November 7, 2023

Expanding Access, Supporting Education for All

Cornell AAP's recently launched fundraising initiative marks 150 years of academic and creative excellence and looks toward a more accessible, more affordable future for the college.

Aerial view of a geometric painting made on the lawn in front of a large brick building.

Lawn art created in front of Sibley Hall by Cornell STEP (Science & Technology Entry Program) students as part of a two-day digital and physical workshop led by Architecture Assistant Professor Suzanne Lettieri. photo / Jason Koski, UREL

As part of the university's ongoing To Do the Greatest Good campaign launched in 2021, the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) recently announced a college-level affordability fundraising initiative seeking 150 or more commitments specifically for student scholarships. The initiative marks 150 years of academic and creative excellence at AAP and underscores the vital importance of financial support for students across the disciplines of architecture, art, planning, real estate, and design tech as they pursue their education in preparation for their futures. 

"Our goal is for our students to have an AAP experience free of financial limitations," says J. Meejin Yoon, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP. "To bring out the great promise in each student, and to fully prepare the next generation of leaders, visionaries, and innovators to engage the world and its challenges, we must support them throughout their education. Gifts that help us advance our college mission together with scholarships, fellowships, and critical resources for exploratory creative practices, firsthand experiences, and overall well-being make this possible."

Donors can support the initiative by making a commitment that is payable across five years. They can contribute a current-use gift of $5,000 for five years (for a total of $25,000) or an endowed gift of $20,000 for five years (for a total of $100,000). These funds are used to help students meet many different costs of attendance, including tuition, housing, supplies, off-campus study in New York City or Rome, and other expenses.

Black man with short dark hair wearing a white shirt and grey suit jacket

Among the first to give was CRP alum Ernst Valery (B.S. URS '00), founder and president of Ernst Valery Investments, who champions a "development without displacement" approach to urban planning and real estate with projects nationwide. "Affordability allows us to democratize who gets to lead and contribute to the built environment and the needs of diverse communities," Valery shared. "I am from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, one of the most poverty-impacted places on earth. This initiative supports students who, much like myself, may not otherwise have had the opportunity to study at AAP — but who certainly have the ability."

White man with grey hair wearing a blue shirt and dark suit jacket

Robert Joy (B.Arch. '73), architecture alum and longtime supporter of AAP, and his wife Priscilla Joy were also early donors to the initiative. "Access to a world-class education should not be limited to the privileged, and few have said this as eloquently as our founder Ezra Cornell when he talked about an institution for 'any student…' and, '...any study,'" said Joy. "Priscilla and I give to this initiative to support students attending the Cornell in Rome Program because we have seen the wonderful impact it can have on personal growth and professional development, and everyone should have the opportunity to study in the Eternal City." 

AAP's accessibility and affordability initiative falls within a larger set of "Building Better Futures" priorities and initiatives that look toward the future of the college, building capacity, expanding inclusivity, and bolstering different forms of personal and academic support to ensure that talented students from all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to an AAP education as well as the resources they need during their time at Cornell. 

"At AAP, scholarship, research, creative practice, and our collective future center around our shared mission to imagine and build a more sustainable, just, and resilient world," added Yoon. "These efforts take all of us, and so everyone must be included and supported."  

Since the To Do the Greatest Good campaign launched in 2021, the college's Building Better Futures initiatives have so far helped AAP raise funds totaling nearly twice the amount outlined in its original goal. The campaign concludes in 2026. To date, the college has received 24 endowed and current-use gifts that focus specifically on expanding accessibility and affordability for AAP students now and for generations to come. Exceptionally, this initiative will be ongoing until the goal of 150 commitments is met. 

To learn more about ways gifts for scholarships impact the college, please visit our affordability initiative page. 

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