Cornell Engineering Magazine: Message From the Dean

I recently spoke with a group of alumni, parents, and friends of the College and told them that there has never been a better time to be a Cornell Engineer.  

Lynden Archer

This year has been especially so, as we’ve seen the vibrancy of the Ithaca campus rebound to pre-pandemic norms. As we’ve grown to appreciate how our laboratories, classroom activities, design projects and other aspects of residential campus life provide an immersive experience that produces well-rounded, capable engineers. As we’ve grown to understand the crucial role systems thinking, commonplace in every engineering discipline, must play in addressing the big challenges of our time – in human health, in space exploration, and in climate change and energy transitions.

Of course, “normal” at Cornell Engineering is a bit of a misnomer. To us, “normal” means students learning how to apply engineering concepts in and outside the classroom; faculty forging new collaborations with clinicians at our Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City; members of our committed staff innovating processes for streamlining functions university-wide, transforming our aging infrastructure, and improving the quality of the student experience. We are constantly moving and continuously improving.

I was appointed dean of Cornell Engineering in July 2020, in what we would now consider the early days of the pandemic. At the time, it seemed like most people had already been working and interacting with each other remotely for a while. I continued to come to campus. Even though it was all quiet, and I’d been at Cornell for almost twenty years, each day allowed me to explore buildings on the Pew Engineering Quad, many of which I’d only known from the outside. In these buildings, many clever and transformative ideas have emerged, and many inspiring engineers have been educated.

It was a joy to tour the spaces where we educate students and enable faculty to push the boundaries of knowledge through their research. It was also an opportunity to understand where we needed to improve.

Those early days helped inspire the push to create our strategic plan for the college, Cornell Engineering 2030, which will guide the investments we make in people, programs, and infrastructure for the foreseeable future. The process also allowed us to prioritize action and to reflect upon the core values that must guide such priorities. Among these values, “excellence”, “community”, and “collaboration” stood out as key descriptors of what we are and aspire to become as a college.

I look forward to keeping you informed as we implement the Cornell Engineering 2030 plan. I also look forward to your continued engagement, generosity, and friendship as we live out these values. And as we work to foster and sustain a diverse, engaged, and caring environment where all members feel like they belong, are heard, and can reach their full potential.

In this issue of the alumni magazine, we’ve selected stories that capture the impressive range of impacts our community members —from our youngest students to those who have long since graduated, are having. I hope you feel as proud and as energized as I am about the fact that Cornell Engineering is making a difference. If you haven’t been to Ithaca in a while, I hope you’ll come see us soon.

There has never been a better time to be a Cornell Engineer.