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Message Framework

The Message Framework consists of suggested language for themes that reflect the priorities outlined in the university's Strategic Plan and helps you link each theme to the university's mission, nature, and core values.


Critical Issues

  • Access and Affordability
  • Academics and Research
  • Student Life
  • Health and Well–Being

Positioning Taglines

  • Cornell's students work hard, get ahead, and give back
  • The best research university for undergraduate education
  • Learning anchored in research
  • Living–learning community
  • A caring community

Key Facts and Concepts

  • Our best scholars teach freshmen
  • Need–blind admissions
  • Freedom with responsibility
  • Curiosity and passion
  • A diverse community of people and ideas
  • Broad perspectives
  • Boundless exploration and discovery
  • Cultivating scholars and citizens
  • Advancing a caring community
  • Hands–on learning
  • Academic breadth and depth
  • Multidisciplinary and collaborative scholarship and research
  • Synthesis of ideas
  • Education that blends theory with practice
  • Initiative
  • An embrace of public engagement
  • Life–changing experiences
  • Land–grant mission
  • Catalysts for change
  • Real–world solutions
  • Ivy League

Cornell's culture of intellectual freedom and collaboration across disciplines stimulates a sense of larger purpose for researching, teaching, and serving, throughout New York and around the world.

Critical Issues

  • Faculty retention and renewal
  • Cross–discipline collaboration
  • Increased diversity
  • Intellectual engagement
  • Support for research, scholarship, and creativity
  • High academic standards

Positioning Taglines

  • A tradition of world-class excellence; a legacy of global engagement
  • Innovative. Imaginative. Interdisciplinary. International.
  • Collaborative. Creative. Community. Cornell.
  • Cornell: Where tradition meets tomorrow

Key Facts and Concepts

  • Faculty has great colleagues within their fields who have similar research interests
  • Faculty has the opportunity to do research with real-world impact
  • Faculty has the opportunity to teach some of the best students
  • Faculty has access to some of the world's most respected scientists
  • Faculty has the ability to collaborate with people dedicated to serving the public good and fulfilling Cornell's land grant mission
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged and practiced
  • Faculty members are integral to the many unique and unusual university programs
  • Faculty has access to the infrastructure and support systems that are necessary to advance their research
  • Faculty accomplishes great things that have a lasting and positive impact on the world
  • Spirit of exploration
  • Research with a creative edge
  • Faculty conducts research that is relevant and of high quality, but usually with an element of "counterculture" to the conventional wisdom/approaches used in the discipline.
  • Open, supportive, and uniquely interdisciplinary
  • Where tradition meets tomorrow
  • Faculty has freedom with responsibility
  • Faculty members are part of a diverse community of people and ideas
  • Curiosity and passion
  • Brimming with innovation
  • Broad perspectives
  • Boundless exploration and discovery
  • Catalysts for change
  • Real-world solutions
  • Ivy League
  • A place where cultures meet, share, and learn
  • Unfettered partnerships
  • An atmosphere where anything is possible

Through places and spaces we celebrate Cornell's community and campuses – virtual and concrete. From the remarkable buildings that respect tradition and inspire innovation, to the stunning natural landscapes both open and intimate, to the sophisticated networks connecting Cornellians and colleagues around the globe. Cornell's sense of larger purpose is deeply rooted in its dramatic natural beauty and evolving built environment.

Related Brand Elements

The following key elements from the brand book most closely relate to this year's theme:

  • Direct impact, local and global
  • Commitment to inclusivity
  • Special place
  • Vibrant community
  • Supporting Language
  • Sense of place
  • High on the hill with our feet on the ground
  • Communities devoted to discovery
  • Glorious to view
  • Without boundaries
  • Rich with tradition
  • Living, learning laboratory
  • Sustainable by design or sustainable living and learning

Cornell's strategy of engagement is to guide the future of Cornell's historic land-grant mission.

As New York State's land-grant institution, Cornell University is distinguished by its deep commitment to developing knowledge that benefits communities in the state and around the world. This commitment is rooted in its land-grant mission and the proposition that a land-grant university should be "expansive, endlessly adaptable and always relevant to the needs of society." In the 150 years since the Morrill Act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 creating the land-grant system of universities, Cornell University has welcomed diverse students and scholars to create and extend knowledge and innovation to communities from central New York to central Asia and beyond.

