I first met Ann Schmeltz Bowers ’59 in my first year as president, when I traveled to California to meet with Cornell’s Silicon Valley community. In a roomful of recent graduates and startup entrepreneurs, Ann stood out as both a passionate Cornellian and a fearless veteran of Silicon Valley’s earliest days—having begun her career when a woman in computer science was almost always the only woman in the room. In 1970, she became the head of human resources at Intel, where she implemented a vision of HR that was well ahead of its time: one that involved finding the most talented people from every background and building an environment that enabled them to do their best work. In her time at Intel, and then as one of the first vice presidents of Apple, that was exactly what she did—thoughtfully, deliberately, and methodically building ecosystems that allowed innovation to thrive.
We are enormously fortunate that Ann has now decided to join with us to bring that vision to life through a transformative gift to establish the new Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science. Ann’s commitment, coupled with Cornell’s multi-year complementary commitment to provide significant financial support for faculty and students, will have an impact across all parts of the University—supporting our Computing and Information Science faculty and students, encouraging collaborations across multiple disciplines, and creating new opportunities for Cornell students in every college and school.
In establishing Computing and Information Science (CIS) twenty-one years ago, Cornell was one of the first to create a stand-alone interdisciplinary unit that combined the study of computing with that of its sociological and economic impacts: recognizing that the technology of computing, and the human impact of that technology, belonged in the same academic home. Since then, many of our peers have followed our example. Today, with the support of this wonderful new gift, we are cementing our place as one of the very best centers of computing education and research in the world, and paving the way for the addition of new world-class faculty members and achievements in the fields of computing, information science, statistics, and data science.
As an understanding of computing and information science becomes increasingly important across disciplines and society, we are seeing an explosion of interest in courses in these areas across our student population—an increase that is not limited to majors, and that is especially steep among our women students. Half of our undergraduates now enroll in at least one CIS course during their time at Cornell. In the last decade, we’ve seen the total number of students enrolled in CIS courses quadruple, the number of women enrolled increase sevenfold, and the number of women who choose to major in CIS fields increase by a factor of nearly fourteen. Today, 43 percent of undergraduate CIS majors are women.
With the support this new gift provides, we will be able to expand the CIS footprint with a new, dedicated building, creating much-needed space for our growing enrollment and accommodating plans for significant additional growth in the future. And with substantial endowment support for students and faculty, we look forward to being able to build a college that does justice to Ann’s vision: a place where some of the very best faculty in computing and information science will come to do their best work, and where we will educate and prepare new generations of leaders for many years to come.