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December 14, 2012

Presidential Update

Cohon Speaks Candidly with Staff

By Bruce Gerson

At Staff Council's Open Forum with the President in late November, President Jared L. Cohon covered a range of topics, from the ongoing presidential search to university growth in Pittsburgh and around the world.

Cohon began the session by answering a pre-submitted question about the presidential search that began last February with the naming of the search committee. He said the search committee, which consists of nine trustees and eight faculty, have "worked through several hundred names" and that the list is now down to "about a dozen or so."

He said the committee will be conducting interviews in the coming weeks. President Cohon said faculty, staff and student representatives would be selected to meet with final candidates next semester.

Carnegie Mellon's ninth president is expected to be named in the spring, a few months before President Cohon's term expires on June 30, 2013.

Cohon switched gears from the presidential search to discuss the Pittsburgh campus and international university locales. He noted the Pittsburgh campus master plan was approved by City Council earlier this year and said there were no definite plans yet for land acquired along Forbes Avenue and to the north of Forbes. He said it would most likely be developed into a "mixed-use" site with academic buildings, another business incubator like the Robert Mehrabian Collaborative Innovation Center, a hotel and retail space in the area.

In the future, he said he expected the Pittsburgh campus footprint to extend north to Fifth Avenue.

Cohon noted the Qatar campus added a biological sciences major to its curriculum, Silicon Valley's growing Ph.D. and research programs, and the "good start" in Rwanda with 26 information technology master's degree students.

He spoke of the Heinz College master's degree programs in public policy and information systems in Adelaide, Australia, and commended their creative recruiting efforts.  The applicant pool at the Heinz College in Pittsburgh is "enormous," he said, and some prospective students are being given the opportunity to spend one year in Adelaide with the second year in Pittsburgh.  He said the response has been strong.

Two new international partnerships are in progress in India and China. In India, CMU is partnering with Shiv Nadar University to offer undergraduate electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering programs. Students, who will spend the first and third years in India and the second and fourth in Pittsburgh, will receive degrees from both universities. The program is set to start off on a very small scale next fall.

In China, CMU is teaming with Sun Yat-sen University, one of the top 10 Chinese universities, to offer a graduate engineering program. The Joint Institute of Engineering will help China transition its economy from labor-intensive manufacturing to technology-driven industry. Cohon said CMU will provide the curriculum and hire and train faculty.

One staff member asked President Cohon about the university's financial outlook.

"We're in good shape. Last year we ended with another surplus, which reflects our strong revenue sources and good cost control by everyone," he said.

He said that the Inspire Innovation Campaign is on pace to achieve the $1.2 billion mark by June 30.

After leaving office, President Cohon said he plans to return to teaching in the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy.

"I'll do this with trepidation, more so than when I became president. I haven't taught in 15 years, so it remains to be seen if I still have what it takes to meet Carnegie Mellon's very high standards," he said.

Staff Council hosts an open forum each semester to give staff the chance to speak candidly with the President. The spring semester forum is scheduled for March 27.