SPEAKER 1: Please welcome to the stage ILR class of 1988 and Cornell University trustee Linda Gadsby.
LINDA GADSBY: Good morning.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
LINDA GADSBY: Welcome back to the Hill for reunion 2018.
Hello as well to those of us who are joining us remotely via live stream. We welcome you. My name is Linda Gatsby. I am ILR class of 1988 and a Cornell trustee. And I am so happy to be here with you this morning. I'm celebrating two reunions this year-- one with the Cornell Black Alumni Association and the other with my classmates celebrating our 30th reunion.
So it's already been a great weekend, thanks in part to the fabulous weather that we're having. But reconnecting with old friends, making new ones-- I celebrated my birthday on Thursday. So it's been a fabulous weekend.
In addition, I've been given the privilege of introducing today's program, which is truly an honor for me. Before we get started, I want to acknowledge some special guests who are with us in the audience today, President Emeritus Frank HT Rhodes and his--
So Frank and Rosa been among Cornell's greatest ambassadors for over 40 years. So thank you for your dedicated service to Cornell. We love you and appreciate you.
And now on to the rest of our program. This morning you'll have the opportunity to hear from Martha Pollack, our 14th president. And she will lead a conversation with two incredible students. Following the conversation, you will have the opportunity to ask questions of the students and also of Martha.
It's been my pleasure over this past year to get to know and work with Martha. Although she has just completed her freshman year on campus, she's already left an indelible mark on Cornell's landscape through her leadership. In her address to the graduates about two weeks ago at Cornell 150th commencement, Martha quoted one of her personal heroes, Nelson Mandela, saying, and I quote, "Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world." Martha Pollack is stalwartly committed to providing every Cornell student on each of its campuses with a provocative education and an inclusive experience so that they will do just that-- change the world as Big Red alumni.
We're also pleased to have two young Cornell students join Martha this morning to discuss their personal student experiences here on campus. Maiquela Richards graduated 12 days ago and is now officially an alumna. Let's give it up for Maiquela.
Maiquela studied government and arts and sciences and was very involved with BSU, the Black Students United organization. She balanced her academics with a job in Alumni Affairs and as a head clerk for this reunion weekend.
Troy Anderson is a rising senior in biological sciences. The last time Troy was on this stage, he was playing alongside Wynton Marsalis and other musicians from the Cornell Syncopators. In addition to Troy's musical pursuits, he also mentors first-year students and keeps busy also working for Alumni Affairs. And he, too, is a head reunion clerk this weekend.
Troy and Maiquela have clocked over 100 hours so far this weekend over the last few weeks preparing for reunion. And they'll be working until 2:00 AM tonight. So we thank them both for their committed service. And we're glad that they are here this morning. Please join me in welcoming Martha Pollack, Maiquela Richards, and Troy Anderson to the stage.
MARTHA POLLACK: Thank you, Linda. Good morning, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good morning.
MARTHA POLLACK: Morning. It is a real delight to be here, whether you're from a class ending with three or eight or you're one of those people who just likes to come back to every reunion. And there are some of you. Whether you're with one of the diverse alumni associations or a professional or graduate alumni association, whether you're here in Bailey Hall or watching on the live stream, it's really terrific to have all of you here. I can't tell you how pleased I am that you've all come back.
Now, I know that traditionally on Saturday morning, the president has given a sort of formal talk at Reunions. But by my count, each of you while you were at Cornell completed at least 2,160 hours of lectures--
--more if you went to graduate or professional school. So rather than go to 2,161, we thought we'd try something a little bit different today. We're going to let you hear from some people who are true experts on the undergraduate experience at Cornell, Troy and Maiquela. We'll talk for a while. And then we'll leave some time at the end. If you want to ask me any questions, there'll be time for you to do that as well.
But let's start with these wonderful Cornell alumna and current Cornell student. Can each of you tell me what was your most interesting educational experience, either inside or outside of the classroom here at Cornell? Maiquela, do you want to go first?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: Sure. Hi, everyone. Great to see you out there. I think that my most interesting Cornell experience-- being in arts and sciences, the distribution requirements can seem a bit daunting when you first arrive on campus. But for me, they gave me an opportunity to explore things that I never thought I would have the opportunity to learn. And so I've taken some great classes. And I think my most interesting educational experience was actually a class called Chimpanzee Politics.
Exactly. When I first read the description for that class, I was so intrigued. And I decided to take it. And I learned so much about the social structure of the chimpanzee colonies in the wild. And I'm not a science major or a scientist at all. And so I thought this would also be a great way to get that requirement done.
But it was such an amazing class. And I learned so much from the professor. And it really opened me up to-- I took that class of my sophomore year, and it really helped me get on a path of taking courses that were completely outside of my major and learning as much as I could while I was at Cornell.
MARTHA POLLACK: Troy, how about you?
