May 5, 2021

An Interview with Jerry Cohon and Mark Kamlet

Former President and Former Provost of Carnegie Mellon University

New Books Network 2021

This features our first tag team on the podcast, with an engaging discussion with Jared “Jerry” Cohon, who served as President of CMU from 1997-2013, and Dr. Mark Kamlet, who was his provost. The two describe the key initiatives they led that built on the successful momentum of their predecessors, Richard Cyert and Robert Mehrabian, that enabled CMU to advance quickly from a regional technical school with a strong arts program to one of the world’s leading research universities. This begins with a discussion of the merger that formed CMU in 1967 between Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon Institute. They share how with limited resources they were able to transform CMU from a predominantly Pittsburgh-based institution with some small satellite degree programs in the U.S. into one of the world’s most global universities, with campuses in Rwanda, Portugal, Qatar, Australia, and Silicon Valley. At the same time, they partnered with the University of Pittsburgh to help bring about the resurgence of their home city, transforming it from a reliance on heavy industry to an innovation hub focused on Eds & Meds, with CMU’s tech transfer office serving as the engine of growth for Pittsburgh’s emergence as a leader in Robotics, AI, driverless vehicles, and Computer Science. Cohon concludes: “My hope is when education scholars look back in 2050 to understand how CMU, with a fraction of Harvard’s endowment, was able to pass it as the world’s leading research university, it will be because we made the decision to bring CMU to students around the world, while Harvard decided they must continue to come to Cambridge, MA.”

David Finegold is the president of Chatham University.

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