Organization: SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

Location: Ithaca, NY

Express Interest

Cornell University seeks an experienced, strategic, and innovative leader with exceptional communication and interpersonal capabilities to serve as its inaugural Executive Director, Human Resources (EDHR) for the SC Johnson College of Business (the College.) Reporting to the Associate Dean of Finance and Human Resources, the EDHR will continue to advance the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business as a top-tier workplace for faculty and staff through the oversight and leadership of core human resource functions including recruitment, employee relations, wellness, reward and recognition and compliance. The role requires a bold and innovative leader who brings proven management experience, as well as a progressive approach to human resources, utilizing data-driven decision-making expertise. The EDHR will lead in the development of a college strategic plan for HR, enhancing the organizational culture, climate, organizational effectiveness and diversity and inclusion efforts.

About Cornell University:

Founded in 1865, Cornell’s mission is to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge; produce creative works; and promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. With approximately 14,000 undergraduates and 8,000 graduate and professional students, Cornell aims through public service to enhance the lives and livelihoods of its students, the people of New York and others around the world. Its campus includes 14 colleges and schools, seven undergraduate units and four graduate and professional units in Ithaca; two medical graduate and professional units in New York City, and one each in Doha, Qatar and Singapore as well as academic ties to China and India. There is also its new Cornell Tech campus located on Roosevelt Island in New York City. Students can choose from 4,000 courses in 11 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools on the Ithaca campus alone. On the Ithaca campus, the student population represents every state and 120 countries. Cornell was one of the first coeducational institutions in the east and one of the first to admit students of color. The egalitarian and practical vision of higher education, revolutionary when the university was founded in 1865 still informs Cornell’s guiding principles in the 21st century. Cornell is dedicated to its original mission of accessibility and opportunity, outreach, and public service.

Cornell is both a private university and the federal land-grant institution of New York State and is recognized as one of the handful of truly superb, world-class research universities with strengths in life sciences, physical sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Faculty members work in collaborative multi-disciplinary teams to extend the frontiers of knowledge in numerous and diverse fields of study. The University’s research informs its teaching and extension outreach missions and fosters personal discovery and growth, nurtures scholarship and creativity across a broad range of disciplines, and pursues understanding beyond the limitations of existing knowledge, ideology, and disciplinary structure.

Many of Cornell’s undergraduates participate in a wide range of interdisciplinary programs and play meaningful roles in original research and study in Cornell programs in Washington, New York City and the world over. The Weill Cornell Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences, as well as numerous programs affiliated with the College of Engineering, the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, the College of Human Ecology, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and Cornell Tech are located in Manhattan providing strong connections between the New York City and Ithaca based campuses.

The University employs over 3,000 full and part-time faculty and over 11,000 full and part-time staff in Ithaca, New York City, nationally and internationally. Cornell’s total operating budget for fiscal year 2017 was $4.3 billion. For more information about Cornell visit the website at

About Ithaca, New York:

Cornell’s main campus is in Ithaca, New York – a vibrant, family-friendly, small city about 60 miles southwest of Syracuse in the scenic Finger Lakes region of central New York State. The campus is located on the eastern side of Cayuga Lake and includes 260 buildings dating from mid-Victorian to early twenty first century; spread over 745 acres of gardens, fields and woods, crisscrossed by gorges, waterfalls and creeks. Ithaca has been named one of the top 100 places to live, a top 10 recreation city, a best green place to live, and one of the “foodiest” towns in America. The spectacular changing seasons are punctuated by year-round festivals enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Outdoor activities abound, including boating, hiking, biking, skiing, winetasting, and exploring miles of picturesque back roads with a wealth of local arts, dining, theater, music and cinema.  The cities of Syracuse and Binghamton are less than an hour’s drive away, and New York City, Philadelphia, and Toronto are an easy weekend getaway.

The Ithaca metropolitan area is home to more than 100,000 residents. There are six first-rate public school districts in Tompkins County, one regional vocational school (BOCES), one parochial school, three private schools, and several licensed-child care centers and nursery schools including the Cornell Child Care Center. Ithaca is home to four theatre companies, the Multicultural Resource Center, and almost daily performances of music and dance. Sports lovers will find nationally-ranked college teams, softball, soccer and bowling leagues, active running clubs, and exceptional athletic and sport facilities throughout the area.

