The College of the Future? All Eyes on New York

cornell nyc techMichael Bloomberg, the often controversial mayor of New York is known for many things. His name was behind a recent attempted super-sized soda ban. He has also been highly involved in the nation’s recent firearm debates and has thus enacted tight gun and ammunition laws in his state.

So, what is Michael Bloomberg’s latest resume check-mark?

The Contest

About a year ago, Bloomberg sought out to tackle another issue: New York’s lagging status in the world of high-tech industry. Sentiments were that New York was falling behind. The mayor, wanting to create a solution, proposed an idea that ultimately went full-steam ahead. That idea was to hold a year-long contest in which local colleges would strive to come up with the best, new, high-tech educational program.

As reported in the New York Times, despite early front-runners such as Stanford and Columbia University, the ultimate winner of Bloomberg’s revolutionary contest would turn out to be Cornell University. So how did they do it?

And the Winner is: Cornell

Cornell’s 1st place win in the contest was not achieved through any typical means. There would be no resoundingly familiar educational programs, or any elements of tradition present for that matter. Cornell’s winning recipe would be anything but typical.

Perched in a very non-eye-catching, 3rd floor space is the new educational program. With an experimental total of eight enrolled students, Cornell’s newly created, one-year master’s program in computer science may just be a sign of things to come on a wider scale. Here, this “beta” educational test is well underway with the rest of the world watching.

The New Norm?

Students at the new school are being educated in a completely new manner. From the program itself, to the office space and staff, real-world application is the common component throughout. Instead of sitting in normal classrooms, students experience an office space. They may move from one office or conference room to another. Their curriculum not only discusses computer science, but it explores real-world application and heavily adds this to the normal teachings of computer science.

On an average day, a visitor to this new school will witness an atmosphere strikingly close to a work environment; teachers and students moving around and working on different projects in different areas. Teaching is done from more of a project manager perspective and the traditional blackboard, projector, and desk are of no use here. According to school officials quoted in a recent follow-up New York Times article, the goal is to maintain an environment where there is “constant interaction”, much like a real-life tech firm. And rather than focusing strictly on computer sciences, the approach is to focus equally on the ever-changing, occupational application of this science and experience. Students don’t just learn the science of computers, they learn how that science is applied in a real setting.

This “Applied Sciences NYC”, as dubbed by Mayor Bloomberg, is set to see immense expansion in years to come. Already, plans are underway to complete construction on a large, official facility for this pioneering new approach to higher education. And as we all wait to see the final outcome, yet again, history repeats itself: the world’s eyes are New York bound.