TROY ANDERSON: So as many of you know, we had the great opportunity to have Wynton Marsalis here on campus earlier this year. And he not only played in a concert here but also spent a week teaching students and giving master classes to everyone in the Cornell community. So as a part of the jazz band, I not only had the opportunity to play with Mr. Marsalis but I had the wonderful chance to learn from him, from such a wonderful educator, and it was just such an incredible experience to get a chance to spend a week with someone who so few students get a chance to learn from.
MARTHA POLLACK: It's great. One thing that really strikes me is here we have Maiquela, a government major, talking about a science class and Troy, a biology major, talking about a musical-- to me, that's Cornell at its finest.
I think it might also be useful for people to know that the reason Wynton Marsalis was here was he was on what we call the AD White Visiting Professor Program, which is a really wonderful program, whereby a prominent person in any field-- in this case, it happened to be music-- comes and spends a week on campus but doesn't just do it one time. They come back over a period of four or five or six years. And so Mr. Marcellus will be back in the future. And other students will have the same opportunity Troy had, which is just great.
OK. So that was what was most interesting. What was most challenging? Either-- who wants to go first?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: You want me to start? OK. So I think what was most challenging during my educational time at Cornell-- I came in with a plan. I was in a certain major, and I knew exactly what I was going to do, like most 18-year-olds do. And as I was going through the program, I realized that this wasn't something that I was happy with. It wasn't what I wanted to do. But I was afraid to leave.
And then I took a course with Professor Peter Katzenstein, his Intro to International Relations course. And I fell in love with the government major from there. And I think that was the most difficult time for me because this was my sophomore spring that I realized I wanted to change my major. And I didn't know if that was something I would be able to do.
But after meeting with all of my advisors and meeting with the prospective government major, I made that switch in my junior fall. And I couldn't be happier that I did. It's been such a great opportunity to be in that program and learn as much as I have from some of the greatest professors in the world. And I think that if I hadn't been willing to make that change and seek out the people who could help me and give me a plan that would say, you can complete your major and be done on time, it wouldn't have been such a great experience for me at this university. So I'm really happy I was able to do that.
MARTHA POLLACK: Troy?
TROY ANDERSON: I had a very similar experience. I think every student on Cornell's campus has at least one point where they question, OK, so what am I doing with this degree? And for me, that was sitting in biochemistry when one of my friends sitting next to me registered for the MCAT.
Now, I came into Cornell pretty set on some sort of medicine, doing some sort of MD degree. But after Cornell gave me the opportunity to do research with some world-class faculty, I decided that instead I wanted to pursue a PhD. So I'd say my most difficult experience was really just coming to terms with the fact that something that I might have been set on my whole life, I wasn't really interested in it anymore because Cornell gave me the opportunity to just explore and really see what I was interested in.
MARTHA POLLACK: That's great. That's great. Thank you both. Let's change focus a little bit. When people think about Cornell, they think about Ithaca. Tell me how Ithaca and Cornell's location has impacted your time here. Troy, do you want to go first?
This is a real question.
TROY ANDERSON: So on the one hand I would say that my legs are a lot stronger after--
But Ithaca is really just such a unique place. It's got some proximity to a lot of cities around New York. I know that my family is based in Rochester, so they're just an hour and a half trip away. And I've been able to visit them many times or have them come up for concerts. But as a whole, Ithaca has so much to offer. Beyond its natural beauty, the parks and everything, we have places like the State Theater, where I had the chance to see Esperanza Spalding last year and a great deal of other cultural experiences.
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: Sure. I think for me-- I'm from Brooklyn originally. I live on Long Island now. So I'm kind of used to a bit of a faster pace than Ithaca offers. And I think what's been so great about that is Ithaca's given me the opportunity to slow down. Being at Cornell, everything seems to be going so quickly. And there's so much work to get done all the time. But then the city of Ithaca-- it's so beautiful.
And I've never been into the outdoors. It has never worked for me. But I find-- I am being honest with you guys here-- but now I find that when I need to relax, I'm going for walks around Beebe Lake and I'm finding ways to enjoy my friends' company in ways that I never had before. Because when you have access to so many things in a city, you kind of can just go out all the time and do something and have an activity. But here in Ithaca, there's so much natural beauty.
And we go for walks. And we enjoy things on campus, like the Cornell Cinema is one of my favorite places. I try to go at least once a month while I'm here. We find new things to do. And I think having a location that's a little more secluded, it has helped us kind of look inward and find out what really makes us happy when you don't have things all around you all the time. And I think that's been such a blessing of being on the Ithaca campus here.
MARTHA POLLACK: That's great. That's great. Thank you.
I am surprised that neither of you mentioned the lovely sunny, all-year-round weather we have.
So here at Cornell, we talk a lot about diversity. We go back to the founding words of Ezra Cornell that we are a university for any person. We have students from many, many different backgrounds. They bring many perspectives. They come from all around the world. Tell me a little bit about the friendships you've developed here and how your circle of friends are different from or similar to those that you were friends with in high school.
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: Want to start?
