Ingenuity: Cornell's approach to core curriculum


Equal parts creative, clever, inventive, resourceful, and adaptable

Graphic explaining Ingenuity

Cornell's core curriculum

Cornell’s Ingenuity curriculum is the power behind the problem-solving abilities of Cornellians. It manifests the academic flexibility and hands-on preparedness you get studying One Course At A Time.

One Course At A Time + Ingenuity = Flexibility

The rhythm of the block plan gives you the opportunity to dive deep into fields of study and explore widely as your curiosity dictates. You can study off-campus, pursue an internship, conduct research, and still have time to be an athlete, a performer, a volunteer, or all of the above.


First-Year Seminar at Cornell College

Take a peek at the First-Year Seminar at Cornell College.

Cornellians are knowledge-seekers

You’ll take three Foundations seminars (discussion-oriented classes) in your first two years that prepare the groundwork for exploration and essential skill-building.

First-Year Seminar: Diving In

Learn the ropes of studying on the block plan while you dive into an eclectic mix of materials and fields of study. Make connections you might not notice at first glance of the syllabus. At the end of the seminar, you’ll reflect on the entire experience, noting your thoughts in your Ingenuity Portfolio, which will become a touchstone during your time at Cornell as you track your college story from beginning to end.

Writing Studio director tutors Cornell student.

First-Year Writing Seminar

Get on the same page as all other Cornellians by refining your ability to express your thoughts. Your subject matter might focus on how marketing impacts the pharmaceutical industry, on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or on Bob Dylan and the language of protest but no matter which field of study interests you, you’ll become an experienced college writer.

Cornell student snorkeling during an off-campus studies course

Second-Year Seminar: Citizenship in Practice

You’re going to remember this hands-on experience long after you’ve completed it. You might work on an interdisciplinary project focused on social and environmental sustainability or a sociological approach to combating homelessness. Through community engagement, service-learning, field trips, off-campus study, simulations, performances, installations, exhibits, lab work, or a combination, you’ll be practicing your creative problem-solving skills.


Cornell student wearing sunglasses with reflection of surrounding environment in them.

Cornellians are creative thinkers

Do you know what sparks creative thinking across fields? Exposure to diverse modes of thinking and an exploration of different ways of seeing the world.

You’ll take Explorations courses to train you to see through different lenses. Your curriculum will take you on a journey through the fine arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Many courses at Cornell are interdisciplinary and you might choose a course that combines several of these academic fields of study in one course. It’s up to you to personalize the path you want to take.

Building Essential Abilities

Cornell students work with Quantitative Reasoning Director on a problem.

Cornellians are ingenious problem solvers

When you build up your essential abilities, solving problems (which is what the world of work is all about) becomes exponentially easier.

Building Essential Abilities courses take you closer and closer to being a reliable problem-solver one 18-day block at a time. Some of these courses overlap with the Explorations courses and some will count toward your major(s) or minor(s). How many credits and courses you take depends on you, and what courses you select. They’ll include courses in writing, quantitative reasoning, intercultural literacy, and foreign language. Once you’ve made your way through them, you’ll have earned anywhere between four to 10 credits towards graduation.

Ingenuity in Action

Cornellians are resourceful because of real-world experiences

True preparedness for a career requires experiences that you can refer back to and rely on as informative resources for future projects. That’s why you’ll take on the concept of Ingenuity in a practical way. You’ll get out of the theoretical space (unless your internship or research is heavily based in theory) and apply everything you’ve learned. You’ll take on these experiences at least twice, but you might decide you like it so much that you want to do more.

Cornell students perform Rent on stage.

What will you do?

You’ll choose from experiences in:

You might work with local French and Spanish speaking refugees and immigrants, helping them navigate the local bus system and conduct a job search (which you might count as either a civic engagement or a global connection experience).

You might conduct research at a Chicago museum on Latina artists and present your findings at a symposium (which you might count as an experience in global connections, leadership, professional exploration, or research).

Students work in front of the Thomas Commons fireplace, one on a laptop and the other in a notebook.

Cornellians are adaptable decision-makers

Along your Ingenuity journey, you’ll pause to reflect on what you’ve learned and the experiences you’ve had. Through the mental exercise of creating your story in your Ingenuity Portfolio, you’ll build up the critical thinking skills necessary to be an adaptable decision-maker. In your career, you’ll need to make many decisions, small and big. Writing is an enactment of your mind on the page and once you’ve learned the ability to reflect backward, you can look ahead with greater confidence and make smart decisions.

Your Ingenuity Portfolio will also prepare you to share your Cornell story with future employers and graduate programs. Pair your portfolio with resources and coaching from the Berry Career Institute to feel prepared and confident in your interviews, essays, and applications.