College Scholar

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Is the College Scholar Program Right for You?

If you are passionately focused on a particular type of problem, issue or singular aspect of a larger field and can function well independently, you may want to consider applying for the College Scholar Program after a successful freshman year. Arts & Sciences faculty developed the program to provide an unusual intellectual niche in addition to regular departmental majors.

As a College Scholar, you may explore subjects with a broader integration of related disciplines than most students would attempt; develop a focused aspect of an interdisciplinary field; or pursue a subject in which you are unusually advanced. To get a sense of the variety of projects pursued by College Scholars, here's a list of research projects completed by the Class of 2016:

  • America’s Changing Energy Landscape: Net energy metering, disruptive technological innovation, and evolving electric utility business models (Aaron Benedict)
  • Key Components of a "Successful" Revolution: Conceptualizing the Occupy Wall Street Movement within the Framework of the Great Recession (Tricia Brown) 
  • Ferran Adria and Contemporary Catalan Cuisine: Redefining Culinary Boundaries (Jeanne Kessira)
  • The Catchiness Phenomenon: Understanding the Relationship between earworms, musical memory, and genre-specific preferences for music (Julia Klein)
  • Chinese Nationalism and China’s Naval Development (Zihao Liu)
  • Exploring the Syntax-Prosody Interface via Phase Boundaries (Adam Mahar)
  • Media Agenda Setting and the Saliency of Immigration (Blake Michael)
  • Prussian Blue: The Problem of Reversibility in Art Conservation (Rachel Mochon)
  • When the obstacles aren’t obvious: The effects of implicit bias and benevolent sexism on women in physics and astronomy (Brenna Mockler)
  • End of Art? What End of Art? An Examination of Post-historical Art in the Modern Art Market (Mai-Lee Picard)
  • 1 2 3 Agreements (Russell Sesler)
  • The Cultural Hegemony of Finance Capital: Implications for Financial Reform in the Twenty-First Century (Michael Sun)

College Scholars are chosen by the College Scholar Faculty Board. They carefully review your application as well as your academic record. They want to see that you have taken challenging classes and performed well in them; that you are committed to the College’s requirement for breadth of knowledge across the disciplines; and that your interests truly can’t be served by an existing major. The program never selects more than 40 students a year.

I think that I developed a better understanding about how organizations and political bodies are driven by personalities than I would have had I been just a traditional government major. - Bob Harrison ’76, College Scholar; chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees; Chief Executive Officer, Clinton Global Initiative

College Scholars are not required to complete college distribution requirements. However, because the College Scholar program is a major in the College of Arts & Sciences, College Scholars are required to complete 120 total credits,100 credits in Arts & Sciences and 34 courses to graduate, as well as meet other university graduation requirements (two semesters of PE and passing the swim test). College Scholars must also complete a senior project or honors thesis during their final year.

As a College Scholar, you will work closely with your advisor to select courses that will not only prepare you for your senior thesis or senior project, but will also expose you to the disciplines and methods essential to a liberal arts education. At the end of each semester, you will submit an updated project description and course plan to your advisor.

Although it is not required or necessary, some College Scholars choose a second major. Completing a second major does not require College Scholars to complete College distribution requirements.

The Senior Honors Thesis or Senior Project

To complete the College Scholar major, you must write a final project: either a two-semester honors thesis or a one-semester senior project.

To be eligible for honors, you need to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or above and complete a minimum of two College Scholar Seminars (one in science or math and one in the humanities or social sciences, both approved by the program coordinator in consultation with your advisor).

To apply for honors, juniors must submit an initial draft of their thesis proposal to their advisor and the program coordinator, as_csp@cornell.edu, by June 15th. A final draft of the proposal is due to the advisor and the program coordinator by the add deadline in the fall semester. 

How to Apply

Freshman year:

  • Attend one of the general information sessions held in March.
  • During the spring semester, identify faculty whose research interests intersect with yours; if possible, set up meetings with them to discuss how you might refine your project.
  • Identify a Cornell faculty member who knows you well and can write a letter of recommendation for you
  • Attend senior College Scholar presentations scheduled for late April or early May (check back after Spring Break for the schedule). While this is optional, it’s a great way to connect with current College Scholars and learn more about the program.

Summer before sophomore year:

  • Reflect upon the courses you have already completed, your intellectual aspirations and how those might be served by the College Scholar Program. Draft and fine-tune your proposal and apply. Request an application by writing to: as_csp@cornell.edu. Please write ‘Request for College Scholar Application’ in the subject line.

Sophomore year:

  • If you have not previously attended an information session, attend one scheduled in mid-September.
  • Submit completed applications electronically to as_csp@cornell.edu by October 13. Please write ‘College Scholar Application’ in the subject line.
  • You will be notified of your admission decision before the end of the fall semester. 

Research and Activity Funding Support

The College Scholar Program has funds available to support student independent research and to recognize student thesis accomplishments. These funds have been created by the generous support of alumni.

The Lynne S. Abel ‘62 College Scholar Endowment Fund

David Rider ‘62 was inspired to make his substantial gift because of his deep care and admiration for Lynne Abel '62, after whom the Lynne S. Abel College Scholar Endowment Fund is named. The fund supports College Scholars' independent research during summer and winter breaks, giving students freedom to pursue explorations that characterize the program.

Recent funding requests supported by Lynne Abel Grants include travel to conferences and research conducted for the thesis (e.g. presentations at professional conferences, attendance at multicultural workshops, travel to conduct library and archive research). Students may apply for funding annually. The typical award amount is $500.

The Tomasic Fund

The program also receives support from the Tomasic fund, established in 1994 by the family and friends of Francis Tomasic. A 1980 graduate of the College Scholar Program, Tomasic was killed by a road mine near Mostar in 1994 while reporting on the conflict in Bosnia. He is remembered by all for his limitless intellectual engagement and unwavering generosity of spirit. The award goes to the best thesis proposal written by an honors candidate.

Contact Information

Program Coordinator
KG17 Klarman Hall
607-255-4833
For all questions, please email as_csp@cornell.edu.

Current College Scholars

Class of 2017

Zoe Ferguson ‘17, West Orange, N.J.

Jack Barnett ‘17, Los Angeles, Calif.

Sofia Hu '17, Rockville, Md.

Joseph Fridman ‘17, Oceanside, NY

Tamar Law '17, Ithaca, NY

Class of 2018

Pauline L. Shongov ‘18 (concurrent degree with AAP), Phoenix, Ariz.

Liz Abeles ‘18, Washington, DC

Letitia Chai ‘18, Boston, Mass. and Seoul, South Korea

Camille Edwards ‘18, Marin County, Calif.

Jose Fernandez Guerrero ‘18, Tijuana, Mexico

Slater Goodman ‘18, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Meghan Hadley ‘18, Rose Valley, Pa.

Kasey Han ‘18, Singapore

Severine Hex ‘18, Boise, Idaho

Conor Hodges ‘18, Orlando, Fla.

Rose Keel ‘18, Austin, Texas

Luby Kiriakidi '18, Rochester, NY

Ben Picket ‘18, Westchester, NY

Jesse Sanchez ‘18, Pico Rivera, Calif.

Sam Schirvar ‘18, Stillwater, Minnesota

College Scholar alumni

Aaron Benedict ’16, Syracuse, NY 

Jeanne Kessira ‘16, Paris and New York

Julia Klein ‘16, Rye Brook, NY

Zihao Liu ‘16, Kaifeng, China

Adam Mahar ‘16, Rumford, Maine

Blake Michael ‘16, Frankton, Indiana  

Rachel Mochon ‘16, Houston, Texas 

Brenna Mockler ‘16, Davis, California

Mai-Lee Picard ‘16, Mexico City, Mexico and New York City

Michael Sun ‘16, Santa Clarita, California

Irene Li ‘15, Boston, Mass.

Devon McMahon ‘15, New York, N.Y.

Emma Borden ‘15, Ithaca, N.Y.

Zachary Zahos ‘15, Harrington Park, N.J.

Claire Stack ‘15, Rochester, N.Y.

Pat Nowak '14, Pittsburgh, Pa.

David M. Katz ‘14, Syracuse, New York

Ari Fine ‘14, Boston, Mass.

Sarah Asman ‘13, Grand Ledge, MI

Perry Swergold ‘13, New Rochelle, N.Y.

Diana Rypkema ‘13, Lynnwood, Wash.

Jennifer Fischell ‘13, Fair Haven, N.J.

Benjamin Preston ‘11, Boston, Mass.

Suk Chun Kwak ‘11, Seoul, Korea

Emma Herzog ‘10, Ann Arbor, MI

College Scholars in the News

News Stories:

College Scholars showcase research projects

College Scholars' research: circus arts to inequality

College Scholars study climate change, local food

Showcase honors student and faculty engagement projects

Students present wide range of humanities research

Students raise the curtain on Darfur in new play

Young alums' play focuses on human rights issues in Darfur

Students can 'teach, learn anything' at Splash! event

Cornell Splash! holds day of learning for local youth

Student Profiles:

Brenna Mockler '16

Rachel Mochon '16

Aaron Benedict '16

Julia Klein '16

Emma Borden '15

Devon McMahon '15

Claire Stack '15 

 

College Scholar Senior Presentations

Our 2016 graduates presented their work Thursday, April 28. Here's a taste of what you might choose to study as a College Scholar.

Global Challenges —3:30-4:30 

Zihao Liu, Chinese Nationalism and China’s Naval Development 

Michael Sun, The Cultural Hegemony of Finance Capital: Implications for Financial Reform in the Twenty-First Century 

Aaron Benedict, America’s Evolving Energy Landscape in the Face of Climate Change: Net Energy Metering, Disruptive Technological Innovation, and Changing Utility Business Models

Art Theory & Consumption-- 4:30-5:15 

Moderator: Professor Annetta Alexandridis (History of Art) 

Jeanne Kessira, Ferran Adrià and Contemporary Catalan Cuisine: Redefining Culinary Boundaries. 

Mai-Lee Picard, End of Art? What End of Art? 

Patterns and Cognition— 5:30 to 6:15 

Julia Klein, The Catchiness Phenomenon: Understanding the relationship between earworms, musical memory and genre-specific preferences for music 

Adam Mahar, Exploring the Syntax-Prosody Interface via Phase Boundaries 

See the poster here!