Guiding Quotes

"Cornell is the land-grant university for New York State. ... We are in all 57 upstate counties and in all five boroughs of the city. This is the 150th anniversary of that [Morrill] Act in Congress in 1862. I bore you with all of that because this [CornellNYC Tech] was a natural for us. This was a perfect match to our DNA. We are here to serve the people of New York and a chance to do that in New York City, where we already have a pretty big presence, was just irresistible." Cornell University President David J. Skorton, Charlie Rose (July 16, 2012).

"As the land-grant university of New York State, Cornell has a mission of public engagement -- a mission to use the wide variety of skills and knowledge within the university to serve the needs of people around New York State and beyond." Cornell University Senior Vice Provost Ron Seeber remarking on the land-grant mission at the Cornell Prison Education Program graduation ceremony June 5, 2012. Susan Kelley, "With hard work, prisoners graduate at historic ceremony," Cornell Chronicle (June 8, 2012).

Related Brand Elements

The following key elements from the brand book most closely relate to this year's theme:

  • Intellectual rigor, theoretical and applied
  • Direct impact, local and global
  • Commitment to inclusivity

Supporting Language and Concepts

  • Cornell is reigniting the American Dream through its research, innovations, and inclusive participation.
  • Cornell students, faculty, and staff engage in work to improve the lives of people within New York State and across the planet while that same work shapes their own scholarship, teaching, and commitment to understanding humanity.
  • As our land-grant university and for over 140 years, Cornell has attracted faculty, staff, and students who want to use their knowledge to improve people's lives in New York State.
  • Cornellians "...create and disseminate knowledge with a public purpose."
  • Knowledge with a public purpose.
  • There is but one Cornell, and we are local everywhere.
  • Cornell is "the land-grant university to the world."
  • Cornell is a caring community that cares about building communities.
  • Cornell: expanding the world's collective knowledge.
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged, practiced, and facilitates research with real-world, global impact.
  • Cornellians are a diverse community of people and ideas who are dedicated to serving the public good and fulfilling Cornell's land-grant mission.
  • Public engagement ... expresses the university's commitment to search for knowledge-based solutions to societal and world problems. Public engagement is an interpretation of the university's outreach mission that emphasizes being proactive (actively engaged) and having a public impact. It implies a broadening of the historic land-grant mission of the university.(Cornell University Strategic Plan)

Cornell University cultivates progressive, influential innovators who, through individual ingenuity and inspired teamwork, have profound, positive impacts in New York State and around the world.

"Thinking otherwise" is a Cornell tradition and a consequence of a Cornell education. Our founders challenged contemporary ideas about the purpose and nature of higher education and in doing so created the modern American university, the model to which the rest of the world aspires. We continue to produce a community of leaders who are inspired and motivated by Cornell's land-grant mission, where old and new ideas can be challenged in service of producing and disseminating knowledge with a public purpose that improves the quality of life and changes the world for the better.

Related Brand Elements

The following key elements from the brand book most closely relate to this year's theme:

  • Outstanding, accessible faculty
  • Intellectual rigor, theoretical and applied
  • Direct impact, local and global
  • Vibrant community

Guiding Quotes

The following expressions offer examples of how Cornell cultivates thought leadership.

"Cornell can be a different experience for anyone. The motto about any person and any study appears to be true –it's hard to think of something that's not going on here. It is fantastically energizing." -Steven Stucky, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

"We've been given the freedom to iterate, making changes on a short time frame. And we have Cornell behind us, so we know it will be a high quality program. That's very liberating." -Rajit Manohar, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Cornell Tech

"There is a lot of Cornell history in the space program. Tommy Gold and Apollo, Carl Sagan, Joe Veverka and Viking, the Voyager missions...In my junior year I took a class with Joe Veverka. I came out of that class knowing exactly what I wanted to do." -Steven Squyres, principal investigator for the Mars Rover project

"Questions about inequality and the future of capitalism are right at the forefront of everyone's mind, and this is a great place to be to contribute to the national conversation." -Louis Hyman, professor, Industrial and Labor Relations

