I want to extend our heartfelt condolences to Nancy and to their children and grandchildren, including their daughter, Anne Meinig Smalling, class of 1987, who is here today as one of our newly elected trustees. Please join me in a moment of silence to mark this tremendous loss to the big Red Family.
It is now my honor to introduce the nine newly elected members of the Board of Trustees who are joining us this morning as trustees for the first time at a TCAM meeting. All nine are exceptional, engaged, and loyal Cornellians. And it is my privilege to welcome them today to the university's governing body. Please stand when I call each of your names.
First is alumni-elected Trustee Sheila Wilson Allen, Sheila, my classmate from the class of '76--
--my classmate from the great class of 1976, and also, she received her DVM from the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1981. Sheila spent more than a decade as the Dean of the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine and is currently the senior accreditation advisor for the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. At Cornell, Sheila has been a member of the President's Council of Cornell Women, the Cornell University Council, and the Ambassador Network, Welcome to the board, Sheila.
Second is board-elected Trustee John Ceriale, founder of Prospect Advisors, the exclusive advisor on Hospitality Investments to the Blackstone Group, which is the largest owner of hospitality assets in the world. And in that capacity, John has driven some of the biggest hotel deals of the past 20 years. While he received his Hotel Management degree from the University of Nevada Hotel School, John has since reformed completely.
He now serves on the Dean's Advisory Board of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and has two children, who are Cornell hotelies, including Christie, who graduated in 2016, and Robbie, class of 2018. Welcome to the board, John, and thank you for focusing your efforts on the number one hotel school in the world.
Third is David Cohen, Arts and Sciences class of 1985 and a board-elected Trustee. After 20 years as a practicing lawyer, David recently served as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Obama. And before that, in senior roles in the Treasury Department, focused on terrorist financing, financial intelligence, and the imposition of sanctions against Iran and Russia. And well, that's about all I'm permitted to say about David.
Fourth is Linda Gadsby, ILR class of 1988 and an alumni-elected Trustee. She is the vice president and general counsel of Scholastic, the country's largest publisher of children's books. And at Cornell, Linda has held leadership positions in the ILR Deans Advisory Council, the Ambassador Network, the Black Alumni Association, and the President's Council of Cornell Women. Welcome to the board, Linda.
Fifth is Dustin Liu, ILR class of 2019, Dustin, our undergraduate student-elected Trustee. Dustin's Cornell service includes two terms on the student assembly, the policy chairmanship of the Ivy Council, vice president for Outreach at Cayuga's Watchers, and human resources manager for the Cornell Daily Sun. Dustin is also a certified Zumba instructor.
And anyone can please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that Dustin is the first certified Zumba instructor to serve on the Board of Trustees--
--in 152 years.
Sixth is Dale Rosenthal, Arts and Sciences class of 1978 and a board-elected Trustee. She is the former president of Clark Financial Services and a longtime residential real estate developer specializing in low- and moderate-income housing. At Cornell, Dale serves on the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Council, the advisory board of the Baker Program in Real Estate, and the President's Council of Cornell Women. Dale's oldest daughter, Sarah, graduated from Cornell in 2016, and her youngest daughter, Abigail, is an IRL student class of 2018. Welcome to the board, Dale.
Seventh is George Scangos, Arts and Sciences class of 1970 and a board-elected Trustee. George arrived at Cornell planning to major in French but ended up so inspired by his freshman biology teacher, legendary professor William Keaton, that he became hooked on science. And this led to an extraordinary career in genetics, biopharmaceuticals, and biotechnology.
George is currently the CEO of biotech startup Vir Bio, funded in part by the Gates Foundation to discover treatments and preventions for the most challenging infectious diseases. And until this past January, he was CEO of Biogen, one of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies. At Cornell, George was the Robert Hatfield Fellow in Economic Education in 2016 and served on the Cornell University Council, the Silicon Valley Advisory Council, and the Life Sciences Advisory Council. Welcome to the board, George.
