Enriching The Ecosystem / by Kiersten Nash

In the fall of 2009, a strange confluence of events unfolded in Upstate New York. Two weeks after President Barack Obama's speech on Innovation and Sustainable° Growth at Hudson Valley Community College, GlobalFoundries Chairman, Hector Ruiz, and State University of New York Chancellor, Nancy Zimpher, convened to announce the arrival of the Capital Region's latest resident—a 300 mm semiconductor wafer.

The merger of politics, industry, and education under the auspice of sustainable° development would probably not surprise today's leading design strategists. According to design strategist and Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, collaboration provides the "fertile soil to grow, seed, and renew enterprises" by fostering the flow of "intellectual, financial, and human capital." This process of enriching the ecosystem,° Moss Kanter posits, necessitates the alignment of education with industrial needs

Over a decade ago, when members of the Albany-County Chamber of Commerce began courting the computer chip industry only the most optimistic could have fathomed the results: In 2000, the campaign successfully lured SEMATECH—a network of semi-conductor manufacturers, universities, and the United States Department of Defense—to the State University of Albany (SUNY). Two years later, with the support of Bill and Melinda Gates, Tech Valley High School opened its doors across the creek, i.e. Hudson River, in Rensselaer. And last year, the Global450 Consortium was spawned—a $4.8 billion collaboration between New York State, CNSE, IBM, Intel, GlobalFoundries Inc., Samsung, TSMC, and the College of Nanoscience and Engineering (CNSE) at SUNY—all dedicated to developing the next generation…of computer chips.*

   For Sale: Tech Valley.  306 Osborn Road Loudonville, NY 2011.   A seemingly arbitrary assertion: dial 435.9944 to unlock the gateway to Tech Valley (which according to the sign, lies just beyond this noble Tudor). By [re]dressing the traditional 'For Sale' sign, this provocative wayfinding° system aligns Better Homes & Gardens, 306 Osborn Road (as well as its past, present, and future 'owners'), and Tech Valley. The connotation? For Sale: A Byte of Tech Valley (formally known as the Hudson Valley).

For Sale: Tech Valley. 306 Osborn Road Loudonville, NY 2011.  A seemingly arbitrary assertion: dial 435.9944 to unlock the gateway to Tech Valley (which according to the sign, lies just beyond this noble Tudor). By [re]dressing the traditional 'For Sale' sign, this provocative wayfinding° system aligns Better Homes & Gardens, 306 Osborn Road (as well as its past, present, and future 'owners'), and Tech Valley. The connotation? For Sale: A Byte of Tech Valley (formally known as the Hudson Valley).

Education is instrumental in the evolution of the apparatus, I mean, ecosystem  According to President Barack Obama, "We've got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world. That's how we'll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers." Translation: That's how the Empire strikes back. 'Winning The Future,' according to the President, means "winning the global competition to educate."

"Weekly Address: Winning The Future at Intel." President Barack Obama. YouTube. 18 Feb. 2011.

[Un]fortunately, The New School, a New York City-based academic institution, is one step ahead of the curve. In 2010, Joel Towers, Executive Dean of Parsons The New School for Design extended his appreciation to participants in the U.N. Global Pulse Camp & Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon: "First of all Mr. Secretary General (Ban Ki-moon), it is a great pleasure to hear you speak at this event. And assembled guests, it's a pleasure to be here. We've done so many projects over the years, but this one takes us to a new level. I'd like to begin by thanking. Microsoft and Google, Yahoo, NASA, The World Bank, and, in particular, I'd like to thank U.N. Global Pulse, Robert Kirkpatrick for hosting tonight's event, and for enabling us to host the weekend events. It is more than a pleasure, in fact, it's an honor to do so. And we do it, not simply because it's an honor, but because it becomes a responsibility for a school of design."

Joel Towers, Dean of Parsons the New School for Design. UN Global Pulse Camp and Random Hacks of Kindness Hackathon. Perf. Joel Towers. YouTube. 08 Dec. 2010.

As the industry of education becomes increasingly dependent on the 'free'-market for sustainment,° enrollment and retention subordinate the ontological imperatives of educational institutions— both public and private—to the [re]presentation and [re]production of the neoliberal apparatus, i.e. the enrichment of the ecosystem

Visit almost any college toward the end of a semester and you will undoubtedly witness herds of recruits, i.e. consumers and potential producers or prosumers, being escorted around campus while an enthusiastic student⁄salesperson, heralds the unique assets of the institution—academic, athletic, etc. The multiplicity of maneuvers involved in branding a school are commensurate with current political administrations (and arguably becoming a means of administration). Convocation, for example, serves as the political primary of the academic calendar when pomp, circumstance, and celebrity converge on the political stage⁄altar to revel in the past, applaud the present, and relish in the possibilities of the forthcoming semesters. The rhetoric rivals that of the best political advertisements: "This convocation signals a very special moment in our history…We are on the verge of transforming our whole institution into what can only be called The New New School." Sound familiar? New year, new school...new you? In 2007, following the style outlined in Cuomo and Keys' 'New New York' script, New School Provost Ben Lee consecrated the dawn of a new era for the academic institution while celebrating its legacy—an inspiring tale that's worth taking a moment to recount.

 

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Most recently, in a plan that bares considerable resemblance to President Obama's Race To The Top initiative, Governor Cuomo and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher announced the NYSUNY 2020 Challenge—a $140,000,000 grant program to: "make SUNY a leading catalyst for job growth throughout the State; strengthen the academic programs of University Centers; and demonstrate that New York is open for business." "We have pledged to: educate the most adept workforce in the Nation; discover innovative solutions to some of the most vexing scientific and socioeconomic challenges; improve the business climate in our State; and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers." On the road to recovery, Chancellor Zimpher declared SUNY  "a ready-made asset for New York." Andrew M. Cuomo. Governor's Press Office. Governor Cuomo and SUNY Chancellor Zimpher Unveil Groundbreaking "NYSUNY 2020" Program. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. New York State, 02 May 2011. Web.