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Large crowd in Atrium between events

From a blue sky idea to a hybrid event with over 400 in-person and online attendees, the first Emerging Tech Dialogues symposium was driven by a group of volunteers representing a variety of colleges and units.

Within three months, this team of volunteers took a 'what if we could' comment --made during a spring leadership meeting-- and turned it into a vibrant crowd of participants so engaged in their conversations that several dozen of the in-person audience members continue chatting in a local cafe long after the last microphone was turned off. 

In addition to attracting more registrations than any previous IT-hosted event, the May 29 symposium featured two respected keynote speakers and thirty-five Cornell and Weill Cornell Medicine faculty, staff, researchers, and students presenting posters or facilitating breakout sessions.

Meet a Few of the First Planning Committee Members

Shari Sprole, chair of the event planning committee and Assistant Director for Business Relationship Management in Cornell Information Technologies, said, "The event planning committee, AV support group, presenters, and facilitators really did an outstanding job, enabling this event to be pulled together in a very short time frame. The energy and enthusiasm of all those who participated as well as those who attended was really terrific."

As chair, Sprole encouraged equal participation from each member. Individual contributors, managers, and directors all responded by accepting and completing mundane tasks, but they also felt free to ask hard questions in the meetings. "I wanted to hear ideas from everyone and we needed all hands on deck to rapidly identify issues and propose solutions," said Sprole. 

Cornell University Library Director of Software Development Phil Robinson joined the planning committee early on. He also led one of the breakout sessions and said the overall event "revived the tradition of great cross-Cornell IT symposia in a spectacular way."

"The keynotes were exceptionally interesting, and by all accounts the participants gleaned keen insights from the breakout sessions.  I'm very much looking forward to more Emerging Tech Dialogues," said Robinson, who has agreed to return to the committee that is already planning the next event for October.

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (JCB) Relationship Manager Ester Soriano was another key member of the planning committee. After weeks of meetings and organization, the actual event still surprised her. Soriano's early morning duties in Statler Hall allowed her to witness the increase in volume and excitement as the in-person attendees gathered.

"It was an incredible experience, not just for the wealth of knowledge and innovation shared, but also for the sense of unity it fostered among different Cornell IT units. After having not seen each other for a while, it was refreshing and invigorating to come together, share experiences, and work towards common goals in the field of AI. The event was a testament to the power of collaboration in higher education," said Soriano. Like Robinson, she has agreed to help shape the next event.

Jason Woodward, Kelly Strickland, Gina Banfield, Tammy Babcock, Beth Goelzer, Julia Leonard, Carlyn Chatfield, Sean Walsh, and Matt Gorney also served on the planning committee for the May 29 event. Woodward develops web and database solutions for the JCB. Strickland, Banfield, and Babcock work in the Office of the CIO and provide support for the leadership and a variety of teams in the Cornell IT organization. Goelzer, Leonard, and Chatfield focus on various aspects of the customer experience. Walsh and Gorney manage infrastructure services like storage and audio visual technologies.

Join the Next Planning Committee Now

The first Emerging Tech Dialogues symposium, with a focus on Artificial Intelligence in Higher Education, was created and implemented in a hybrid environment. The audience engagement was so successful that the planning committee intends to replicate the format for future events.

With a proven event preparation and management template, the planning committee members' work will be streamlined. Future committee members can anticipate an average time commitment of an hour each week for about two months before the event.

"Helping plan the event led to positive, if unintended, exposure to leadership," said Chatfield. "I've already recommended volunteering for one of the next events to my team members."

To volunteer or for more information on joining a future Emerging Tech Dialogues planning committee, email



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