PMA prof named new director of Milstein Program

Austin Bunn, associate professor and Koenig Jacobson Sesquicentennial Fellow in the Department of Performing & Media Arts, will take over leadership of the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity July 1.

The program, launched in 2017, offers a unique multidisciplinary curriculum to a cohort of 100 students, 25 in each class.

“I started my career as a technology journalist, writing about Silicon Alley for The Village Voice, breakthrough medicine for The New York Times Magazine and storytelling at Pixar for Wired,” Bunn said. “I’m fascinated by how communities and cultures innovate and I think of the Milstein program as a phenomenal opportunity for students to study, explore and create change — in themselves, on campus, and in the world.”

Bunn takes over from Amy Villarejo, the Frederic J. Whiton Professor of Humanities in the Department of Performing & Media Arts, who has been the faculty director since its inception.  Villarejo helped form the structure of the program and and recruit its initial student cohorts.

“I always envisioned my job with the Milstein Program as launching something special,” Villarejo said. “With our superb staff and fellows, we’ve done that, and I couldn’t be happier to turn the reins over to a trusted colleague and creator. Austin is a superb choice for the MP’s next half decade.  I also want to thank Howard and Michael Milstein for their trust in me and for allowing me a great deal of room to build this program in A&S.”

Students in the Milstein Program pursue traditional majors in the College of Arts & Sciences, but also take a multidisciplinary curriculum with workshops in design thinking, community engagement and computer science. In addition, they spend two summers at Cornell Tech in New York City. The aim is to cultivate innovative and creative leaders who are both tech-savvy and steeped in humanistic values. This would have been the first cohort of students’ first summer in the city, but that coursework was converted to remote instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic

Bunn will direct the program along with Tapan Parikh, a professor at Cornell Tech and the NYC co-director of the Milstein Program, and two Milstein faculty fellows — Sarah Kreps, professor of government and adjunct professor of law and Jeremy Braddock, associate professor of English.

Bunn came to Cornell in 2012 and teaches screenwriting and the history and craft of feature film writing in the performing and media arts department. He co-wrote the script for “Kill Your Darlings,” a 2013 film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and won the International Days Prize at the Venice Film Festival. He’s also written feature screenplays for Fox 2000, Lionsgate, Participant Media, Page1 and served as a mentor at the Screenwriters' Colony (Nantucket) and Outfest Screenwriting Lab. His award-winning short films, "Lavender Hill" and "In the Hollow," have screened nationally and internationally at numerous film festivals.

He is also the author of the short story collection "The Brink," published by Harper Perennial and selected as a Lamdba Lit finalist and Electric Literature "Best Short Story Collection of 2015." The audiobook of The Brink won the Audie 2017 for best fiction collection from Audible.

At Cornell, he’s a winner of the Carpenter Advising Award, given for his work helping students connect with professionals in film, television, theatre and media.

As faculty director of the Milstein Program, Bunn will lead weekly meetings with students, including the Collab workshop, which combines academic modules (on journalism, citizen science, data collection, privacy issues and more) with co-curricular exploration that helps build cohesion among the participants. During the collaboration class, students take part in a variety of activities including Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project, a critical reflection workshop and sessions focused on teamwork. They also choose from a number of service well as help manage their community projects.

“I’m incredibly excited and honored,” Bunn said. “The Milstein scholars are passionate strivers and big thinkers on a campus world-renowned for its academic breadth, history of innovation and dedicated student body. I can’t wait to see what’s possible.”

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