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With Cornell Tech, New York, Cornell, and Johnson Are Placing a Big Bet

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One-Year Cornell MBA Class to Triple Within Five Years
Finally, there will also be growth within the accelerated, one-year Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program, now in its fourth year. Previously housed in Google’s Chelsea offices, there’s been a limit to how many students can take part. Last year’s cohort had 51 students, and this year’s has 62. But within five years, Nelson envisions that class as much as tripling, to 175 give or take.

Johnson Dean Mark Nelson

Having said that, growth will not come at the expense of quality. “We have been growing carefully because we want to focus on quality,” he stresses. “We want to ensure that the students we admit will not only have an extremely fulfilling experience in their MBA program but that they will also place well upon graduation,” he says.

He envisions that many Johnson Cornell Tech MBA graduates will continue to go the corporate route—taking product management roles with huge tech firms, for example—but that there will also be growth in the number of students who strike out as entrepreneurs immediately upon graduation thanks to the opportunities they have as part of the studio curriculum.

In this way, the number of businesses that get their start at Cornell Tech will only continue to soar, he predicts. “Five years from now we will have a track record of companies coming out of Cornell Tech,” he says. “And this is realizing the vision that gave rise to Cornell Tech. We are seeing new businesses designed for the digital age forming out of the Cornell Tech experience and creating jobs and prosperity for New York and the world beyond,” he notes. Of the 38 businesses that so far have launched, 94 percent have remained in New York.

“Cornell Tech is not only an academic exercise,” Nelson notes. “This is designed to be a business catalyst.” While early returns are already really positive, Nelson looks forward to seeing the next Google or Amazon or LinkedIn come out of Cornell Tech. “Looking at the intellectual fire power of the students and faculty here, I have no doubt it will occur.”

Collaboration, Art, Sustainability Baked into the New Buildings

Cornell Tech
The House, tallest Passive House high-rise in the world

Not unlike the Global Hub recently unveiled at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, the new Cornell Tech buildings have quite intentionally used space and design and materials to drive collaboration.

“That’s why there are very few walls in the building,” Bloomberg said as part of yesterday’s event. “There are no private offices for professors and that is a feature, not a bug,” he continued, drawing laughs from the crowd. “The more students and professors interact with each other, the more opportunities there are for discovery.”

Bloomberg also noted the incorporation of art throughout the buildings. Among them is an art installation in the café inspired by the first major book written on computer programming. “When students look up at the ceiling of the cafeteria, maybe between bites of a sandwich, we want them to know that they can change the world as well,” the former mayor said.

Cornell Tech
Cornell Tech’s Bloomberg Center, photo credit: Iwan Baan

And sustainability has led design at every turn. The Bloomberg Center aspires to be among the largest net-zero energy buildings in the country, with all of its power generated on campus using a range of site-specific strategies to cut overall energy demand and use renewable energy wherever possible. The House, too, promises to be the largest and tallest residential Passive House high-rise in the world, which means that it has been designed to meet the strict Passive House international building standard that slashes energy consumption while also created a healthier and more comfortable living environment for residents. Especially significant in the wake of recent devastating hurricanes in Texas and Florida—and with Hurricane Sandy’s New York devastation still top of mind—the entire campus has also been carefully constructed above not only the 100-year flood line, but also the 500-year flood line.

A Great Time to Be Dean
For Nelson at Johnson, Cornell Tech is just one of many incredible developments unfolding right now. “From a people perspective, I’ve got these amazing faculty coming on board and I’ve got these wonderful alumni that have contributed $150 million—scalable up to $300 million,” he says, referencing the January 2017 matching gift from alumnus H. Fisk Johnson and SC Johnson. “From a places perspective, we have this remarkable Bridge facility but we also just built the beautiful Breazzano Center in Ithaca’s Collegetown, and they are being built at the same time so they can talk to each other,” he continued. “And from a program perspective we have what’s happening at Cornell Tech, with new curriculum opportunities for our students down here, and there’s always new courses being developed in Ithaca, including some that’s being inspired by what’s taking place down here. How often does all that come together?”

At a recent state of the school address to students, Nelson found himself grasping for a visual to offer students. “I ended up showing a picture of the recent eclipse,” he says. “How often does everything click at that one point in time so that it can be a defining moment?” he asks. “I feel like this is a defining moment for us—so it’s a fun time to be dean.”