President Pollack's Accomplishments

Martha E. Pollack became Cornell University’s 14th president on April 17, 2017, and is retiring on June 30, 2024. During her seven-year tenure, President Pollack oversaw tremendous success in three priority areas outlined in her inauguration address – academic distinction, educational verve, and the fulfillment of the university’s collective civic responsibility – while making a world-class Cornell education more accessible and affordable for a new generation of scholars.

In the area of academic distinction, President Pollack’s Cornell legacy includes:

In the area of educational verve, President Pollack has overseen:

  • The establishment of debt-free education at Weill Cornell Medicine
  • Significant advances in undergraduate access and affordability, with milestones including an increase of 1,000 in the number of undergraduates receiving financial aid, reduction of annual loan burden by 25%, and implementation of a program to ensure that all students with financial aid have their summer saving expectation waived at least once, to permit participation in an internship or other summer educational activity
  • Through the Active Learning Initiative, the introduction of active learning to at least 87 classes, reaching about 10,000 students across the Ithaca campus each year
  • The expansion of eCornell programming, extending the reach of those who have access to Cornell teaching and learning to more than 140,000 students last year, up from 19,000 in FY17, with a host of new programs including the soon-to-be-launched part-time bachelor’s degree program for nontraditional students
  • The implementation of an Intergroup Dialogue Project experience for all incoming students, helping them develop critical skills for communicating across difference
  • The establishment of a Veterans' House; an office of First Generation and Low Income Student Support, led by an endowed deanship; and a range of other programs to support diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Significant expansion of mental health services
  • The complete overhaul of the Student Code of Conduct, providing the educational and student development framework appropriate for today’s student conduct and conflict management
  • Creation of the Division of Public Safety, integrating Cornell public safety services units on the Ithaca campus into a single organization to better meet the needs of a diverse campus community
  • Construction and opening of new North Campus residential halls, which have created housing for an additional 2,100 students, enabling the university to guarantee housing and co-curricular programming for all first- and second-year undergraduate students
  • Improvement of athletics facilities, including a new baseball facility along with plans to build a new athletics fieldhouse

In the area of civic responsibility, President Pollack has overseen:

  • A community-wide effort leading to a statement of core values that has underpinned decision-making and activities
  • A continued commitment to operational sustainability, including construction of energy-efficient buildings across all campuses, such as the net-zero buildings at Cornell Tech and the exceptional energy performance of our new North Campus residential halls, and significant investments in solar panels, so that within two years all the Ithaca campus’s electrical needs will be met through renewable energy. For this work and more, Cornell is the only campus in the world to have received a Platinum Rating for five consecutive years from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
  • The dedication of the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement, bringing together and facilitating engaged learning that spans community service and curricular and co-curricular service learning. Emphasis on engaged learning has led to a doubling between 2016 and 2021 of the number of students, to nearly 5,000 undergraduates, who take courses that include a community-engaged learning component
  • The university’s first-ever theme year—The Indispensable Condition: Freedom of Expression at Cornell—with a host of events aimed at fostering discussion and education around the core value of free and open expression and inquiry
  • The successful navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which Cornell reopened safely for in-person residential instruction by relying on evidence-led decision-making and careful epidemiological modeling