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Plummer, NYC describe vision of East Coast campus

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Universities across the globe are going public to respond to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s invitation to create an applied sciences campus in the city. At the same time, school officials and city representatives are elaborating on their vision of a New York City campus, as the Mar. 16 deadline for “expressions of interest” approaches.

The request for expressions of interest, announced last December, marks the first leg of a worldwide search for an institution that will facilitate the expanding technological sector.

While Columbia and New York University are already located in the Big Apple, “there is still room to grow,” said Julie Wood, vice president of public affairs at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

NYCEDC research, which included extensive dialogue with the business community and other universities in the area, showed that the city needed to focus on three key elements. First and foremost, the research underlined the importance of technology-enabled jobs for future growth. It concluded that strong local research institutions were the best means to achieve this. Finally, the research indicated a need to improve the city’s academic sources in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“Part of what has gotten us through the recession better than other cities around the country has been…our diverse economy, and we need to insure that the city is home to a variety of industries that can weather up-and-down cycles,” Wood wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

She said NYCEDC hasn’t received any written proposals yet. However, 20 schools from four continents have voiced interest by way of attending a program in New York detailing the mayoral staff’s vision for the campus.

Cornell, Purdue, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University (NYU) and the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai have publicly announced that they are working on “expressions of interest.”

“The several animating ideas at work, in both the city’s call for proposals and the response of other institutions, have long been a hallmark of NYU’s approach and thinking,” Lynne Brown, senior vice president for university relations and public affairs at NYU, wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

“In many ways, the effort is already an affirmation of the direction NYU has already embodied in its Global Network University,” Brown said.

Stanford has tentatively thrown its hat in the game.

“We haven’t turned [an expression of interest] in, but there are people working on it,” said Dean of Engineering Jim Plummer. “It’s not a commitment; we’re saying that we’re interested.”

Stanford is looking to propose a center that relies heavily on resources from the School of Engineering and the Graduate School of Business. This vision corresponds with the Big Apple’s ambitions of becoming a global center for technical innovation.

Plummer said a New York City campus would be an important experimental opportunity.

According to Plummer, many academics have toyed with the idea that, in as little as 20 years, many of the top universities will have remote campuses. Nevertheless, the University is unsure whether or not the Stanford culture itself can be replicated elsewhere.

“To be honest, Stanford and other top flight universities are not lacking in opportunities to build branch campuses,” Plummer said. “A number of us believe that it will happen. Rather than try to do this somewhere else in the world, it’s better to do it in this country.”

Still, the monetary costs of such a development would be substantial, Plummer said. That cost has yet to be determined by Stanford and NYCEDC. The latter said that New York City would apportion a significant part of its annual budget for the project.

Once the first-round responses are received, NYCEDC will maintain constant communication during the evaluation process with “a more targeted and specific Request for Proposal” slated for release this summer, Wood said.

Final decisions will be made by the end of the year.

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