Supporting Language and Concepts

  • Mastery of their content areas.
  • Recognize opportunities, set a clear course, and motivate others to follow.
  • Keep up with new developments in their fields and make contributions that stand the test of time.
  • Recognized as "go-to" authorities by colleagues, students, and practitioners.
  • Believe in changing the world.
  • Use their expertise and talent to improve life around the globe.
  • Meaningful impact.
  • A challenge to address the big issues and solve the major questions.
  • Researchers and scholars, driven to teach and learn, to satisfy curiosity and push the frontiers of discovery.
  • Know that the status quo is rarely a catalyst for change; think about conventional wisdom in unconventional ways; and convey those habits of thought to their students, who carry them forward as alumni.
  • Students who learn how to think on their own when the answers aren't there.
  • Alumni who are gold-standard leaders in their industries and professions.
  • "Radical collaboration" among those who excel in their fields, producing a distinctive combination of depth, breadth, reach, and boundary-spanning connectivity among disciplines, locations and institutions.
  • Students who think independently in and outside the classroom, across intellectual, personal, and social development, enabling those who are naturally creative and visionary in their thinking to emerge and grow.


Contemporary universities benefit individuals and add value to society.

Proof Point 1: Citizen Leaders

Universities help students mature into knowledgeable, thoughtful, compassionate, skillful members of society.


Students develop critical thinking skills; leadership capacity; and an appreciation for differences, whether cultural, language, thought, or academic discipline.

Universities prepare graduates for long-term career success and personal well-being. They cultivate skills that benefit the human community—empathy, tolerance, perspective, and integrity.


The value of higher education is greater than the cost/debt ratio. It is an investment in the future of the individual.

An investment in higher education results in real and enduring value to society—the development of critical thinkers and active world citizens.

Cornell has a very good case to make regarding debt for both undergraduates and graduate students.


Cornell is an innovator in pedagogical practice and student-centered learning.

The diversity of people and disciplines at Cornell results in self-aware, culturally sensitive, knowledgeable graduates with the skills to address the world's challenges.

Cornell creates good leaders who lead by example and collaborate freely; they engage deeply in the social fabric of the nation and the world.

Proof Point 2: Collaborative Approach

Universities create and share knowledge; they collaborate with partners to develop solutions to difficult problems.


Students have opportunities to apply what they learn in real-world settings.

Universities partner with communities to address and solve difficult, complex problems.

University research, scholarship, and practice deepen understanding, reveal new knowledge, and support civic engagement.


Cornell measures the success of its education by establishing learning outcomes for students.

Cornell is a recognized leader in knowledge development, scholarly effort, and invention. We assess our success using multiple measures, including influence on the world and on our students.


A unique strength of Cornell is our dual identity as Ivy League and Land Grant. The quality of our education and research is matched by the mission to extend the benefits of that knowledge to the communities with whom we work and serve.

The Engaged Cornell model enriches the intellectual, civic, and professional lives of students, staff, and faculty and develops vital partnerships in communities to explore ideas and solve complex problems.

Proof Point 3: Productive Society

Higher education sets the stage for successful individuals and productive communities.


Universities enhance the communities in which they are located. They enhance economic development and quality of life.

Universities take seriously their role to create an educated populace, to apply research to solving societal challenges, and to engage deeply with communities and society at large.


The land-grant colleges in every state integrate teaching, research, and outreach to benefit citizens and communities. As students and faculty go beyond the boundaries of campus, they transfer that benefit to the world.

The value of higher education can be defined as service to the public; civic and political engagement; entrepreneurship and economic development; and transfer of evidence-based solutions to communities.


Cornell creates better people; better citizens. Students exercise empathy and compassion as they engage with local and distant communities.

Our campuses and program venues blend profound intellectual effort with applied policy and research focus. We deliver world-leading liberal arts and professional education. We fulfill our land-grant mission to the world.

Cornell has a positive impact on our local community. We provide social and economic stability and contribute to the learning system in our area.

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Among 21st–century universities, Cornell is a leader in advancing the economic vitality of society.