Eighth is Anne Meinig Smalling, Human Ecology class of 1987 and a board-elected Trustee. Anne is president of HM International, where she has worked for 22 years managing the Meinig family businesses and freeing up her father's time to allow him to spend more of it with Cornell. She currently serves on the Cornell University Council and has served as chair of her 20th, 25th, and 30th reunion campaigns. Anne's daughter Samantha, is a student in the College of Engineering, 2020. Welcome to the board, Anne, and thank you for continuing the Meinig family service tradition.
Our ninth and last new Trustee is Allen Smith, who received his bachelor's degree from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1980 and his Master of Professional Studies degree in 1986. Allen is CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and previously served as CEO of Prudential Real Estate Investors At Cornell, he has been a long serving member of the advisory board of the Baker Program in Real Estate and an industry fellow for the Center of Real Estate and Finance. And on the Board of Trustees we're particularly grateful for Allen's contributions as a member of our real estate investment subcommittee. Allen, we promise not to bother you with Four Seasons reservation requests.
Welcome to the board.
I look forward to working with all of you in the next four years, and may I please have one final round of applause for all of our newly elected trustees.
I've been deeply involved with Cornell for many years. And I can honestly say that the momentum I feel today is stronger than it has ever been. In August, we celebrated the inauguration of our 14th president on a picture-perfect Ithaca day on the Arts Quad, exactly the kind of day we tell high school students is typical at Cornell.
President Pollack laid out her vision for the future in an aspirational inaugural address that inspired so many of us who heard it. And if it weren't exciting enough to inaugurate a new president, a few weeks later we literally cut the ribbon with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to open the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City. And you have all heard the words "transformative," "revolutionary," and "game-changing" applied to Cornell Tech. They are all true.
But it is also visually stunning. None of the photos, renderings, or drone videos that I have seen online even come close to doing justice to the architecture, art, and setting of this extraordinary new Cornell campus. If you have not been there, please go. It is nothing short of magical, and it is precisely what Ezra Cornell would have wanted for our next chapter.
Here in Ithaca, the momentum is at least as strong as it is in New York City. This afternoon we will be cutting the ribbon on Cornell Health, the new state-of-the-art wellness facility next to Willard Straight Hall, that will further strengthen our commitment to the physical, emotional, and social health of our incredibly diverse student body. A second major issue that is front and center on trustees' minds is improving the residential experience for our students.
We all know we have a housing shortage on campus, and we all know how poor housing conditions are in much of Collegetown. And as a result, we are planning to expand undergraduate student housing on North Campus by 2,000 beds by 2021, which will allow us to house every freshman, sophomore, and transfer student, and also will relieve some of the intense pressure on the off-campus housing market. And a related priority for the board is Collegetown, an important gateway to the campus, but one that simply does not live up to its prominent position or its potential.
Our first priority in Collegetown is, of course, ensuring the safety of our students and ensuring well-maintained housing. Toward this end, the university has partnered with the city of Ithaca to create an online safety rating database for properties that advertise on Cornell's off-campus living website. And we will be expanding that database to include all properties in the city, regardless of whether the landlords advertise them.
Our not-so-subtle goal here is to apply market pressure on these landlords who, while meeting minimum fire and safety codes, can and should do more to make their properties as safe as possible for their tenants, our students. Longer term, the university is working with the city and with local real estate developers to spur development in Collegetown's infrastructure to attract retail activity and to improve the appearance of this important entrance to the campus. As a Cornell parent, whose oldest daughter spent her senior year living in a questionable address and whose youngest daughter may need to consider it also in Collegetown, I am personally thrilled that President Pollack and her team are giving much needed attention to conditions there. And finally in terms of momentum in Ithaca, the trustees are eager to work with President Pollack to advance and invest in her priorities, our faculty, the pursuit of academic distinction, and, as she put it in her inaugural address, "educational verve."