TROY ANDERSON: Sure. So in high school, you kind of make friends with everyone that's just in your classes. And with Cornell, I found that, especially with the first-year dorms, you have a chance to meet a lot of different people. I know that I lived in Donlon, which is kind of constructed--
--which is kind of constructed so that you're forced to meet people. You have to interact with them. And as nervous freshmen, it really helps to have a little bit of forced interaction. But it's been a really great opportunity to just meet people that are completely different. I know that one of my friends actually started an early jazz group on campus, the original Cornell Syncopators. And if I hadn't met him by complete chance through the jazz program, I would not have joined that, and I wouldn't have discovered something that I'm now extremely passionate about.
MARTHA POLLACK: Maiquela?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: Sure. I think that for me-- I lived in Dickson. I don't know how many Dickson people out here--
There it is. Dickson-- a lot of us, we live alone. And so we're kind of forced to go outside and meet new people. And I was fortunate enough-- before I came here, I did the pre-freshman summer program. So I was here for the summer before my freshman year and got to make a lot of friends that way from all over the country. And I think moving forward, we knew that we had a close-knit group set up before August. And I wanted to make sure that I was doing things where I can meet new people.
And so I was kind of attending different organizations and going to their events, just because I wanted the exposure . In my classes in high school, it's just kind of you're friends with everyone who's there. But at Cornell, you actively have to work to meet new people. And you kind of put yourself in situations where you're meeting people of different backgrounds.
I have a lot of friends who are international students. And their experiences are completely different than mine. And it's really great to have that perspective, because sometimes you kind of get trapped in yourself and what you've seen the world as. And it's really good to have made so many friends with people who are from different states. I mean, just the viewpoint from a New Yorker to someone who's in Wyoming-- that alone, will take you across the world. So it's been really helpful to join organizations that had I not been in them, I would have never met some of my closest friends. And I think that's been the greatest part of it all.
MARTHA POLLACK: That's great. It's interesting that you both did mention your freshman residence hall. I mean, one thing I think this group should know is that we are in the process of designing several new residence halls. We're going to have 2,000 new beds on campus. And Vice President Ryan Lombardi, who's overseeing this, is looking very carefully at design features that will encourage interaction, that will, as you say, "force," just ensure that students bump into each other and have an opportunity to talk with other people. And I think that's very important.
So let's talk about something that I talk about a lot. I tend to use the phrase "education with verve," using modern approaches to teaching, where students are engaged in the educational experience, and where we know from the literature these approaches have better outcomes. Have you taken classes where the classroom has been flipped or there's been some other innovation? Did you like it? What was challenging about it? Tell me about those experiences. Want to go first?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: I could start. OK. So I am someone-- I've never taken a class in Bailey Hall. Very large lectures, it gets away from me. I prefer to learn in small-group settings. And so I think kind of starting my junior year especially, I've taken the time to enroll in a lot of senior seminars. And so those courses are 15 people or less, just the professor. Usually there's no TA. So you kind of have unfiltered access to your professor at all times.
And so for the last few semesters, I've taken those courses. I would want to say at least two or three each semester. It's just been a really great experience. And I think that having those opportunities to have access to your professors all times, I think, has been so helpful. And we've learned so much, because in these classrooms, they meet once a week for two to three hours. And so while you're there-- we do a lot of research outside of the class.
And it usually turns into a debate, depending on what department the class is in, because everyone comes in having read the material. And then everyone brings in outside material. And they're saying, well, I disagree with the author because of this. And we're going back and forth. And it kind of forces you to open up and look at the new perspectives and different viewpoints and wonder, OK, when I read it, this is what I took from that. But the person sitting across from me, they got something completely different.
And those discussions have been so helpful. And I think having opportunities that aren't just lectures, where you can interact with your peers and the professors are the ones where you learn the most. And them being so small is also a helpful feature, because you get to know your classmates really well when there's just 15 of you debating for a semester.
MARTHA POLLACK: Great. Troy?
TROY ANDERSON: So I've had the chance to take a couple classes that didn't follow the traditional one professor sits in front of a podium and teaches the class. So one of those was Physics 2207 or Fundamentals of Physics or-- sorry, 1102.
But this class was simply set up so that you would read the textbook outside of class and then go in and take a set of labs and a set of demos. And there were TAs that were readily available, so you could essentially access tutoring almost any time of day. So I found that this model worked really well in terms of just retaining information, because it's very easy for information to just go in one ear and out the other. But when you're actually seeing stuff happen, it has an entirely different effect on the students.
Another class was Biology 1780, which is the evolution course. And in this course, we actually had recorded lectures that we watched outside of class and worked in a group setting on problem-solving activities during the actual lecture session. And I found that this class made it a lot easier to understand the big picture-- why is this information important-- rather than just learning the information itself. So overall, I think that these flipped classroom experiences give us a lot more in terms of just pertaining to the information and also understanding how it's applied in the real world.