Proof Point 1: Commitment to Growth and Change

Cornell University is oriented to the future. It is a hotbed for the creation of new knowledge—through critical and creative thinking, discovery, and application. New knowledge leads to new solutions, which advance society.


Students at Cornell gain scholarly knowledge and business/leadership acumen—through broad and deep academic and research programs, coupled with opportunities for immersive experiential learning. These strengths position students to succeed in the global economy.

Cornell's commitment brings benefits that reach beyond the university community. Society gains a deep knowledge base and graduates prepared to lead in their communities. These gains assure the sustained health and growth of society.


Leading universities like Cornell provide a fundamental and profound long-term benefit to society: educating a diverse population breaks the cycle of poverty and leverages returns to society over generations.


Cornell University's founding vision is a commitment for innovation: bold, revolutionary thinking, a refusal to stand still, and a responsibility to make a difference in the world.

This vision has made the university an anchor institution with a 150-year track record of job creation and economic growth across New York State.

Proof Point 2: Innovation Ecosystems

Universities create and share knowledge; they collaborate with partners to develop solutions to difficult problems.


Cornell's innovation ecosystems are networks that provide the information and expertise for growth:

Entrepreneurship ecosystems:
  • Students interested in starting companies learn from Cornell's academic programs in entrepreneurship—where they are mentored by business leaders, have opportunity to take risks, and learn from their mistakes.
  • Community members who are starting or reinvigorating companies learn best practices and gain market edge by interacting with subject-matter, business, and financial experts.
Technology ecosystems:
  • Businesses partner with Cornell students—they learn from each other, and develop and apply technologies that solve the problems of the digital age.
Information ecosystems:
  • Community members engage with Cornell's networks to gain new skills and improve job prospects, family security, health, well–being.
  • Elected officials and policy–makers benefit from Cornell's policy expertise.

Cornell's innovation partnerships create and sustain jobs. Some of Cornell's entrepreneurial and technology partnerships support startups, and others transfer new ideas into commercial innovations. Cornell's information partnerships help sustain existing businesses, families, and communities.

Cornell builds innovation ecosystems with the support of federal, state, and county governments; policymakers; school systems; community agencies.


Cornell is the land–grant university for New York State—and the world.

Cornell's entrepreneurship, technology, and information networks are the extension service for the 21st century. They support communities with the knowledge and expertise to build and sustain businesses that improve individual and societal economies.

Proof Point 3: Multiplier Effects of University Operations

Cornell University is a strong, reliable community institution that provides specific, generative, and sustained contributions to the economy.


Cornell University's network has many members: employees, outside vendors, students and their families, recently employed alumni, alumni company founders, research and outreach partners. All of these people are economic engines.

Economic activity is generated by each member of the Cornell network whenever that person makes a purchase or provides a job for another person (who can then make purchases with their salary).

Whenever income is spent, this spending becomes someone else's income, and so on—the original economic impact is thus multiplied several times over.

This collective economic activity generated by Cornell affects local, state, national, and global economies.


Cornell University generates both jobs and educated prospective employees—through the hiring faculty and staff, campus construction, university operations, and job placements of new graduates.

Each job that Cornell provides or helps generate is valuable to society. Each employed person produces a multiplier effect through economic purchasing—generating impacts on the individual, the institution, organizations, communities, the world, and the future.


Cornell is the largest employer in New York's Southern Tier region. It is also one of the largest research universities in the state, with one of the largest populations of faculty and students. Four of Cornell's colleges and schools are New York State contract colleges, each with numerous partnership and contractual relationships with state agencies.

The multiplier effects of economic activity across these large and diverse constituencies are significant—and have a meaningful impact on the economies they touch.

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At Cornell University, the city is a strategic environment for shaping tomorrow's leaders.

Proof Point 1: Urban Scale and Complexity

Major world cities like New York City are diverse, global centers of culture, capital, finance, business, and technology.

These world cities—home to millions of people and their associated needs—are a powerful proving ground where students can be readily immersed in complex global issues at large scale and depth.


In an urban atmosphere, Cornell's undergraduate and graduate students gain numerous and diverse opportunities to interact with society on more than a cerebral level.

