Their curriculum devotes months to helping a company solve a current technological challenge. Their progress is supervised not just by an academic adviser, but also by an industry adviser. Their vast campus on Roosevelt Island, when it is built, will intersperse classrooms with office buildings, where high-tech companies can rent a suite and set up shop.
And when they showed up Monday for the very first day of classes at Cornell NYC Tech, the most ambitious institution of higher education to open in New York City in decades, students arrived not at some temporary structure on the edge of a construction site but to 20,000 square feet of donated space in the middle of Google’s $2 billion New York headquarters.
Cornell NYC Tech, a new graduate school focusing on applied science, is a bold experiment on many fronts: a major expansion for an august upstate school, a high-impact real estate venture for Roosevelt Island, an innovative collaboration with a foreign university, a new realm of influence for City Hall. But the most striking departure of all may be the relationship it sets forth between university and industry, one in which commerce and education are not just compatible, they are also all but indistinguishable. In this new framework, Cornell NYC Tech is not just a school, it is an “educational start-up,” students are “deliverables” and companies seeking access to those students or their professors can choose from a “suite of products” by which to get it.
Colleges and universities across the country — a great many of which are scrambling to find new ways to finance scientific research, as well as new ways to profit from the fruits of that research — are watching closely. In the last year, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced the creation of technology schools by both Columbia and New York University. And Cornell’s president, David J. Skorton, said he had been visited by representatives from other cities hopeful that the Cornell NYC Tech model might work there, too.