MARTHA POLLACK: That's great. Thank you both. OK. So we just admitted next year's class. Applications were up close to 10%. They were up even more amongst international students and even more among students from under-represented minorities. We're bringing in, really, a tremendous class and the most diverse class ever. What advice would you give them? What advice was helpful to you when you started?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: I think that if I had to give the freshmen coming in any advice, it would be to recognize that you haven't figured it all out yet.
When I got here, I told my parents-- I wrote down the plan. I walked them through it. I said, this is what I'm doing. You won't have to worry about it. And then my sophomore year, I'm calling my mom. I'm like, I think I have to change things now. Is that OK? And I think being OK with uncertainty is something that is really hard for our generation. We come in and everyone's telling us, this is what bank I'm working at. I'm going to law school. I'm doing this.
And people feel the need to kind of commit to things very quickly just so they can say they have something to do or that they know what's going on. And I think it's really important, coming into college, to understand that your experience is not going to be like your next-door neighbor or your best friend and that you should recognize that there are different pathways to the same outcomes and that it's really important to kind of give yourself the opportunity to grow, because you never know.
Taking the class that's outside of your major might just give you your passion in life. And if you don't try that, you might find yourself stuck in something where you're not happy for a long time. So I would tell them take it easy and just explore. There's options.
TROY ANDERSON: So I'm actually one of the undergraduate biology advisors. So I kind of help the incoming freshmen decide, OK, which classes do I take, and what's a manageable course load? So first, I think it's just important to recognize your limits. We encourage all the incoming students to take about 15 credits, because it's very easy-- when you're high school you take about nine courses over the year. And if you come to Cornell and you take nine courses, as many of you know, it's going to be very rough. So one thing would be recognizing limits. And just don't overload on courses. Make sure you can focus on the ones that you have.
Another one that I tell all of my incoming students is make sure that you're taking courses that are completely outside of your major, because Cornell is such a large university and everyone is interested in something completely different in one way or another. And because of that, we have faculty that pretty much teach anything imaginable. So it's important for incoming students to just explore their interests and take something that's just not related to their major at all. Like Maiquela said, just see what's out there.
MARTHA POLLACK: Chimpanzee Politics, for example, right?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: Exactly.
MARTHA POLLACK: OK. So one of the things that has been most fun to me during reunions is hearing from the reunion class tell me my favorite memory, my favorite course, my favorite activity, something that was their favorite that they think back on, five, 10, 50 years later at Cornell. You haven't quite graduated, but so far, what's been your favorite memory-- and then we'll ask Maiquela-- or class?
TROY ANDERSON: Again, I would refer back to Wynton Marsalis, because that was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I actually stood right over there.
Got to play a solo in that concert. But just having the Mr. Marsalis stand 10 feet away from me, really, it's hard to put that into words.
MARTHA POLLACK: I can tell you, because I sat right over there. And if you think he is beaming now, you should have seen him and the other students that night. It was incredible.
Maiquela, you've graduated. What was your favorite course or memory here?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: I've taken so many classes outside of the government department, because I really did want to make sure I tried a little bit of everything. And surprisingly, my favorite course is actually one I took this past semester in the spring, a science class. What a surprise. Exactly. It was called Science, Medicine, and the Body. And it was a course with Professor Lucinda Ramberg.
And for the entire semester, we explored the histories of medicine and how medicine has been conducted and built up and what that really means. Who holds the power in medicine? Who makes the decisions? What is the body and how do you define that? That class, we had so many debates amongst the 15 of us that were in there with our professor.
And it was such a good learning experience because I'm a government major. I like to write papers. I like to study political theory. And this class with something-- I came in, and I found out it was the senior seminar for the [? B Soc ?] major. So when we were all going around, I was like, oh, it's just me from arts and sciences. This is your class to graduate.
And so I kind of didn't have a lot of the background coming in that they did. And so I did have to work a little harder to catch up on the terminology I didn't understand and things like that. But I learned so much in the class. And I had such a good experience kind of talking about science with my classmates. And Professor Ramberg was amazing. Ran into her at Wegmans the other day. And we were talking about this talk. She said she's going to watch, so hi.
But it was a great class.
MARTHA POLLACK: OK. Last question. I know you guys have been asked this question probably every year for the last 18 years, but what are you doing this summer? And in your case, Maiquela, what next? You can start.
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: OK. Sure. So this summer I will actually be staying in Ithaca for a couple more weeks. I'm leaving at the end of July. I'm really happy to be in Ithaca when the weather is going to be nice and there's no work to do. So I'm going to kind of enjoy the Ithaca weather. In August, I'm going to be taking a trip to Europe to celebrate my graduation, probably a few countries, if I can get them all done at once.
And then in the fall, hopefully, I'll be working in New York City. I'm looking to work at a nonprofit. So that could be fun.
MARTHA POLLACK: Great. Troy?
TROY ANDERSON: My summer is maybe a little bit less exciting than Maiquela's. No trip to Europe planned. But I'll actually be here on Cornell's campus for the entirety of the summer working in Kinzelberg Hall, right behind Bailey, doing research with the Gu Lab on mitochondrial DNA. So there's--
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: That's great.
