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Great Expectations

  By Melinda Pradarelli  

Youngker Hall was dedicated in April 2003, the first new construction on the Hilltop in nearly 20 years.













Kimmel Theatre is the 266-seat state-of-the-art theater in Youngker Hall.



The college has begun the process of converting all classrooms to “smart classrooms” featuring increased technology and is giving students more instruction on how to use the tools available.

“Students like to be able to go back to their rooms, get onto the campus network, and see the same visuals they were given in class,” says John Dixon, director of information technology. “Instead of going to the library and checking out one book that many students might need, they like to be able to log onto a library database where they can all see the same thing.”

Cornell also plans to make further renovations to The Commons, add parking, convert student lounges to wireless study areas, and more.

But is all of this really necessary? Is today’s student too consumer-oriented? Too brand conscious or concerned with superficial judgments of institutional quality? How does a college determine which amenities are a necessity, are desirable, or are an unnecessary luxury in a competitive marketplace?

Jamie Wallace ’05, who has been accepted into the University of Iowa medical school, says while she puts more stake in the relationships she’s built at Cornell than the physical amenities, she believes that more and more prospective students enter the college search process with higher expectations of how a college ought to look and what it offers.

“As a prospective student, I admit that I expected residence halls to have Internet connections and cable TV,” she says. “I think that’s just a sign of the times. We are in the age of information, high speed, and easy accessibility. Everything progresses.”

Senior Kent Lehr, a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology and economics and business from West Des Moines, Iowa, says he believes the fitness center and other campus features such as residence halls, Starbucks, and science and computer labs are all very important to incoming students. “As a tour guide many people ask me about my opinion of the campus and the various amenities,” Lehr says. “Giving tours of the campus really does show me how important the school’s facilities are to prospective students and the families who are considering Cornell.”

Cornell trustee Dean Riesen ’79 says visiting colleges over the past few years with his then high school-age son gave him new insight into just how much amenities influence a student’s decision to select a particular college. That’s why he stepped up to fund a fitness center in The Commons and shepherded the idea of bringing a coffeehouse to campus. He also supported building a new residence hall.

“These are all reasonable and attractive upgrades that I think will help us appeal to students having a hard time thinking about coming to a small town for college,” Riesen says. “They make the campus even more appealing to prospective students with a myriad of options.”

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