Cornell’s Big Bet On New York City

Johnson Dean Soumitra Dutta

Johnson Dean Soumitra Dutta

It’s rare when a business school truly has a game changing strategy. More often than not, new deans coaxed minor curriculum improvements out of faculty, raise cash for new buildings, or bankroll new marketing campaigns.

But when INSEAD professor Soumitra Dutta moved into the dean’s office at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management last August, he inherited a game changing initiative for both the university and its business school. Cornell already had won a competition for $100 million in funds and $300 million worth of New York City real estate to create a new graduate school dubbed Cornell NYC Tech.

The school, meant to help commercialize science and technology to create businesses and employment in New York, gives the university and the business school a dynamic laboratory for innovation and entrepreneurship. Cornell NYC Tech, which opened its doors in January in 20,000 square feet of space at Google’s New York headquarters in Chelsea, will eventually boast a vast campus on Roosevelt Island in 2017.


Already, though, it’s Dutta’s number one priority. It suddenly opens up a whole range of possibilities for us to experiment in the New York City environment,” says Dutta in an interview with Poets&Quants. “I don’t think many other business schools will be able to match this. The New York strategy is very much focused around technology and Johnson is going to be a very important player in that project. We will be trying to create a whole new class of companies and professionals in New York City.”

No less crucial, it gives an Ivy League business school in rather isolated Ithaca, N.Y., a foothold in the most dynamic city in the world. “Being in Ithaca sometimes can be a disadvantage in terms of remoteness,” concedes Dutta. Cornell NYC Tech will put the school in the spotlight like never before but also will put pressure on the new dean to fully exploit an unprecedented opportunity.

He is ruling nothing out, though concrete plans have yet to be approved. Dutta says it’s possible that Johnson will start a full-time MBA program in New York City. Non-degree executive programs are pretty much a no-brainer. So is using Cornell NYC Tech as a converging point to bring together graduate students in business, computer science and engineering to create new startups.


“The strategy calls for integration on a much deeper merger between computer science, engineering and business,” he says. “It focuses on our attempts to work very closely with those two schools and to use New York City as a base for launching other kinds of programs, including non-degree programs. We do anticipate there will be some special tech orientation to these programs and ways to link up to other activities on campus. What I hope is that in three to four months time, we should be able to bring it together in a more coherent and detailed strategy. The eventual goal is to grow in New York City significantly, to combine the best of two worlds: the best of New York and the best of Ithaca and Cornell.”

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