I for one have never been more optimistic about the direction we are heading, both in Ithaca and in New York City. Until earlier this week, I had planned to introduce the chair of the Cornell University Council Enrique Vila-Bilaggi, class of 1994, at this point in the program. Enrique is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he owns Puerto Rico's largest facilities management company. And despite the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma and then Hurricane Maria, which left Enrique, his wife, his two young daughters, his parents, and his grandmother, and many of his properties without power, Enrique managed to secure a sufficient supply of generators and diesel fuel to allow him to feel comfortable traveling to attend this meeting.
Then the power went out again on Monday, and Enrique reluctantly told us that he would not be able to leave Puerto Rico. So our thoughts are with Enrique's family and many others who continue to struggle this tragic hurricane season. We have 425 Cornellians living in Puerto Rico and another 115 in the also impacted Virgin Islands. And we hope all of them can be here for TCAM next year.
In Enrique's absence, though, I am thrilled to be able to welcome his oldest daughter, Sophia Vila, a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology, to represent her father today, Sophia.
SOPHIA VILA: Good morning, everyone. I have the distinct honor of representing my dad, current chair of Cornell University Council, during this joint meeting of the Cornell Board of Trustees and the Cornell University Council. My dad has been a proud alumnus for 23 years and a council member for 11 years.
This is the first TCAM he has missed. This was not going to be the case. However, a special someone changed those plans, Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Maria caused great devastation in the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. 30 days have passed since the hurricane hit.
Today, less than 11% of Puerto Ricans have electricity, and close to 31% are without water. The situation is still too critical there. And so on Monday my dad made the decision to stay home and tend after his real estate business to make sure he can regain some form of stability for his business and his clients.
I know my dad. Trust me, this decision to not come to Ithaca and be here today with all of you is hurting him deeply. He absolutely loves this place. It provides him with an inner peace he's seldom seen. He comes here and then returns home recharged. I used to see this every time he returned home from Cornell. And it was not until I came here a year ago, that I fully came to understand the magic of what being a Cornellian really means.
I want to read a few words my dad sent for this event. "Good morning, everyone. I apologize for not being here with you today. But I have sent one of my most precious treasures to humbly represent me.
I'll be brief this morning and just want to share some exciting news. Cornell is developing a great tool, an online platform called CU e-Links which will connect students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of Cornell to share career and other advice. It will be Cornell's first-ever university-wide knowledge-sharing system.
The program has its roots in the work of a mentoring task force, on which several in the room today participated. And I want to think Michael Cook, Dan Simpkins, and Nathan Connell from the Admin Board, as well as Rebecca Sparrow from the Cornell Career Services for their incredible work. The CU e-Links implementation team is on the cusp of launching two pilot programs to test the system.
Once we are satisfied that the system is facilitating interactions as we envision, this system will be launched university wide. We are very excited for the opportunities that this new system will provide students. And I want to challenge the entire Cornell University Council to join this knowledge-sharing community to help enrich the Cornell experience for current students.
What if council can put its alumni resources to work and harness the alumni network as a powerful support structure for students? Imagine all the good you can do. Stay tuned for more on CU e-Link soon.
I want to thank my support structure here, the Admin Board, Laura Denbow and her team, for doing such a wonderful job for me and for council, even more so in the past 30 days. Thank you for all you do. Before I leave you today, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my friend Pete Meinig's passing.
You see, I first ran for trustee when Pete was chair of the Board of Trustees. As he told me then, he knew it would be an uphill battle, me being so young and with some awesome candidates, but that I should still run. I felt humbled and honored by Pete's call. I did not win the election. But what has really stayed with me to this day was the level of commitment and support that Pete demonstrated towards me throughout the entire process and after, calling me over the phone and then reaching out to me personally when we next met to make sure I was OK and did not feel discouraged, but rather energized to try it out again if the opportunity came.
I am a better person because of having been able to meet Pete. I know today his daughter Anne is here, so please know that your dad is and always will be an incredible role model for the many people whose life he touched, including me. Today and always we will honor a true Cornellian. May he rest in peace.
