University of Rochester

SU, Cornell, University of Rochester collaborate to find solutions to CNY brain drain in upcoming charrette, Nov. 13-15

November 6, 2009

Thirty-six students from Syracuse University, Cornell University and the University of Rochester will come together Nov. 13-15 for a charrette to address and work on creative solutions to one of the toughest problems facing Upstate New York: retaining smart, hard-working young people post-graduation.

The Friday through Sunday charrette, titled "Work/Play/Stay," will take place on the fourth floor of The Warehouse, 350 W. Fayette St., Syracuse, culminating with a presentation of ideas after a 1 p.m. reception on Sunday, Nov. 15.

A charrette–sometimes called a design charrette–is an intense, design-based collaborative project. Charrettes serve as a way of quickly generating a design solution through collaborative work, integrating the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people. For the upcoming "Work/Play/Stay" charrette, each university selected 12 students from a variety of disciplines and schools.

The idea for an entrepreneurial collaboration of the three universities came from Neil Tarallo, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship at SU's Whitman School of Management, who had once been an entrepreneur in the Ithaca area.

"Typically, it's industry leaders and government officials that talk about this issue, but as entrepreneurs we know that customers' opinions are very important, so it seems logical that we should ask the students what they think," says Tarallo.

To get the idea in motion, Tarallo worked with Enitiative, the collaborative partnership based at SU that provides contacts, resources and funding support for entrepreneurial projects, while uniting faculty and students of local academic institutions and members of the community. Enitiative is funded by a $3 million, five-year grant from the Kauffman Foundation. Enitiative provided the funding and became the initial bridge for the three universities to get the "Work/Play/Stay" charrette underway.

COLAB –the interdisciplinary initiative based in SU's College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) that encourages students and faculty to use their diverse skills and perspectives to solve complex, real-world problems creatively and collaboratively–took on the duty of facilitating and hosting the charrette at its headquarters at The Warehouse. Established in 2008, COLAB has facilitated several charrettes, including one leading to the successful installation of light prisms along a section of East Genesee Street on the Connective Corridor.

"The entrepreneurship programs at these three institutions were looking for a way to partner on an initiative of common interest," says Bruce Kingma, associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation at SU, whose office facilitates the Enitiative program. "We anticipate this being a first step in an upstate entrepreneurship partnership that will impact the Upstate New York economy."

Recent statistics show that only 10 percent of SU graduates stay in the region, with Cornell University and University of Rochester facing similar problems, says Kingma. The University of Rochester reports that about 13 percent of the Class of 2008 remained in the region, while so far 26 percent of the Class of 2009 have reported remaining. Other local higher ed institutions show significantly higher retention rates: Monroe Community College—75 percent; SUNY College at Brockport—90 percent; SUNY Geneseo—42 percent; and Wells College—75 percent. These numbers are taken from data collected over the past few years.

"I am looking forward to assisting where possible," says Bob Tobin, associate director of the University of Rochester Center for Entrepreneurship, entrepreneur-in-residence, and lecturer in the Simon Graduate School of Business. "Since the students involved in the charrette have been selected based on a number of positive attributes, the presentations should be interesting, creative and beneficial to the upstate area."

The 36 students will be split into six interdisciplinary groups. COLAB staff and faculty from each of the universities will be on hand to assist as needed. "We're making a conscious effort to go right for the students who are our target as they are probably best positioned to identify any obstacles to retention we are facing," says Chris McCray, director of COLAB and associate professor of design at VPA. "Whatever comes out of this charrette, we hope to help move it forward by securing funding to support the students' final ideas."

In between the work sessions, the students will have the opportunity to hear guest lectures from various leaders across the Upstate New York region, including alumni from their universities, both those who stayed and those who left after graduation. Speakers include Dominic Robinson, chairman of 40 Below, and Jeremy Cooney, former chairman of ROC City Coalition, whose mission is focused on attracting, retaining and empowering the young adults of greater Rochester.

The Sunday presentation is free and open to the public. Several members of the Upstate New York community who are invested in solving the retention problem will be in attendance. Guests include Nasir Ali, the Tech Garden; Ann Clarke, dean of VPA; Bea Gonzalez, dean of University College and chair of the Syracuse Common Council; Kristen Heath, Upstate Senate Democratic Caucus; Marilyn Higgins, SU vice president for community engagement and economic development and board chair of the Near Westside Initiative; Elizabeth Liddy, dean of SU's School of Information Studies; Eric Rogers, SCORE, "Counselors to Americas Small Businesses"; Elle Stasz, Metropolitan Development Association; Eric Spina, SU vice chancellor and provost; and Laura Steinberg, dean of SU's L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. Other guests include representatives from the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce; the Central New York Community Foundation; CNYWorks; F.O.C.U.S.; local, county, and state officials; and local business owners.

"So many of us know there are numerous assets that contribute to a high quality of life in this region. One of this region's greatest assets is its 138,000 college students," says Elle Stasz, director of marketing at the Central Upstate Regional Alliance. "This population provides vibrancy to our communities and is an essential element to our regional revitalization. Through this charrete we are engaging their perspective and working to create opportunities with their specific interests and needs in mind."