For  more  information  about  Ithaca, please  visit Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce;  Finger Lakes Tourism; and Visit Ithaca.

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business:

In 2016, Cornell inaugurated the integrated SC Johnson College of Business, comprised of the university’s three world-class accredited business schools: the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. The College delivers undergraduate, graduate, and professional business programs creating a collaborative, comprehensive business management program that preserves the excellence of all three schools while uniting the faculty (300+), staff (300+) and students (3000+).

School of Hotel Administration

The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University is the world’s oldest undergraduate program devoted to the hospitality industry. An integral part of the SC Johnson College of Business, the school is leading the world in teaching and researching the business of hospitality—marketing, finance, real estate, and operations, helping to shape the global knowledge base for every aspect of hospitality management. Among its alumni are Drew Nieporent, the celebrated New York City restaurateur whose crown jewels include Tribeca Grill and Nobu; Ted Teng, president of Leading Hotels of the World; and Andrew H. Tisch, co-chairman of the Loews Corporation.

The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, a shared school with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is internationally renowned for its expertise in food and agricultural economics, management, environmental and resource economics, and international and development economics. With an acceptance rate of 3%, The Dyson School is the most selective program in the Cornell University system. The department offers one undergraduate major, Applied Economics and Management, with concentrations offered in Accounting, Business Analytics, Finance, Agribusiness Management, and Entrepreneurship to name a few.

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management

The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University (Johnson at Cornell University) prepares students for leadership positions in a variety of organizations and industries. Consistently ranked as one of the top business schools in the world, Johnson is distinguished by its commitment to service, real-world business immersions, small class sizes, highly selective recruitment, and global business practices. The school boasts a wide-ranging portfolio of degree paths including: A Two-Year MBA in Ithaca; A One-Year MBA in Ithaca; and a new One-Year MBA at Cornell NYC Tech; the Cornell Executive MBA in Metro NYC; and the Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA.

The College also oversees a full service, four-star hotel with 100+ regular staff and union employees. Bringing together the excellence and breadth of Cornell’s leading undergraduate, graduate and professional business programs, the goal is for each school to maintain its unique identity and mission, while their collective capabilities will be strengthened by bringing together faculty, curricular offerings, and programs within a cohesive College. The SC Johnson College of Business is designed to create more diverse and rigorous learning and research opportunities for both students and faculty to help strengthen entrepreneurship, business and finance, technology, globalization, and management education. In addition to the benefits offered to students and faculty, the integration is designed to establish a more effective administrative structure, including in its human resources policies, practices and vision.

SC Johnson College of Business – New York City Presence:

Though the main campus is located in Ithaca, NY, Cornell the SC Johnson College of Business has a solid and growing footprint in New York City. The West 57th location across from Carnegie Hall marked Cornell’s first outpost near Central Park and offers degree and non-degree courses, immersion programs, speakers, special events and networking opportunities. Executive MBA programs offered in and just outside of Manhattan provide options for working professionals in the NYC area.  The College is also integrally connected with the revolutionary Cornell Tech campus through the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program – full-time, one-year residential program located in the heart of NYC’s global tech hub on Roosevelt Island.

University Leadership:

Martha E. Pollack, President

Martha E. Pollack is the fourteenth president of Cornell University and professor of computer science, information science, and linguistics. She took office on April 17, 2017. Pollack was previously the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. Pollack is a computer scientist with research expertise in artificial intelligence. She first explored this topic as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, earning her bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in 1979. Pollack is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.


Laura E. Syer, Associate Dean, Administration and Finance, SC Johnson College of Business

Syer joined the College community in 2013 and is responsible for providing leadership to the College’s administrative units in Finance, IT, Facilities and HR while supporting the academic mission of the School. In her role on the Management Committee, she also leads the organization’s long-range planning efforts in her respective areas. Syer held a prior management role in the Division of Budget and Planning at Cornell. Before Cornell, she worked in International Finance at ESPN under the Walt Disney Company where, in her last management role, she was responsible for financial reporting for ESPN entities in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Deportes TV Network. Syer holds a BA from Ohio University, an MS from Canisius College and an MBA from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

Mary George Opperman, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer

Prior to joining Cornell in 1996, Mary spent 13 years in the human resource function at Harvard University. At Cornell, Mary’s portfolio includes oversight of the Division of Human Resources, the Office of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, Title IX Compliance, and the Center for Regional Economic AdvancementMary is a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, and she is certified by the Society for Human Resource Management as a senior professional in human resources.  Mary has her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Oneonta in political science and her master of science degree in organizational behavior from Cornell University.