TROY ANDERSON: Hopefully working on an honors thesis and working on publishing a paper.
MARTHA POLLACK: Great. That's great. So please join me in thanking these incredible students.
At this point, please use a mic, because this is being live streamed. And we're happy to answer any questions. I promised them I would take all the hard ones. So they only get softball questions.
PAUL CASHMAN: Hi. Paul Cashman, class of '73. Hi, Troy.
TROY ANDERSON: Hello.
PAUL CASHMAN: I have two friends who are Cornell students currently. One finished his sophomore year, one his junior year. Both are in computer science, one in arts, one in engineering. One of them just finished 21 credits this semester.
The other finished 28 credits, which is like telling me that he ran a mile in two minutes. I had my hands full with 15 or 16. Is this at all usual?
TROY ANDERSON: No.
PAUL CASHMAN: Thank you.
TROY ANDERSON: Not at all. There are--
MARTHA POLLACK: Go ahead.
TROY ANDERSON: There are definitely some people that would be classified as basically superhumans at Cornell.
MARTHA POLLACK: I have several of the deans here. Yeah. They're all shaking their heads no, too. None of us ever--
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: I think I maxed out at, like, 19, but no.
MARTHA POLLACK: Yes.
AUDIENCE: Thank you. My question is addressed to you as the new president here. What have been some of your experiences and challenges in your first year?
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh, wow. How long do you have? So Cornell has been amazing. It's been an amazing first year. It's hard for me to believe. It's been sort of a whirlwind of a year. I've been extraordinarily impressed with the students. You might think we picked the cream of the crop, and we did. But there are so many students who, like Maiquela and Troy, when you talk with them, are just extraordinarily impressive.
I've also been incredibly impressed with the faculty. Now look, I come from Michigan, another university that had great faculty. But the thing I see here-- I see two things in our faculty that are really remarkable. One is an extraordinary commitment to Cornell, not just to their fields of discipline but to Cornell. And the other-- I was talking about it with my chief of staff just the other day-- is an incredible willingness and openness and actually inviting of undergraduates to work actively on research projects. It's really something I think that defines the faculty here. And then that's been great.
We've had some challenges this past year, but everybody has pulled together and worked through them. Really, I'll tell you-- I'll be completely honest. The only thing I miss, the only thing I miss, is being 25 minutes from the Detroit airport where I could get anywhere in the world.
Because of the Ithaca airport-- mm. No, it's been great. I've loved it here. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Aloha from Hawaii.
MARTHA POLLACK: Aloha.
AUDIENCE: I am from the Hotel School [? class. ?]
Hi, Frank and Rosa, Canadian. It's a Canadian girl. So I like what you were talking about teaching techniques, success, environment. Gosh, industry, what happened? Where are you? I mean, they just stand up there and give you the thing. And you're done. I don't understand why companies, industry, haven't evolved with creativity in sharing their information. Do you understand what I mean? They're just-- OK. So they would like to explain the change. And so your manager will just get up there and read through it.
MARTHA POLLACK: So I think what you're seeing in industry is the result of many, many, many years in academia where people-- that was how we were educated. That was how I was educated. I went to class-- and probably also you-- you heard lectures. You went home. You read. You came back to class. That is all changing.
Let me tell you about one very exciting program called the Active Learning Initiative. To date it's mostly been in the College of Arts and Sciences, although there have been pieces of it, similar programs going on in CALS and ILR and engineering and other schools. And we are now taking it campus-wide.
And the idea in the Active Learning Initiative is to-- in a very principled way-- flip the classroom. And what happens in a flipped classroom is that the students do what you would have in the past gotten in the lecture. They get the material outside of the classroom. And then in the classroom, they do challenging hands-on work.
Now, I'm a computer scientist. I'm data-driven. But the interesting thing about this approach is that there's a lot of data and evidence that shows that people do better. And in fact, our own faculty have demonstrated in some of the core biology and physics classes that when you adopt an active learning approach, when you flip the classroom in this way, not only does everyone do better in the end, but students who come from under-resourced backgrounds, from high schools where they didn't get the same quality of education, that gap closes.
And so we're starting to teach more and more in that way. And my hope is, over time, as our students learn in that way, then they go into industry and they share information like that, too.
SPEAKER 1: Question in the balcony. Question from the balcony.
AUDIENCE: I'm [? Cornell ?] [? Dawson. ?]
MARTHA POLLACK: OK. I'm sorry. We'll get you right after. I didn't see you there. We'll let--
SPEAKER 2: Up in the balcony.
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh, I'm sorry. There we go. OK. In the back. The light is right in my eyes.
AUDIENCE: [? Cornell ?] [? Dawson, ?] 55th reunion. I was going to respond to the initial question of this afternoon. I thought I had a unique situation with the many credit hours I took my last semester at Cornell in order to graduate.
