Cornell U. to Put Community Work at Center of Undergraduate Education

Cornell University announced on Monday an ambitious plan to make community engagement a pillar of its undergraduate education model, and give all students the technical, academic, and personal skills to become “engaged citizens of the world.”

The university says it will spend $150-million over the next decade to develop the program, called “Engaged Cornell,” which is expected to be fully in place in 2025. The goal is for all graduating students to have taken at least one course with a community component by then. The project is being established with a $50-million gift from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, and the university plans to raise the rest.

The money will be used to create introductory and advanced courses, administer competitive grants at the departmental level, and support a leadership program open to all students.

Other institutions have built programs around community engagement, The New York Times notes, and Cornell consulted some of them, including the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton, Stanford, and Tulane Universities.

President David Skorton and other Cornell officials called the effort transformative, The Ithaca Journal reported. “We intend for Cornell to be nothing less than a recognized educational leader in community engagement,” the president said.

Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, said Engaged Cornell was “going to be transformative because it’s going to build partnerships on the campus in a formal way that we haven’t had before.” Some students will achieve participation through formal course work, while others may take part in research projects or participate in community partner organizations, she said.

The project plans to establish and sustain hundreds of multiyear partnerships at local, national, and global levels.

University officials hope the effort will create a new cultural norm for Cornell that will attract students and faculty members while having a meaningful impact in communities. They also hope it will create a new model and direction for higher education.

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