Tech should serve us, not vice versa

Starting in his first year at the University of Richmond, Greg Morrisett, R’89, was mentored by Arthur Charlesworth, a longtime professor of mathematics and computer science. Thirty years later, Morrisett fondly recalls Charlesworth immediately getting him engaged in undergraduate research.

“That one-on-one mentorship was hugely impactful, and it put me on a path to a good grad school and beyond,” said Morrisett, who remains in touch with Charlesworth.

Morrisett now puts those lessons to use as dean and vice provost of Cornell Tech, a cutting-edge graduate school in New York City. He took over the five-year appointment in August after previously serving on the computer science faculties at Cornell and Harvard universities.

Cornell Tech opened 10 years ago in an effort by then-mayor Michael Bloomberg to diversify New York’s tech industry. The thriving campus of 350 postgraduate students, located on Roosevelt Island, addresses current problems in the industry using an innovative model that includes students from diverse backgrounds, partnerships around the city, and faculty who are deeply embedded in companies like Samsung and Google.

Meanwhile, Morrisett draws on his own liberal arts educational background to steward the institution’s interdisciplinary work.

“There is a notion that the tech world is all about the engineering side of things, but these days, to make tech serve us instead of the other way around, we need a background in philosophy, ethics, sociology, psychology, and the list goes on,” Morrisett said. “That’s the full range of what a liberal arts education can give you, and that model is exactly what we need in a continuing and evolving world.”