I had dropped a course in the fall, and that added three more to the spring. And it was an engineering curriculum. And we ended up needing 24 hours to graduate. And I couldn't schedule 24. I had to schedule 25. So my hat is off to the gentleman or lady that handled 28, because I had a full arts curriculum and 10 hours in engineering labs, and I did nothing but study all semester.
MARTHA POLLACK: Well, kudos to you.
OK. Go ahead. And then we'll go there.
AUDIENCE: Thank you guys for talking today. My name's [? Nicole ?] [? Benia. ?] I'm class of 2013, so very excited to be here for my first reunion.
My question is-- Maiquela talked about how she appreciated the smaller class sizes and how they foster conversation, debate, more critical thinking. And Martha, you mentioned that there will be 2,000 more beds on campus for freshmen. Is Cornell planning on hiring more faculty? Or how are you planning to accommodate the greater influx of students while maintaining the intimate classroom setting that Maiquela spoke about?
MARTHA POLLACK: OK. Thank you. Great question. And first of all, I should clarify. We're building 2,000 more beds, but we're only increasing the undergraduate student body, and over a period of about four or five years, by 1,100. So 900 of those beds are simply to help with the pressing housing needs we have.
And the answer is, A, yes, we are going to hire more faculty. And B, there are some programs now where the demand-- the Dyson School for example, we are just not admitting enough students. The admissions rates are just too low. There is such pressure to get in. So we need to relieve that pressure and then, yeah, hire more faculty and frankly, also hire more support staff. We're not going to just bring in these students and do nothing.
Oh, I'm sorry. I promised him next. And then you. That's OK. Go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Hi. [? John ?] [? Lynn, ?] class of '93, College of Engineering. My question is that I just wanted to hear about Cornell's commitment to financial aid as well as increasingly there's been more attention paid, especially for the wealthier universities, about the percent of the endowment focused on trying to reduce the cost of tuition. And I was wondering if you could speak to that.
MARTHA POLLACK: Yeah. No, that's a really, really important question. So Cornell has been extremely committed to financial aid. We've more than doubled the amount of financial aid over the past five, six, seven years. I forget the exact amount. And actually, the cost for students with need today is less than it was in 2008, 2009. So we've held the line on costs for students with need.
Now, I recognize that for students sort of right at the margin, it begins still to be difficult. And I am looking, as a highest priority for the philanthropy that I do, to seek funds to increase financial aid further. We are already well ahead of our peers in terms of the percent of operating funds that we put back into financial aid. More broadly, when I talk about diversity, one of my key priorities is to increase socioeconomic diversity. That's an area where we're lagging and we need to do more.
And let me say to this audience I need resources to do it. So when you're thinking about your annual fund--
Fred Van Sickle, the vice president for development is clapping over there. Thank you for the question. It is a very-- it's one of the things that keeps me up at night. Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is [? Mia ?] [? Carter. ?] And I'm actually a high school student. This is my first time here at Cornell.
MARTHA POLLACK: Great. Welcome.
AUDIENCE: I have a question for Maiquela. In your journey looking for schools-- I'm trying to figure out what kind of school that I would like to go to when I do graduate next year-- what was it like coming into a school that is so culturally diverse, to a school that really tries to help out their minority students?
MAIQUELA RICHARDS: Sure. I think for me, especially, coming in, I-- I'm a first-generation student and very proud of it.
Thank you. Coming in to Cornell, I'm like, this is such a prestigious university. And I don't know if I have the tools right away to kind of build up the same rapport with my professors. I don't know if I will be able to communicate and really take advantage of the resources, because there's no blueprint for me coming in. I didn't have a lot of people that I could turn to.
And so I think for me, coming to this university, I had to make an active choice to say OK, I want to seek out help in any way that I possibly can. Looking at a university where there are resources-- I spent a lot of time at 626 Thurston, the Center for Intercultural Diversity, where there are people who can help us, and counselors, and people that can guide me throughout my time at Cornell, and really getting to know my professors.
And I met with my major advisor before I even decided to become a government major. I sat with Professor Andrew Mertha, and we kind of talked through his research and what he was doing and the major and the program. And that's how I knew, OK, this is a place where I'm going to be able to get advice and find support. And just kind of going through the resources and finding places on this campus where you feel comfortable and you feel that you have someone who's supporting you and someone who understands what you're going through, I think, is so important for so many students here, because it can be a lot.
It can be a culture shock for many students, for a variety of things. If you're an international student, this is a lot. You're away from home, and you need support. And I think, for me, it's been a journey of coming into my own and recognizing what I want out of my Cornell education and what I want to have and then kind of putting a plan together and finding the right people who could help me get to where I wanted to go.
MARTHA POLLACK: And one thing that can help with incoming students is, thanks to the generosity of an alumnus who funded this, we're opening a new first-generation center, which is going to be fully staffed with sort of a-- think of it as a hotel concierge--
--that will help first-generation students.
AUDIENCE: [? Warren ?] [? Childs, ?] Arts class of '78. My parents both went here.
