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What Are Cornell Students Learning?

Cornell’s mission is to discover, preserve, and disseminate knowledge; produce creative work; and promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. Cornell also aims, through public service, to enhance the lives and livelihoods of our students, the people of New York, and others around the world.

Our faculty, students, alumni, and staff strive toward these objectives in a context of freedom with responsibility. We foster initiative, integrity, and excellence, in an environment of collegiality, civility, and responsible stewardship. As the land-grant university for the state of New York, we apply the results of our endeavors in service to our alumni, the community, the state, the nation, and the world.

Cornell University’s colleges, schools, and other academic units offer more than 4,000 courses, 70 undergraduate majors, nearly 100 graduate fields of study, undergraduate and advanced degrees, and continuing education and outreach programs. Each of the fourteen colleges and schools defines its own academic programs; admits its own students; provides a faculty; and offers advising and support to its students.

Within this context of great diversity, a Cornell education comprises formal and informal learning experiences in the classroom, on campus, and beyond. Through the multiple dimensions of students’ lives, Cornell provides an academic community that aims to help them achieve a variety of goals.

Learning Goals for Undergraduate Education

Cornell graduates will:

Demonstrate disciplinary knowledge and its uses by developing a systematic and coherent understanding of an academic field of study including technical dimensions, integrating information, skills and experiences, and synthesizing ideas in original ways.

Apply analytical and critical thought to a body of knowledge; evaluate arguments; identify relevant assumptions or implications. Formulate coherent arguments, exhibiting alertness to the possibility that something could be done better than it has been done before, and that critical engagement with a problem to be solved may lead to a creative solution.

Express ideas clearly and persuasively orally and in writing; work, communicate, and engage effectively with others using media as appropriate; be able to use these skills to support consensus-building, collaboration, teamwork, and facilitating outcomes.

Demonstrate scientific and quantitative reasoning by understanding cause and effect relationships; defining problems; using symbolic thought; applying scientific principles, and solving problems with no single correct answer.

Direct their own learning; work independently; formulate learning goals, select, manage and reflect upon their learning; identify appropriate resources; take initiative; manage a project through to completion; self-assess and seek additional information when needed.

Use information from a variety of sources strategically, appropriately and responsibly, uphold principles of academic integrity; access, and evaluate information from print and electronic sources.

Engage in the process of discovery or creation; demonstrate the ability to work productively, creatively, and artfully in a laboratory setting, studio, library, or field environment.

Demonstrate knowledge and awareness of different cultural practices, values, beliefs, and worldviews, and an understanding of their own cultural perspective; communicate effectively and respectfully with individuals from different backgrounds and across a multicultural society; demonstrate curiosity, flexibility, adaptability, and tolerance for ambiguity; investigate themselves and others as cultural beings, understanding the implied values and assumptions that underlie cultural norms and traditions.

Embrace moral and ethical values in conducting their lives; make judgments about the quality and value of ideas, theories, and information; promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility; formulate a position or argument about an ethical issue from multiple perspectives; use ethical practices in all work.

Take responsibility for their own behavior and well-being; direct their own activities toward the achievement of objectives, including goal setting, decision making, planning, scheduling, and time management; care for themselves responsibly; demonstrate awareness of themselves in relation to others.

Engage in their communities, demonstrating responsibility to a larger community or public; connect positively with and in communities of various sizes and composition through and outside the classroom; participate in community engagement or civic action to benefit the public good.