Ithaca, N.Y. — It took at least four years of planning, but on Monday Cornell announced a $150 million initiative to get every undergraduate student involved in community work by 2025.
The initiative comes as some national experts warn that America’s youth have grown increasingly less interested in volunteering and other work that doesn’t benefit their careers.
A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, for instance, found that Millennials (born 1982-2000) are less engaged — both civically and politically — than GenX (born 1962-1981) and Baby Boomers (born 1946-1961), according to USA Today.
Millennials are also more materialistic, and less interested in helping the community, than preceding generations were at the same ages, the USA Today story said.
The initiative announced by Cornell on Monday appears to put that trend of apathy directly in its crosshairs.
Greenlight Capital President and Cornell alumnus David Einhorn — along with his wife, journalist and alumna Cheryl Strauss Einhorn — said “Engaged Cornell” would focus students’ attentions beyond academia in their most formative years.
“At a time when students are often thinking about what they want to be when they grow up, engaged learning pushes students to think about who they want to be,” David Einhorn said at a press conference.
The 10-year initiative seeks to have 100 percent of Cornell undergraduates in what it calls “experienced-based learning opportunities” by 2025.
That could include work within the global community, NYC, Ithaca or on campus.
The New York Times noted Monday that some of the plans relied on buzzwords or lack specificity.
But the overarching goal is clear: Students should “make social problem-solving central to their lives, no matter what professions they choose, ultimately inspiring them to live their lives with a sense of moral and civic responsibilities,” Einhorn said.
Einhorn’s foundation donated $50 million to the project. (You can read more about how it works here.)
“This is the kind of education all students should have in the 21st Century,” Einhorn said. “…Students who graduate from Cornell will not only be smart, curious and prepared for success, but also more socially responsible and empathetic.”
Einhorn said the initiative will spur “on the ground experience, helping people.”
“Cornellians will be known problem solvers for the public good,” Einhorn said.