Cornell’s Big Bet On New York City

Soumitra Dutta, dean of the Johnson School of Management

Soumitra Dutta, dean of the Johnson School of Management


The new graduate school in New York gives Dutta the chance to make multi-disciplinary work real and meaningful. It also gives his students a new leg up on entrepreneurship and a chance for the school to gain far more prominence than it currently has.

Dutta is currently hiring three new senior faculty members—in finance, marketing and management–who would be based at Cornell NYC Tech for Johnson. “Their goal is to advance the overall mission of Cornell Tech. So they will have to have expertise in core business domains but also an interest in technology. Johnson faculty in New York will have their academic home in Ithaca but they will work closely and sit next to faculty in computer science and help co-teach courses in New York.”


The first graduate students to enter the school in January are working toward a master’s in computer science. But all engineering students are required to take mandatory business courses, including basic finance and accounting, entrepreneurship and leadership. “They are required to take two semester long courses and to work on a project in which some business school students would be involved,” says Dutta. “Our faculty are already teaching in this temporary campus in Chelsea.”

One danger, of course, is that the New York campus becomes a major distraction, pulling resources away from the main campus in Ithaca and allowing a small, top quality intimate MBA program to be diminished. Dutta says that won’t happen. “I understand that very well and our focus is on integration,” he maintains. “A core belief I have is that New York City will help strengthen Ithaca even further. We always ask how can we use New York to improve the experience of our students. As long as we keep asking that question, we should be able to maintain our focus.

“What we are sure of is that the full-time residential program will stay in Ithaca. There might be some special things, research programs or immersion projects that might run in conjunction with New York City. We are in the middle of exploring all different options.”


In any case, the new dean says his first six months in the job have flown by. The New York initiative meant “we had to get on the moving train very quickly,” says Dutta. “So I did not have that much of a honeymoon period because I had to make sure the school was aligned to the New York strategy. It has been a busy and intense few months.”

Dutta began teaching at INSEAD in 1989 and until he left for Johnson was most recently the founder and faculty director of a new media and technology innovation lab at the school. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology, along with master’s degrees in business and computer science and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley.

Asked if anything needs fixing at Johnson, Dutta says the school is already well run. “I must say that I am very pleased because I find the school well functioning and very solid. The challenge for us now is to take our strong foundation and to build upon it. Being in Ithaca sometimes makes the school a little bit shy. We haven’t been as bold in expressing our voice the way we should.”


To remedy that problem, Dutta has hired a chief marketing officer with a corporate background at Disney and PepsiCo. “I hope that with the increasing presence of New York City Tech, we’ll be able to show ourselves to the world in the best light and more frequently.”

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