Our work for Cornell continues, and there is so much we can do to help. We, as council members, continue to be willing and able to come in and do what is best for our beloved alma mater. And we stand by ready for the next challenge. Thank you all for all you do for Cornell."
I know my dad wanted to be here today because of what this institution is, what it has provided him, and what it means to him. He wanted to be here because of all of you. I do not know if he has internet service today and was able to watch this, but if he is, Dad, I love you, and I am sure everyone here is pulling for you and for Puerto Rico.
After the dust settles, Puerto Rico will be stronger. That means you will be stronger. And that means Cornell will be stronger. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity today. Gracias.
ROBERT HARRISON: Thank you, Sophia, for sharing your thoughts and your father's devotion to Cornell. Our best wishes, of course, are with you and your family and all of the other Cornellians in Puerto Rico right now. And we wish you a full and complete return to normalcy very, very quickly.
It is now my privilege to introduce the 14th President of Cornell University, Martha Pollack, to deliver her first State of the University Address. Since Martha arrived in April, she has enthusiastically and relentlessly reached out to students, faculty, staff, and alumni, truly listening to their concerns, their hopes, and their dreams for Cornell. Then, at her inauguration in August, she described a vision for our future.
She called upon universities, and Cornell, in particular, to stand up for knowledge and truth, especially in the current national climate. She forcefully defended the right and the fundamental importance of free speech and expression, nowhere more important than on university campuses. She affirmed Ithaca's place at the heart of the university, even while creating another major footprint in New York City. And she promised to enhance Cornell's academic distinction, ensure a culture of educational verve, and do the hard work necessary to fulfill our civic responsibilities. Please join me in welcoming President Martha Pollack for a progress report on her first six months tackling these modest goals.
MARTHA POLLACK: You got to love a Cornell crowd.
Thank you, Bob, for the introduction. Thank you, Sophia, for those lovely words. And my heart does go out to you and everyone in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Thank you to all of you for being here. And thank you for the tribute, Bob, to Pete Meinig, as well as the one that Sophia read on behalf of her father. They were deeply moving.
I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to know Pete as well as you did. But even in the short set of experiences that I had with him, his presence just shone through. I will be forever grateful for his wisdom and for the kindness that he showed to me as a new Cornell president.
His intimate and deep knowledge of the university, from an association that spans more than half a century, was so helpful during my first months in office. He and his wife, Nancy, and their family have had a transformational impact on Cornell. And so many of us here this morning have also been influenced by him.
Again, I want to also thank Sophia for representing her father, Enrique Vila-Biaggi, we well. Enrique's provided strong leadership to the Cornell University Council. I'm really delighted to be here at my first TCAM meeting and to be experiencing firsthand the energy and commitment of council members, so thank all of you for the impressive work you've been doing throughout the year and for being here on this also gloriously beautiful, sunny, warm-- bizarrely warm-- October weekend.
As Bob mentioned, I've been at Cornell for just half a year. But I've already come to understand why this university means so much to him, to Pete Meinig, to Enrique Vila-Biaggi, to the members of the Council, and the Board of Trustees, and to literally tens and thousands of alumni, parents, and friends around the country and the world. I've also very quickly learned that Cornell alumni are extraordinarily generous. Last year, the university raised an $743.5 million in cash gifts for all campuses, a 21% increase in cash gifts over the previous fiscal year.
Several record-setting gifts, including the $150 million gift from Fisk Johnson and SC Johnson to name what is now the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, contributed to those results. But all gifts, large and small, make a difference. All told, we received 61,500 gifts from donors last-- sorry, gifts from 61,500 donors last year. And we set a new record for alumni fund giving, totaling $41.7 million. I know that many of you here have played a role in that success, and I thank you sincerely.
Universities are defined by their people. And great universities owe their greatness to those people, who, at all levels, contribute to the institution's intellectual and cultural vitality and our societal engagement. So I'd like to start this morning by talking about some of the people who make Cornell great.
