you have spent your first months in office on
a self-described listening and learning tour of
the University. What are the most important
things you have learned so far, both about
Cornell in general and Weill Cornell Medicine
In my first 100 days at Cornell, I have sought out as
many students, faculty members, and staff as possible, on our Ithaca and New York City campuses.
I’ve spoken with alumni living around the globe.
I’m learning what matters most to our community
as I formulate my vision and priorities. These discussions have reinforced my view that Cornell is a truly
extraordinary university, unrivaled in the scope and
excellence of our teaching, research, and outreach.
We are distinguished by our land-grant mission
of “knowledge for the public good,” and by our long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion—
Cornell has been open to women, minorities, and
international students from its founding more than
150 years ago. Cornell is also the only institution that
bridges upstate and downstate New York. In Ithaca,
we’re a close-knit community of scholars, gathered
in a special place that resonates deeply with alumni. In
New York City, we are linked to the world’s greatest city,
offering unparalleled opportunities for our students
and scholars. Weill Cornell Medicine is our largest
footprint in the city, with a long history of providing
high-quality patient care, making biomedical discoveries that translate to new therapies, and educating
exceptional doctors and scientists.
What makes Cornell unique among the ivies?
As a member of the presidential search committee
told me, Cornell is an Ivy League school with a Big
Ten heart. Coming from the University of Michigan,
I have found that to be a very fitting description.
We stand out in higher education as the only Ivy
League university with a land-grant mission. Cornell
is defined by several key traits: the highest possible
academic quality, a commitment to core liberal
arts and professional education, and outreach and
engagement for social good—values embodied by
our Ithaca programs, as well as those at Weill Cornell
Medicine and Cornell Tech.
Ensuring diversity was an integral part of
your role as provost at Michigan. How are
you applying that commitment to Cornell
With Ezra Cornell’s founding pledge of “any person
. . . any study,” Cornell has shown a deep, abiding
commitment to diversity from day one. It is an extraordinary vision when you consider the social landscape
of 1865, and today Cornell continues to be a national
leader in establishing an inclusive campus climate.
Cornell has an active University Diversity Council,
which includes two administrators from Weill Cornell
Medicine and advances the university’s strategic goals
for faculty, student, and staff diversity. This work
extends to colleges and units through a framework
we developed called Toward New Destinations, which
fosters grassroots initiatives in support of our core principles of composition, engagement, inclusion, and
achievement. As president, I hope to double down on
extending this legacy, fostering a climate that embraces
differences and provides rich opportunities for learning
from those differences.
I am also taking a strong stance on Cornell’s
commitment to free speech. We are a community
where all voices may be heard and where the dignity
of all individuals is protected. A diverse community
includes everyone and is the foundation for the free
exchange of ideas.
you have credited mentors in your life for
cultivating you into a successful leader. How
are you encouraging mentorship at Cornell,
and why is it important for student and
Like many undergraduates, I began college unsure
of my career trajectory. I liked math and thought
that would be my major. For an elective requirement, I took an anthropology course and loved
it. I went to the professor with a crazy idea for a
dual major in math and anthropology. After some
‘ONE CORNELL’: Pollack
with Dean Augustine
M.K. Choi, MD, at her first
Weill Cornell Medicine
commencement in May.
Opposite page: Pollack
chatting with students
and faculty on the
Ithaca campus (top)
and getting a laboratory
tour from Michael Foley,
PhD, director of the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics