Newswise — MOUNT VERNON, Iowa - The 2020-21 academic year marks the first official year of Cornell College’s Ingenuity core curriculum, a new way to think about the liberal arts.

“We’ve designed a curriculum that invites students to engage with interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in ways that are directly applicable to real-world experiences,” said Kate Kauper, faculty director of experiential learning for Ingenuity. 

While students have already seen pieces of Ingenuity unveiled in recent years such as the Common First-Year Seminar, this year marks the full transition to the new curriculum. Since Cornell was awarded a grant in 2017, faculty and college leaders have been working on reimagining the curriculum to meet the needs of today’s students. 

“It’s been a collective effort among many people, and it’s rewarding work because of the impact it will have on our students,” said Craig Teague, faculty director of Ingenuity. 

So, what exactly is the core curriculum? It’s much more than a general education.

“The core curriculum recognizes that there is much more to a college education than taking a series of classes,” Kauper said. “When we talk about the core curriculum, or Ingenuity, we are talking about the principles that guide student learning, within and across the individual classes. The core curriculum includes foundational knowledge, exploring themes that transcend disciplinary boundaries, building on essential skills, and then putting all of this experience into action through experiential learning.”

The curriculum is built on five major pieces.

  1. Foundations: a structured series of three courses taken early in students' time at Cornell: the Common First-Year Seminar, the First-Year Writing Seminar, and the Second-Year Seminar.
  2. Building essential abilities: The portion of Ingenuity that focus on skills building and requires courses in writing, quantitative reasoning, intercultural literacy, and foreign language. 
  3. Explorations: The most traditional part of the curriculum that involves students taking at least one class in four academic divisions: fine arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences.
  4. Ingenuity in Action: The experiential learning piece that allows students to apply what they are learning in the classroom in the real world through internships, research, or community projects.
  5. ePortfolio: A curated collection of student work from both inside and outside the classroom. Students can tailor the portfolio to best suit their individual needs.

This new framework is designed to elevate each student’s educational experience. Kauper says she’s looking forward to the Second-Year Seminar, which will exemplify citizenship in practice. 

“Some students may visit schools and jails as part of their examination of economic inequality whereas others may be collecting data as part of a participatory action research project in environmental studies - all with an aim to take informed action as a result of their learning,” Kauper said. “These activities not only allow students to practice the skills of the discipline, but they have great potential to benefit the respective communities involved.” 

Building essential abilities is something that excites Teague.  

“These cross-cutting skills will serve students well in their Cornell journey and, especially, beyond,” Teague said. “We have structured this part of the curriculum to emphasize the importance of these skills and how they are used in a variety of settings.”

Each Cornell student will design and personalize their education through the new core curriculum to fit their own goals.

“The overarching goals of Ingenuity ensure that each student’s experience at Cornell is rich with opportunity,” Teague said. “Furthermore, parts of Ingenuity focus on helping students apply what they learn outside the classroom.  This helps students and employers see how a Cornell College liberal arts education is great preparation for a career and an engaged life after college.”

And from the very beginning–Block 1–select items will be recorded in an eportfolio, a tool that can be used to show future employers all they’ve accomplished. 

2020-21 will be a year full of new opportunities as Cornell fully kicks off Ingenuity after years of research, study, and implementation. 

“Ingenuity is a student-centered curriculum and with this, we want and expect students to be active participants in their Cornell education,” Kauper said. “Students who engage in frequent and meaningful conversations with their advisors, professors, and other mentors on campus will have the best possible outcomes in their educational experiences.”

Cornell’s Ingenuity curriculum is the power behind the problem-solving abilities of Cornellians.

About Cornell College: 

Cornell College, a selective liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, has a student population of around 1,000 students. Cornellians have been living, learning, and teaching on the block plan, One Course At A Time, for 40 years. This style of learning allows students to fully immerse themselves in their chosen topic of study, including taking field trips, diving into research, creating an art exhibit, or exploring issues in the local community. With students from nearly 50 states and 16 foreign countries, as well as renowned faculty, speakers, and entertainers, Cornell offers the world from its campus.

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