We have several new members of Cornell senior leadership this year. Dr. Augustine Choi is our new Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and provost for Medical Affairs. Dean Choi is an outstanding physician scientist and an exceptional leader, and we are so fortunate to have him leading Weill Cornell Medicine.
Emmanuel Giannelis is the Walter R. Reed professor of engineering, became vice provost for research and vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy in July. An important part of his portfolio is to expand Cornell's connection with industry and to encourage faculty to become stronger advocates for science in Washington. And Madelyn Wessel, University Council and secretary of the corporation, came to Cornell last spring from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she served as university counsel. Madelyn brings a wealth of university, legal, and scholarly expertise to her position and has become a key member of my leadership team.
Let me next mention our marvelous students. It has been such a pleasure, such a pleasure, to interact with Cornell students and to see firsthand how accomplished and enthusiastic and smart and passionate-- and I could go on and on-- they are. Consider, for example, five extraordinary members of the class of 2018 who received prestigious national scholarships last spring.
[? Alan ?] [? Jang, ?] who's a chemical engineering major, won a Goldwater Scholarship, a top national award for undergraduate students pursuing careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. Alec Martinez and Celina Scott-Buechler, remember that name, Scott-Buechler, received Harry S. Truman scholarships, which provides scholarships for graduate studies to juniors who intend to pursue careers in public service. And Celina Scott-Buechler, [? Skye ?] Hart, and Dejah Powell won Udall scholarships, which are awarded to undergraduates committed to careers related to the environment, or if they're Native Americans, to health care or tribal policy.
But beyond these award winners, so many of our students are involved in impressive scholarship and research. My inauguration ceremonies in August began with what we called a Festival of Scholarship, where Cornell students working on some 30 different projects presented their work to a packed house of people who walked from exhibit to exhibit to exhibit to talk with the students and see what they're working on. For example, there was an MD student from Weill Cornell Medicine who presented work on a noninvasive way to detect the most common malignant brain tumor in children.
There was an undergraduate from ILR school talking about his group bargaining for better schools, which is compiling a clearinghouse of information on collective bargaining agreements for public school teachers across New York state. And Cornell Tech was represented by a master's student in Connected Media whose "magic mirror" project uses computer vision and machine learning to track changes in moles on the users' faces or upper bodies. The festival was punctuated by student performances of various sorts, including a graceful wheelchair ballroom dance routine done by two members of the Cornell class of 2020.
Cornell's newest students, those who have just entered in September, are equally exceptional. Among the members of the class of 2021 are several published authors, a competitive log roller who has won a world title--
--a state champion in archery, and a student who became New Jersey's youngest falconer at age 14. In addition, we continue on a trend of increasing diversity in our incoming class. 12.9% of the undergraduate class of 2021 is the first generation in their family to attend college, and more than 25% are under-represented minorities or report being multi-race, including URM.
They come from 49 states. Who's going to guess? Mississippi-- we don't have any students from Mississippi this year, sorry.
--49 states plus Washington, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and 46 other countries. And student interest in studying at Cornell continues to grow, with more than 47,000 applicants for places in the class of 2021, a more than 4% increase from the previous year.
In the graduate school, 1,388 new students were selected from among 22,818 applications. So it's 1,388 out of 22,818 for the 2017-2018 academic year. More than half of these new graduate students are international, hailing from 65 countries outside of the United States. And they're roughly equally divided between men and women.
Of course, Cornell students come here principally because of the opportunity to work with our world-class faculty. I could speak for hours, but I won't, don't worry, about the remarkable research and scholarship being done by faculty at our campus at all levels. But let me just highlight a few of the faculty we've hired just since January.
Angela Poole, for example, is a new assistant professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at CALS. Professor Poole is studying the complex relationships among food, human metabolic systems, gut microbiomes, and individual variation necessary to understand, prevent, and treat chronic diet-related diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and health disease, that together cost the US economy $1 trillion a year. We recruited David Casasanto from the University of Chicago to be an associate professor in the Department of Human Development within the College of Human Ecology.
