Cornell’s Stunning NYC Campus Opens For Business

Cornell Tech officially opens on Roosevelt Island in New York City

Less than seven years after a pair of aides to Mayor Mike Bloomberg dreamed up the idea to launch a competition for a new tech-based campus in New York City, Cornell University today (Sept. 13) officially opened its new Cornell Tech complex on Roosevelt Island.

Built on a two-mile-long strip of land in the East River, Cornell Tech represents New York’s attempt to compete with Silicon Valley and become a global leader in technology and innovation. The campus was built from scratch on an island that once housed a prison, a lunatic asylum and a women’s workhouse that at one time hosted Mae West.

Some 30 full-time faculty from engineering, computer science, business and law along with roughly 300 graduate students now work and study in the trio of modern buildings making up the first phase of the campus. The three buildings include The House, a 26-story residential tower with 550 rooms for students and faculty, the Bloomberg Center, and The Bridge, with its faculty research labs, a state-of-the-art computing lab, and a design lab where student can build prototypes. Ultimately the 12-acre, $2 billion campus will be home to more than 2,000 graduate students as well as hundreds of faculty and staff.


A major beneficiary of the ambitious project is Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, which has some 20,000 square feet of space in The Bridge, the building meant to connect academia and industry for startups and job creation. The business school space includes two tiered classrooms, eight breakout rooms, and work space for mor ethan 20 faculty and staff.

“It will pay off in a lot of ways, but our near focus is the MBA program,” says Mark Nelson, dean of Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. “I want to bring these two campuses together in every way I can.”

Nelson envisions the day when every MBA student, whether in a program on the home campus in Ithaca, NY, or at Cornell Tech itself, will benefit from the new campus. There are classrooms where faculty and students can be beamed from New York City to Ithaca and vice versa. And this fall, MBA students in Ithaca will be able to take four new weekend courses at Cornell Tech: Digital Leadership in Cultural Markets, Designing Data Products, Design Thinking, and Leading Agile Innovation. There’s a shuttle bus connecting the two campuses that are roughly four hours apart.

MBA students will end up going to most classes and studios in The Bridge building


In the spring, MBAs in Ithaca have the option of coming south for seven-week intensives in Digital Marketing and FinTech. Ithaca-based MBAs can also apply to spend either half or all of the spring 2018 semester in residence at Cornell Tech. Nelson believes that some two-year MBA students may eventually elect to spend their entire second year at Cornell Tech.

The move onto Roosevelt Island also signals a new growth phase for the accelerated, one-year Cornell Tech MBA program launched in 2014. Until recently, faculty and students were housed in Google’s New York headquarters building in Chelsea. But Nelson says the business school moved its newly entered fourth Cornell Tech MBA cohort of 62 students into the Bridge’s modern classrooms and studios in late August. That’s up from the 53 graduates of the program this past July.

Within five years, he says, the Cornell Tech MBA program could enroll as many as 175 students, nearly three times its current enrollment. That compares with with the 277 entering MBA students in the two-year MBA program this year. “We’ll make sure to only scale with really high quality students and curriculum,” he says. “It’s not a race to size. It’s a race to quality.”


The program, Nelson points out, not only appeals to would-be entrepreneurs who want to meet partners with different skills in a campus setting. It also is an ideal degree for students who ultimately want product and project management jobs in tech companies and product marketing jobs in the technology sector.

The new campus is likely to be a magnet for students eager to enter the tech industry, the fastest growing industry sector recruiting MBA students in recent years. And there are additional plans to host B-school academic conferences, recruiting events, and alumni receptions (the New York City metro area is home to more than 3,000 Johnson alumni). Johnson will soon begin executive education programming on the campus, with Amazon, now one of Johnson’s largest MBA recruiters, being among the first companies to come to Cornell Tech’s campus on Roosevelt Island.

Already, says Nelson, the new campus is having an impact on the quality of faculty the school has recently hired from such rival institutions as Columbia, Michigan, Chicago, and INSEAD. “We are having remarkable faculty hiring success,” adds Nelson, singling out strategy professor Gautam Ahuja, who left Michigan Ross to come to Cornell. Ahuja racked up 16 separate teaching excellence awards from MBA, Executive MBA and PhD students at both Michigan Ross and UT-Texas at Austin.

Studio space in The Bridge building where cross-disciplinary teams work together on products and ideas

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