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Great Expectations

  By Melinda Pradarelli  

Students, faculty, and staff hang out at the new coffeehouse in The Commons, which features wireless internet access enjoyed by Emily Wolff '05.











Cell phones are part of student life today. In fact, the college discontinued long-distance phone service in the dorms in fall 2002 and students now use cell phones or phone cards.


This issue regarding “greater expectations” is not a case simply of style versus substance. It centers appropriately on academic quality and educational outcomes.

At the heart of Cornell’s strategic plan is a vision to strengthen its already acclaimed academic program. The most visible sign of this emphasis is the recent launch of several new academic initiatives that are being developed in ways that complement the One-Course-At-A-Time calendar and preserve Cornell’s rich tradition of close faculty and student interactions. The new initiatives include the Cornell Fellows internship program; Dimensions: The Center for the Science and Culture of Healthcare; the Distinguished Alumni Visitors series; as well as programs related to the library and applied economics. The initiatives seek to broaden the academic experiences of students through increased faculty mentoring, internships, off-campus studies, and interactions with alumni and industry.

Efforts are also under way to add faculty and to increase funding for study-abroad programs.

John Harp, vice president for student affairs, says while students are drawn to Cornell’s caring and supportive academic community, they also seek personalized services that will make their college experience unique. “Students today are just very consumer-minded when it comes to their daily lives,” he says.

Gone are the days of men and women living in separate dorms—all in double rooms. Today’s students like options. That’s why Cornell will open a suite-style residence hall in August, with each room wired for the latest in technology.

“Most of our students grew up with their own 17 rooms, so they continue to want to have their own things,” Harp says. “So for each student, you might see a DVD player, a CD player, a PDA, an iPod, and more. There is an amazing amount of infrastructure needed to support these technologies.”

Students have also come to expect better health care for medical problems they may face while in school, as well as for pre existing health conditions. They also expect ample parking. The most recent first-year class had a higher percentage of students with cars on campus than the senior class. About 61 percent of Cornell students have cars. To meet this growing need, Cornell has added 50 parking spots at its new residence hall.

Harp doesn’t think the college is being too indulgent of students with its campus improvements. “Cornell is very careful with its resources. An amenity is provided at Cornell only if it fulfills a real need.”

Stroud agrees, saying that the goal is not to become a country club. “The essence of the Cornell experience will always be a high-quality liberal arts education. At the same time, we do have to recognize that expectations are different for students today, both in terms of quality of life and educational enrichment,” he says. “For the college to thrive today and tomorrow, we must be responsive to the ways in which students and their families are weighing institutional value while retaining the integrity of its educational mission.”

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