Professor Casasanto's research, which bridges cognition, language, and neuroscience, focuses on how language, culture, and bodily experiences influence people's feelings, thoughts, and decision making. And Emily Fridlund who completed a post-doc in the English department and is now a visiting scholar here, wrote a book entitled The History of Wolves, that was shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. I've read her book. It's a fabulous book. I heartily recommend it.
There are so many more faculty whose work you'd find completely fascinating. I've personally been having small dinners with groups of about 10 to 12 faculty at a time. And each dinner has gone long because the conversation is even more delicious than the food.
I've mentioned our students and our faculty, but I'd be remiss if I did not also recognize our outstanding staff. Cornell staff are the unsung heroes of this university. Without them, our faculty could not teach and do their research, our students could not learn, and the work of running the campuses in all of their complexity would not be done.
Every spring, Cornell has a wonderful tradition. We hold a reception to honor staff, who, while working full time, have also completed a degree. It was a great honor for me to graduate our 2017 staff graduates, 29 individuals in all, including two who completed Cornell PhDs.
Many people have asked me what my aspirations for Cornell are. And honestly, in a nutshell, I believe-- firmly believe-- that Cornell can be the model of a relevant premiere university for the 21st century. To do that, we must first conduct world-class research and scholarship that addresses key social issues, which almost always require a breadth of disciplinary expertise and perspective. And there are few universities whose breadth begins to approach Cornell's.
Second we must provide engaged evidence-based education that combines rigorous academics with experiential learning, enable our students to become global learners with an appetite and ability for lifelong learning. And third, we must be a community of diverse faculty, staff, and students that continually develops and models the capacity for communicating and working effectively across different perspectives and different experiences. This aspiration, to be a model of a relevant premier institution of higher education for the 21st century, aligns with the priorities that I laid out in my inauguration address-- to foster academic distinction, to create a culture of educational verve, and to fulfill our civic responsibilities.
So let me take a moment to give you some examples of how we are moving these priorities forward. As I've mentioned, our academic distinction arises in large part from our ability to reach out across disciplinary boundaries and bring together a wide variety of perspectives. You can see that in our One Health Initiative, Cornell's approach to public health, which is built on a systems approach that considers the interconnections of people, animals, and the environment.
This work is not only generating important research insights, but also leading to the creation of a new innovative Cornell degree program, a Master of Public Health. You can learn more about this initiative this afternoon from experts in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Atkinson Center for Sustainable Future. Another example is Cornell Neurotech, a joint initiative between the College of Arts and Sciences and Engineering. Cornell Neurotech is developing powerful new tools and technologies that can reveal the inner workings of the brain, with a particular focus on how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. This is one of the most important scientific frontiers of the 21st century, providing the foundation for understanding such profound behavioral deficits as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and depression.
In a different realm, faculty in ILR and Arts and Sciences are collaborating on a project to improve employment outcomes for people with criminal records. In this innovative work, they're addressing the issue of employment for the 70 million Americans who have some form of criminal record. While employment is an important factor in preventing recidivism, a criminal record puts job seekers at steep disadvantage. The faculty involved are testing the efficacy of interventions to educate individuals with criminal records about their employment rights.
We also have faculty working collaboratively across departments and colleges on the critical inquiry into values integration and culture, or Civic Project. Civic takes advantage of Cornell's strengths at the interface of the arts and humanities and digital technology and computer sciences. And it includes an initiative on media studies. Material Cultures and the Senses is a separate but related initiative in the humanities, arts, and public life. The first two Civic hires will take place this year.
Other faculty, along with students and staff, are working on a project, that I personally find incredibly fascinating, involving earth source heat, which uses internal heat of the earth to provide heating for homes and buildings and could significantly reduce fossil fuel use. And still others are working on cryptocurrencies and contracts, investigating the design and policies around cryptocurrency. In fact, Cornell is fast becoming known as the place to study this important topic.
