Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE
Professor Mark Shucksmith writes this blog following a visit to Cornell University, Ithaca, USA. Cornell is ranked in the top 20 universities world-wide and has similar societal priorities as Newcastle University. Creating a strong link with Cornell University would help us here at Newcastle to realise the vision of a world-class civic university.
Cornell University is “centrally isolated” in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region, around 4-5 hours from Boston, New York or Toronto, perched on a hillside overlooking Lake Cayuga, with the 2300 acre campus cut through by spectacular wooded gorges and waterfalls. The town of Ithaca is an oasis of liberal values, characterised by the alternative and the artistic, with independent bookshops, coffee shops and restaurants clustered around a small downtown (the Ithaca Commons).
I visited Cornell again last month. Cornell University is not only one of the Ivy League of top US universities (and in the world top 20) with a stellar reputation. Uniquely it is also a ‘land grant’ university which means that it has a public purpose, an obligation to a wider societal mission, not just to New York State but (as one document claimed) as “land grant university to the world”. This social purpose and ambition parallels Newcastle University’s vision to be a world-class civic university, putting our excellence in research and teaching to a wider social purpose by addressing the societal challenges of ageing, sustainability and social renewal. My hope was that Newcastle and Cornell might agree to work together, learning from one another how best to pursue this vision, albeit in our very different institutional and cultural contexts.
In the course of my visit I met with many stimulating Cornell colleagues equally committed to this endeavour, and whose work potentially resonates with colleagues at Newcastle. Specific fields included sustainability, translational research, urban and regional planning, and rural sociology, among others which might develop in the future. Visiting Cornell is always intellectually stimulating and motivating. I learned a lot from this latest visit, and I hope we will have the opportunity to learn much more from each other in future cooperations, both in Cornell and in Newcastle.