Students learn to be citizens of New York City, just as they have learned to be citizens of small–city Ithaca and the regional community of the Finger Lakes. Through these complementary experiences, students gain intercultural competencies and place–scale competencies. They learn what the world is like and become prepared to succeed in it.


In New York City, students have access to a critical mass of people, consumers, business, culture, technology, institutions, buildings, arts, culture, social activity, healthcare, transportation, finance, and civic interaction—a diverse and powerful learning environment.

New York City's population—8.4 million—is 43 percent of the total population of New York State (19.65 million).

It is this critical mass of urban activity and expertise that allows people to work together to mitigate problems that are too difficult or impossible to solve with lesser forces.


Cornell's programs in NYC are a revolutionary model among world–class research universities:

  • New York City benefits from eight major Cornell colleges/units to harness the resources of the city and improve the ways people live.
  • Community members are directly served by two long–standing programs: Weill Cornell Medical College's patient care at New York–Presbyterian Hospital, and Cornell Cooperative Extension's community outreach.

Proof Point 2: Triple Integration: Teaching, Research, Engagement

When teaching, research, and engagement are applied as an integrated approach to problem solving, they create strong synergies. When triple integration occurs in a multilayered urban environment like New York City, the opportunities for learning are amplified.


Students learn best from a balanced mix of instruction, discovery-based activities, and experiential engagement with collaborators—the city is a natural partner for Cornell.

In New York City, students have numerous opportunities for hands-on experience and mentoring from a wide range of successful urban professionals. They build networks, and begin to decide what paths fit them best.

Two of the largest drivers of the university's research mission in NYC are Weill Cornell Medical College (health) and Cornell Tech (technology). Each integrates teaching and engagement into its research focus.


Cornell's dual focus on theory and practice ensures results:

  • Students, who may choose to study in Ithaca– and New York City–based programs, receive an intellectual and practical education.
  • Cornell faculty, who may teach in Ithaca– and New York City–based programs, benefit from opportunities in the two complementary academic environments.
  • Cornell researchers, who may partner with Ithaca– and New York City–based colleagues and businesses, gain access to expanded networks.
  • All communities—local (New York City and Ithaca), regional, national, global—benefit from the latest discoveries applied to solve life's problems.
  • New York City–based business partners gain an economic edge against competition.
  • The city experiences increased job creation and economic growth.

Through its founding land-grant mission, Cornell has a historic commitment to serve the people of New York City and New York State.

Cornell has always had expertise in metropolitan areas, small cities, and rural areas—the university has much to offer New York City, and vice versa. Cornell has been acting on its land–grant mission for 150 years through community engagement programs aimed at sharing discovery–based knowledge to improve quality of life.

Proof Point 3: Multidirectional Partnerships

It takes visionary approaches to make the world a better place.

Only through strong cross–functional partnerships and diverse expertise can society solve its complex contemporary problems. Faculty based in Ithaca and New York City offer deep expertise in scholarship and research; New York City provides critical mass to enrich Cornell's collaborations.


Cornell's activities in New York City rely on cross–disciplinary and multidirectional partnerships—students, faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs, businesses, consumers, investors, policymakers, and leaders in industry, government, and society.

Through Cornell's diverse Ithaca–New York City networks:

  • Students learn.
  • Businesses benefit.
  • Society's knowledge base grows.
  • Communities are strengthened.

Cornell's work in New York City is integral to its work in Ithaca—and vice versa: Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Cornell Tech, AAP NYC, ILR in NYC, CCE, Urban Semester, Financial Engineering.

All eight of Cornell's NYC programs have Ithaca connections (research, teaching, outreach); each also has broad scope and programmatic reach, potentially touching many millions of people.

Strong partnerships bring reciprocal advantages:

  • Upstate New York and the Ithaca campus benefit when Cornell is in relationship with New York City.
  • Downstate New York/New York City and NYC-based university programs benefit when they are in relationship with Ithaca-based programs.

Cornell's significant and long–time presence and trusted reputation in New York City position it well to form and sustain meaningful partnerships that produce results.

There are 50,000 Cornell University alumni in the New York metro region. Cornellians are active in every sphere in the city and bring knowledge and relationships to the university's programs in the city and on the Ithaca campus.

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