MARTHA POLLACK: Can you lift the mic a little? It's hard to hear you.
AUDIENCE: My father was class of '53. My mother was class of '55. And you coming from Michigan-- my father always mentioned that when the Wolverines came to Ithaca in the early '50s, they absolutely got smoked here.
MARTHA POLLACK: That's true.
But let me say-- I won't say anything.
AUDIENCE: However, the next year at an Ann Arbor, it wasn't pretty. So I just wanted to let you know that.
MARTHA POLLACK: Yes.
We're not going to play against Michigan now. Yes, go ahead. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hi. I'm Bill Howard, class of '63 in engineering. And although I went to what may be regarded as a professional school-- and I know that Cornell is regarded by many as the first American university in the sense that Ezra Cornell and the Morrill Land Grant forced the broadening from the trivium that people traditionally had taught in the universities.
I now live in Arizona. And we have a university president out there who talks about the new American university, Michael Crow. I'm married to a wonderful lady who earned her PhD in history at Michael Crow's school and watched her department disappear as it was merged into a number of other departments so university resources could be piled on to professional schools and schools which were related directly to the development of the economy at the expense of the humanities.
And my concern is that in my world, there is tremendous political pressure to produce universities, like the quote, "new American university." How is Cornell going to deal with that in the future, to assure that we have an informed, literate, populace?
MARTHA POLLACK: So I'm really glad you mentioned that question. It's a really good question.
And let me say a few things in response. First of all, Michael Crow is the president of a public university. And that causes very different political pressures. We have a lot more freedom to chart our own course.
Secondly, I'm someone who always looks for differentiators, what makes Cornell unique. And frankly, I think one of the biggest differentiators for Cornell is the fact that we are both an Ivy League college and a land grant university. So we are fundamentally committed to the liberal arts broadly, including the humanities, but all the liberal arts as well as to the professional schools and then of course also to the kind of outreach that comes with being a land grant institution.
We will always be committed to that. If we weren't committed to that, we wouldn't be Cornell. We wouldn't be who we are. Now, the challenge for us, it seems to me, is that people like me, who firmly believe in the unbelievable importance of the humanities, for all the reasons you suggest, still have to recognize a student body that sometimes votes with its feet, or a student body whose parents are pushing them to vote with their feet. So one of the things that we're trying to do is develop ways to enable students to pursue their passions when their parents are pushing them otherwise or to recognize their passions without feeling, oh, my god, I'm not going to get a job.
Let me give you just one example. We have a new program called the Milstein Program-- I'm not going to get the title correct-- Milstein Program in humanity and technology. This is a program that takes about 100 students who are majoring in the humanities. It gives them a little bit of education in computer science, and it sends them down to Cornell Tech for a summer. And while they're at Cornell Tech, they work with the Cornell [? Tech ?] faculty.
Now, the beauty of this program, it seems to me, is not only that it gives humanities students an opportunity to develop a few of those technical skills that they believe may be helpful in finding jobs, but even more importantly, it says to the folks at Cornell Tech, your world, you're not solving technical problems. You're not even solving just socio-technical problems. You're solving [? human ?] socio-technical problems.
When you're building those automated driving cars, somebody better be thinking about the impact of everybody whose jobs are going to be lost. You listen to these undergraduates have a humanistic perspective. So I think it's by continuing to honor the humanities and the liberal arts broadly and then build connections between them in the other fields that we can fight the forces you're talking about.
Thank you. On a different topic-- but since you mentioned the engineering college and since Lance Collins, the dean of the engineering college is here, I want to mention one more thing. This is one of the things that I get to be really proud of even though I had very little to do with it. Lance did almost all of it. We talk about diversity all the time. This year's freshman class in engineering is 51% female.
SPEAKER 1: We have another question from the balcony.
MARTHA POLLACK: One, two. I'm afraid I have time for two more questions. I will be--
SPEAKER 1: Balcony.
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh. Three more questions.
One, two, three. Balcony and one on each side. Sorry. It's hard to see up there.
AUDIENCE: Hi, President Pollack. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. I'm class of [? 2007. ?]
MARTHA POLLACK: Are you speaking in the-- yeah, OK.
AUDIENCE: Yes, I'm up in the balcony. So I'm glad you just talked a little bit about diversity and how we were building a more multicultural and more diverse class. As our student demographics change, obviously, that leads to--
MARTHA POLLACK: I'm sorry. I can't hear you. You've got to talk into the microphone more.
AUDIENCE: This is weird. I'm not used to-- OK. Normally everyone tells me I talk too loud, so this is a first. So as you're talking about admitting our most diverse class with 51% of women being admitted to the engineering college, that's obviously changing student demographics. That leads to changing alumni demographics. So I'm wondering, as are alumni demographics change, how will our programming for alumni change? And also how can alumni be involved in that conversation?
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh, great question. So we now have a number of alumni groups that are specifically targeted to different diversity groups. There is a black alumni association. There's a Latino alumni association. There's an Asian-American alumni association. There's a LGBTQ-plus alumni association. And yesterday for the first time ever, they held a joint reception and program with all of those groups together.