Some of these efforts are supported by industrial research funding, some by philanthropy, and some by internal support through the Radical Collaboration Initiative, Provost Kotlikoff's signature program to attract and support faculty who are working across boundaries. But all are building on the breadth of expertise that is so fundamental to Cornell. Another way in which we are distinctive, of course, is having both rural-upstate and urban-downstate campuses.
I've said many times over the past six months that Ithaca is and always will be at the core of the Cornell experience. It, in and of itself, is an important part of what makes Cornell so distinctive and so special. And we will always nurture and treasure the Ithaca campus.
I want to remind you, though, that Cornell has been part of the fabric of New York City for more than 100 years. Our medical school began there in 1898. And last year, Weill Cornell Medicine treated more than 2.9 million patients and brought more than $240 million worth of funding to New York.
Our footprint in the city it also includes programs offered by the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, the school of Industrial and Labor Relations, the College of Engineering, Cornell's Law School, the faculty of Computer and Information Science, and the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. And in all five boroughs you'll find Cornell Cooperative Extension at work, supporting tens of thousands of New Yorkers with programs in nutrition education, youth development, energy conservation, and more. And now, with the opening of Cornell Tech's campus on Roosevelt Island, we're doubling down on our New York City presence, actively seeking ways that our upstate and downstate programs can enhance one another.
Bob mentioned that opening. It was quite spectacular. And I think the fact that we had both the current and former mayor of New York City and the governor of the state of New York there is an indication of how important this initiative is not just for Cornell, but for the city, the state, and indeed the world. As our New York City programs flourish, and particularly as Cornell Tech grows, we will enhance our educational quality, research, and social impact through collaboration among our Ithaca and New York City campuses.
We're now planning phase two of the tech campus's development. And concurrently I am asking a faculty committee to develop a New York City vision for the next decade that will complement and enhance what we're doing in Ithaca, making Cornell more than the sum of its individually excellent parts. Speaking of making a whole greater than the sum of its parts, I'd like to briefly update you on the progress of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.
With impetus from a remarkable $150 million gift from Fisk Johnson and SC Johnson that I mentioned earlier, the new College of Business is off to a very strong start. As most of you know, the college comprises the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the School of Hotel Administration, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. Each of them maintains their unique identity and focus. But by bringing them together, we gain efficiency, we enhance collaborative programs, and we increase our visibility on the national scene.
With the creation of the new college, we now have the third largest business faculty in the country and almost 6,000 students in the college's majors and minors. This fall, the college is launching the Business of Food Initiative, co-directed by professors Miguel Gomez, from Dyson, and Alex Susskind, from the School of Hotel Administration. The Business of Food theme cements Cornell's reputation as the world's thought leader in the global food industry, home to faculty whose expertise spans the whole value chain, from farm input suppliers and growers upstream to retailers and fine dining establishments downstream. And in addition to all this research, we are creating what I have called a "culture of educational verve."
We teach with verve through a variety of approaches. Every one of our masters students in Cornell Tech, for example, spends a third of their time working on our studio curriculum, creating products and solving problems, engineering students with business students with law students and computing and information science students. Educational verve is also part of the Weill Cornell Medicine experience. The class of 2018 at Weill Cornell, who will graduate next spring, is the first group of medical students to experience the college's new curriculum for all four years.
The curriculum blurs the rigid boundaries between the basic sciences and clinical medicine, with faculty teaching the new curriculum using a combination of techniques from traditional lectures, labs, and project-based case sessions, to blended courses, video podcasts, e-learning modules, and other innovations. And here on the Ithaca campus, the Engaged Cornell Initiative, launched in 2014, with a transformational gift from the Einhorn Family Trust, is enabling students, faculty, and staff to work with community partners, locally and throughout the state and sometimes even internationally, in active learning focused on solutions to significant challenges. This morning's panel, which will be moderated by Provost Mike Kotlikoff, will introduce us to some of those involved.
