Research in Progress

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From bio-psychological and cognitive studies to economic, social, and political structures, to the comparative study of cultural systems, and political philosophy, the social science disciplines are wide-ranging in Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences (A&S). Approaches differ in both the data they rely on and the methods they practice. As a result, the subject matter of the social sciences is complex. The various social sciences cover all of this territory in different ways and are built on dynamic combinations of expertise. Furthermore, the social sciences are marked also by the twin sources of their growth and vitality, disciplinary strength and interdisciplinary expertise and collaboration.
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The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) is acknowledged as one of the best colleges of its kind in the nation, if not the world. While much of the spotlight has traditionally been on the college’s achievements in biological-based research in agriculture and the life sciences, another group of scientists has been quietly making waves in the social sciences.

In CALS, scientists are not defined by whether they wear white coats but by their ability to employ scholarship to address society’s needs and improve the quality of human lives, domestically and internationally. These are the fundamental goals that drive the land-grant mission of the college.
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The College of Human Ecology responds to human needs. Improving nutrition and health, advancing design and technology, promoting human development throughout the life course, and securing the economic and social well-being of people comprise work done through the college’s multidisciplinary programs in research, teaching, and outreach. The emphasis on the interaction of individuals, families, and communities with their work, learning, social, and personal environments is grounded in the social and behavioral sciences as well as the life and physical sciences, humanities, and design. Much of the research in the college deals with consideration of social conditions, including policy and its implications for human well-being.
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A commitment to educate professional practitioners—in architecture, art, real estate, historic preservation, and planning—unifies the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP). This commitment has obvious implications for the research endeavor, encouraging a close exchange between theory and practice, between idea generation
and the application of concrete skills, and between teaching and research. The impulse to forge integrated approaches, drawing on aesthetic sensibilities, advanced technologies, and political and economic theories is unusual in a world that often produces fragmented knowledge and understanding.
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In the years following World War II, leaders in business, labor, and state government recognized the growing need for a new kind of school—where people could become skilled at dealing with the volatile issues of the changing American workplace. They also recognized that Cornell’s heritage of creative synthesis of the rigorous intellectual tradition and the democratic spirit of the great state schools made it the ideal home for the School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR). Today’s research at the ILR School focuses on a broad spectrum of issues in the global workplace, and its interdisciplinary focus spans the social sciences.
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The recent wave of corporate failures brought on by executive malfeasance has cost innocent people millions of dollars in the form of lost jobs and decimated pensions. In the wake of the seemingly endless tide of corporations that have misrepresented their financial status, it appears the nation’s leaders are again being reminded of the elemental components of true financial success—that acting ethically, behaving with integrity, and building strong, enabling relationships with employees are essential to engaging the full measure of worker effort. When managers practice what they preach and care about the quality of their relationships with workers, the results directly and positively contribute to their corporations’ financial success.
These revelations are nothing new to the cadre of faculty researchers at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration who were investigating matters of this kind long before the current problems surfaced.
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© 2003 by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research [OVPR], Cornell University