So I encourage the alumni, as they go out into the world, to connect through these alumni associations and then to help us here in Ithaca become more diverse by talking with students, by sending them here, and by giving us feedback about what's working, what's not working, and how we can do better. But start with those alumni groups.
AUDIENCE: Cool. Thank you. My mom also says hello.
MARTHA POLLACK: Who says hello?
TROY ANDERSON: His mom.
MARTHA POLLACK: His mom.
Wait, wait. Who's your mom? Oh, he's gone. He's coming back. Who's your mom?
AUDIENCE: So I was the one student that gave you a hug at graduation. So my mom [INAUDIBLE].
MARTHA POLLACK: Oh.
You got to love this job.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name's [? Chris ?] [? Saksman, ?] class of 1988. And my question actually follows up on Mr. Howard's. I wanted to ask you that-- I read in the Cornell Daily Sun that on Thursday we opened a new campus in Cornell.
MARTHA POLLACK: We what?
AUDIENCE: We opened a new campus in Cornell, the Cornell Tech. And so I wanted to ask what your vision was for Cornell Tech in the broader Cornell community, which you began to address, but also in the broader community, in the country, in the world. Where do you see the role of this?
MARTHA POLLACK: So I think Cornell Tech is transformational. I think it's transformational for Cornell. And I will tell you, a year ago, when I first got here, every time I said that, I had to preface that by saying now Ithaca will always be our heart and soul. I think people now believe that. We're not giving up on Ithaca. The experience that Maiquela describes of running into her professor in Wegmans, the experience of having sort of the solitude if you like to think-- I mean, that is again, one of our differentiators. I don't have to say that anymore. I think that people believe that.
But it's also true that we live in an increasingly urban world. And the opportunities that are opened up by our presence in New York, for humanities students to experience cultural activities in New York, for students working in urban planning to try out their urban solutions in urban environments, and frankly, the ability we have to further make known the activities we've had there. [? Wow, ?] Cornell's been in Manhattan for more than a century. Our Cooperative Extension is in every single borough. ILR and engineering and our architectural planning-- and I'm sure I'm forgetting others-- have programs in New York.
I think that there are so many opportunities for us to pair and tightly couple not just Cornell Tech but all of our activities in New York with what's going on in Ithaca. And again, that becomes another differentiator for us. There is not another university, certainly not another world-class university, that has both the rural and urban campuses.
OK. I know. She's cutting me off on time, but I am going to take one more question. But also, I've got to try out one idea on this group. So one of the challenges we face in Ithaca is dual careers for faculty. So we hire faculty, and they have a spouse or a partner, and the spouse or partner is in finance, or they're in architecture or banking or whatever. And we don't have those jobs in Ithaca.
So here's an idea I have. And for those of you who live in the New York region, think about this. And if you see me on the street, let me know what you think. My idea is we stand up a sort of co-working facility up here in Ithaca. We provide administrative support and so on. And then we ask our alumni in New York to look at the CVs, the resumes, of the spouses and partners. And if you have opportunities for the kinds of jobs where people could work remotely and then periodically come down, work with us to hire them, because that'll make-- you think it's a good idea? All right!
All right. I'm on it. OK. Last question or she's going to get the hook and pull me off. Yeah, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: [? Mark ?] [? Hosa, ?] chemical engineering, class of '73. I came here from a woefully inadequate high school and found in freshman physics I just wasn't at all prepared. And so I ended up spending-- freshman physics class was a large lecture class, 100-plus people.
I ended up spending an hour a week with Professor Newhall. And he taught me how to think. He taught me how to address solving problems. And without his help, I probably wouldn't have made it through here. And I ended up in the top 10% of my class [INAUDIBLE] when I graduated and then later on got my PhD in chemical engineering. And I owe it all to Professor Newhall.
LINDA GADSBY: Wasn't that a great conversation?
Well, thank you, President Pollack. Thank you, Maiquela. Thank you, Troy. You make me very proud to be an alum and trustee of Cornell. At this time, I'd like to welcome you to join us as After Eight and The Hangovers join us on the stage to sing the alma mater.
MARTHA POLLACK: Can you sing?
CHOIR: (SINGING) Far above Cayuga's waters with its waves of blue stands our noble alma mater, glorious to view. Lift the chorus. Speed it onward. Loud her praises tell. Hail to thee our alma mater. Hail, all hail Cornell. Far above the busy humming of the bustling town, reared against the arch of heaven, looks she proudly down. Lift the chorus. Speed it onward. Loud her praises tell. Hail to thee our alma mater. Hail, all hail Cornell.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Cornell President Martha E. Pollack, after brief opening remarks, talks with Maiquela Richards ’18, who graduated May 27 with a degree in government, and Troy Anderson ’19, a biological sciences major, during a Reunion Weekend presentation June 9, 2018 in Bailey Hall.