Student life outside the classroom is closely related to educational innovation and verve. We aim to have more students living on campus and to provide richer extracurricular activities. And as Bob also mentioned, toward this end, we are building dormitories with 2,000 new beds and slightly increasing our undergraduate class size by 1,100 over a period of several years. Doing this will also enable us to keep up with the incredible demand in some of our programs, including those in the Dyson School within the SC Johnson College of Business. And finally, I want briefly to mention what I called in my inauguration our civic responsibilities, an interlinked triad of principals that universities, and Cornell, in particular, need to uphold.
The first is to advocate for and contribute to the understanding of reliable knowledge and the importance of evidence-based reasoning. Over the last decade or so, a number of developments, including the rise of social media and the complexity of many social issues, have brought this issue to the fore. Last April, the faculty senate passed a resolution to develop programs, both on and off campus, to model reliable knowledge. And they are now working on the development of such programs.
The second civic responsibility that universities have is to support free speech. As I said in my inaugural address, as an institution whose mission is tied to the free interchange of ideas, we have a special responsibility to be open to all thought and to guarantee freedom of expression. And we have a concomitant responsibility to speak up forcefully as an institution against speech that is at odds with our core principles.
A strong commitment to free speech does not mean that there are no limits to speech. For example, harassments and threats are not protected, and institutions can put in place reasonable content-neutral limits on the time, place, and manner in which protected speech can occur. The lines are messy, and debate about them is appropriate for universities.
As we at Cornell engage in those debates, we must bear in mind what history has shown about the perils of suppressing speech. Namely, that so often it is the powerful who attempt to shut down the speech of the less powerful. And this leads me to the third area of civic responsibility, our commitment to diversity, to inclusion, to equity, as expressed in our founding ideal of a being a university for any person.
As you have likely heard here at Cornell, we recently had a series of incidents that were anything but compatible with that principle. And alas, there have been many similar incidents recently on college campuses across the country. But Cornell must take a strong stance and be a leader in repudiating hatred and intolerance.
We are and must remain a campus committed to working towards an environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all students, faculty, and staff. We need to be a community based not just on mutual respect but, I would argue, a lot more kindness. Over the past six months, among many initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion, we've increased staffing in several student support areas and reframed the role of the dean of students to support students in their cultural and identity development. Our new dean of students Dr. Vijay Pendakur is leading many of those efforts.
An alumnus has made a significant philanthropic commitment to support first-generation and low-income student initiatives over the next five years, enabling us to hire full-time professionals to implement programs and support this growing student population. In addition, the Center for Teaching Innovation is devoting new staff resources to helping faculty address diversity in the classroom. These are just a few of a large number of recent initiatives that we've launched. In addition, I am convening a presidential task force on campus climate that will look holistically at how we can affect ongoing institutional change to help us achieve our aspirations in this area.
An academic, the old adage goes, is someone who sees something working in practice and wonders if it will work in theory.
But Cornell was not forged from this mould. From the very beginning, we have joined practical and theoretical knowledge in ways that have been incredibly creative and productive. A private university with a public Michigan, we are Ivy League but never--
Did I get it backwards?
[INAUDIBLE FROM AUDIENCE]
Michigan? No, no Michigan.
You'll note what color I'm wearing today.
A private university with a public mission--
--we are Ivy League but never ivy tower. We couple our distinguished and distinctive research in teaching with a commitment to engage productively with the world. True to our founding vision, we strive to be a university that stands for diversity, inclusion, and equity, to be a place where people know how to behave respectfully to one another and to engage in thoughtful dialog.
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Following remarks by Robert S. Harrison '76, chairman of the Board of Trustees, President Martha E. Pollack delivered the State of the University Address to an Ithaca campus audience as part of Cornell's Trustee-Council Annual Meeting on Oct. 20, 2017. During the Joint Annual Meeting, Cornell remembered Peter Meinig ’61, chairman emeritus of the Cornell University Board of Trustees, who died Sept. 25.