The Opportunity:

Reporting to the Associate Dean of Finance and Human Resources, with a secondary reporting relationship to Cornell’s Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer, the EDHR is responsible for advising the Associate Dean and members of the leadership team on complex issues related to the further development, enhancements and integration efforts across the three schools: the School of Hotel Administration, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management; the Statler hotel; between the two campuses (Ithaca and New York City). Through demonstrated deployment of “best practices” and a highly collaborative and team-building approach, the EDHR will provide leadership for the College’s professional and leadership development, career development, performance management, and organization design and wellness programs. The EDHR will oversee a team of 8 comprised of directors, generalists and assistants that support three schools, a central college unit and hotel across the two campuses, rural and urban.

The selected candidate will be a thought leader who fundamentally understands and embraces the critical importance of strong emotional intelligence, effective communication skills, integrity, strategic thinking, innovative practices and the ability to problem solve. As a strategic partner to the University, the EDHR will have a history of human resource leadership experience and accomplishment within a similarly complex environment, with the ability to work with senior leaders, faculty and professional staff to provide direction and expertise in leading the design, development and execution of HR strategies aligned with university and college objectives, mission, vision and values. The position will be a skilled relationship builder, both internally to the college, throughout the University and globally across peer business schools. It will be critical for this role to understand a complex, multi-stakeholder, matrix structured academic organization that has centralized, decentralized and union operations.

The position has a secondary reporting relationship to Cornell’s Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer.  The ED will serve as the College liaison to Central HR and as a member of the University HR Council. S/he will also serve on the University and peer business school task forces, consortium groups, and professional development boards and programs. The EDHR will manage an operating budget of $3M.

Candidate Profile:

The successful candidate will have 7+ years of professional experience with a significant track record of successful, progressive, and applicable experience as a strategic human resources leader, with a sophisticated understanding of the issues affecting higher education institutions. This individual will have a combination of breadth, depth and knowledge of the following HR functional areas: recruitment and retention; onboarding and professional development; employee and labor relations; benefits and compensation; performance assessments and evaluation; and human resources technology.

The EDHR will be a collaborative leader who embraces Cornell’s mission and culture; who has proven success as a human resource leader in a complex and diverse organization with higher education experience and labor relations/union contracts; who has experience leading teams and facilitating creative problem-solving, and who embodies trust, confidence and respect and leads others by influence and example.

The EDHR will be a technology savvy systems thinker who can align resources, employees and systems to seamlessly work together. With a deep expertise in streamlining business processes and building fundamental structures, s/he will be a collaborative strategic business partner. S/he will lead the HR team to commit to models of continuous improvement.

The desired candidate is hands-on, flexible and adaptable, with the proven ability to work effectively with a broad and diverse population, including faculty, staff and students.

In addition, the ideal candidate will possess many of the following abilities, attributes, and experiences:

  • Strong analytical and critical thinking skills, and the ability to organize, analyze, summarize, and effectively tailor and present initiatives to a diverse group of constituents;
  • Decisive, results-oriented leader with a successful background in managing large, complex organizations undergoing systemic change, with the ability to foresee and account for challenges that may arise;
  • Flexible in adjusting to emerging needs or shifting priorities, s/he will be an excellent motivator and a natural listener, inspiring a shared vision, quality performance and strong morale;
  • High level of professional and proven experience and acumen for human resources leadership and human resources technology, s/he will have managed a large budget, and will thrive in an environment of clear expectations and careful use of resources;
  • Knowledge of best practice human resources programs and broad understanding and expertise in organizational learning and development including the ability to diagnose critical areas for attention;
  • Highly developed organizational and time management skills to effectively achieve and prioritize multiple tasks and an ability to maintain focus and perspective in a results-oriented, fast-paced environment;
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion and an ability to connect with others and cultivate relationships based on mutual trust and respect, collegiality and kindness.

A Master’s degree (e.g., Organizational Development, Human Resources Management, Business Administration, Public Administration, or related field) is preferred.


SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to help in this search. Please submit applications, expressions of interest, and nominations to Amy Sugin and Shavon Bell here.

Cornell University is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBT applicants.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with higher education, mission-driven organizations and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit