Cornell Paves Way For New B-School

Robert Harrison, chairman of Cornell University's Board of Trustees

Robert Harrison, chairman of Cornell University’s Board of Trustees

‘LAST YEAR WAS A YEAR OF CATCHING UP’

It took Cornell six months to bring aboard Judi Byers, director of admissions at American University’s Kogod School of Business in Washington, D.C., to succeed Sneva. She has since rebuilt the admissions staff, recruiting Admissions Director Gail Wolfmeyer from New York University’s Stern School of Business and Admissions Manager Chris Lind from American University.

“Last year was a year of catching up and re-building the team,” concedes Gaur. “We had fewer people in admissions last year so they didn’t pay enough attention. We were strapped for resources so we lost our strong female candidates to other schools. This year we have worked hard to bring it back up and we are seeing results.”

At the same time, Johnson also went through a transition in MBA employment. Fred Staudmyer, assistant dean for career management for more than five years, left for a corporate job at Patriot Bank in November of 2014. Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham, already on staff as director of career development, succeeded Staudmyer.  In MBA employment, the school avoided the transition challenges that befell its admissions office. Johnson reported that 92% of its Class of 2015 had job offers three months after graduation, the same level as the year before. Even better, average starting salaries for the two-year class was $119,100, an increase of more than $8,000 from the prior year’s $110,900. But more students initiated their own job searches this past year, 33% versus 27% in the earlier year.

Adding a big, potentially disruptive merger onto the leadership agenda won’t make things easier. But the board of trustees views the merger as a way to make the business school stronger. “Today, every leading university must have a great business school to maximize its global impact,” said Robert S. Harrison, chairman of the trustees, in a statement. “Bringing together the faculty, curricular offerings and programs of Cornell’s three excellent business schools will enhance the reach and recognition of our business studies in an increasingly competitive environment. This follows Cornell’s long history of successfully sharing academic units in a way that preserves each program’s identity and focus, while creating lasting benefits for our students, our faculty, and the rest of our global university community.”

ONE STUDENT CLAIMED THE PLAN WOULD MAKE CORNELL MORE LIKE WHARTON

Merging the graduate and undergraduate business schools would bring Cornell in line with most other universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University and the University of North Carolina. But the addition of Cornell’s famed Hotel School appears to be causing greater concern among students, faculty and alumni, as acknowledged by Gaur. Many believe the hotel school has carved out a reputation as one of the very best in its field and could lose that distinction in a combined school.

At the student assembly session on Thursday, undergraduate student Diana Li ’17, was quoted in the Cornell Daily Sun as saying that that merging the Dyson and hotel schools into a single business school would take away from “the intrinsic value that draws a lot of people to the specific things that make Cornell what it is.” She added that prestigious programs such as the hotel school are “part of our identity” and that incorporating them into a single business school would reduce what makes them special.

Li, formerly  summer research assistant at Wharton, then compared Cornell’s plan to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, warning that separation within the student community could result. “Wharton’s campus is very much cult-like and is very polarized from the rest of the student body to the extent that you are basically not allowed into Wharton groups unless you have a Wharton email address,” Li reportedly said. “That is not the not the example I want for this campus.”

UNIVERSITY HAS ONLY VAGUELY EXPLAINED THE REASONS FOR A MERGER

It’s unclear what efficiencies the university would gain under the merger plan. So far, the university’s leadership has made fairly vague justification for bringing together the three schools. In a statement, the school said the plan would create “more diverse and rigorous learning and research opportunities” and “bring together faculty in departments that can offer a critical mass of colleagues, as well as combine resources for key recruitments, to attract and retain excellent faculty at all levels. It also will create a stronger and unified center from which to manage recruiting and corporate relationships, executive education, continuing education, and faculty research.”

“Bringing together Cornell’s three business schools will also establish an effective administrative structure that will be immensely beneficial to the University’s ability to continue to attract the best and brightest faculty and students,” Dean Dutta said in a statement.

Each school would be led by a aean who will have responsibility for that school’s admissions and academic program. Each school’s faculty will maintain oversight over its academic program. Integration of the schools will occur with the goal of linking faculty of equivalent disciplines in departments that span the individual schools so as to enhance collaborations in teaching and research and coordinate faculty recruitment.

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