Scenario 2: Time-Stamped and Focused Menu—Concept & Sequence

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Main Concept

Provides breadth within a clear, manageable, delimited, time-sensitive curricular framework, which is explained and reinforced by a required overview course that introduces students to the mission, impacts, and outcomes of liberal education.


This approach trims and rationalizes the current menu-driven distribution requirements, creates a clear expectation for comprehensive breadth, and time-stamps breadth requirements so as to lead from general education to specialization. It provides an intentionally designed rationale for the breadth and variety of liberal education, and it announces and reinforces that rationale in the format of the framework itself and in the new common required course on disciplinarity and cross-disciplinarity.

Two Essential Requirements

Requirement I: Breadth [Distribution Menu Framework]

[This summary of Option A describes one option in detail. See other menu options in the table below.]

Option A example: Students complete two courses from each category. Time stamping: * indicates one course from this area must be completed before the end of the second year.

  • Math/Stats/Econ [Quantitative Thinking]*
  • Social Science*
  • History *
  • Arts/Literature *
  • Bio/Physical Science*
  • Writing (i.e. Writing/Composition)*
  • Language

The courses that support the areas above are specifically designated by the departments/programs according to a certain set of expectations that are designed to provide for an introductory experience. This is a limited and intentional curriculum, not a relabeling of a mass of courses. Course selection would be more focused than under the current College distribution requirements to encourage a more collective experience that intentionally and systematically represents the scope of each major discipline.

Rationale [for Requirement I]:

Simplifies and clarifies the breadth requirement; makes it comprehensive, and sets up a clear framework for the overview-style Core Course, below. Affirms Cornell’s history of individualized study and flexibility, while also ensuring that a student is exposed to the full range of opportunities offered by a liberal arts education. Builds on current structure.

Optional changes:

1.Consider other sample options for the structure of the Scope requirement:


A (as described above)

Option “B”

Option “C”

Option “D”

Current system


Quantitative Thinking

Quantitative thinking

Abstract/symbolic reasoning


Social Science


Social Science









History and Society



Historical awareness





Artistic expression


Bio/Physical Science

Natural Science

Natural Science

Scientific analysis



Culture and Values


Cross-Cultural awareness








Communication (i.e. Writing)










2.Reduce the requirement to one course in first or second year, for all but Language and Communication

Requirement II: Concept Course

A common required first-year course, taken first or second semester, likely structured as a single large course with sections, conceived and managed by a professorial faculty member (or perhaps a pair of collaborating instructors). The course would include invited representative faculty lecturers, close coordination with the College advising office and Career office and their student support programs, and links to university-wide programs and to other colleges. The course would be conceptualized coherently as an introduction to the college, including:

1) An introduction to the disciplines through exemplary disciplinary learning experiences linked to each of the seven distribution categories, conveyed perhaps by dynamic lectures by selected representative faculty.

2) An opportunity to link these disciplinary experiences serially and/or collectively--through reference to cross-disciplinary projects, and knowledge-creation and skills acquisition--to a rationale for the social, global, political, creative, and ethical outcomes and impacts of liberal studies.

3) An opportunity to consider career and professional outcomes, perhaps including visits from returning alumni, perhaps in an alumni symposium event at the end of the course.

3) Information about or introductions to university-wide programs and activities.

This course would be intentionally and creatively engineered to provide an exciting and distinctive learning experience. It might utilize unconventional teaching methods or tools, manage unusual opportunities to interact with or experience specialist expertise or projects, and lead to further creative learning experiences in and beyond the A&S curriculum.

Rationale [for Requirement II]:

Provides for an overview/introduction to the college and to faculty in diverse fields. Defines the disciplinary areas of the distribution requirements, places them in the context of the disciplinary areas of the college and one another, and supports a conceptual understanding of those requirements/areas and of the reasons for students’ participation in each of them, militating against the “menu” experience. Directly addresses student concerns and possible confusion about outcomes, careers, impacts, and the utility of a liberal arts education. Offers a perspective on the value of a liberal arts education, for students, faculty, and the larger Cornell community.

Optional change:

Eliminate the Concept Course, or make it recommended rather than required

Learning Goals

In this Concept and Timing scenario, most learning goals are distributed as relevant across the simplified menu of Scope courses. The Concept course supports Discovery through its introduction to cross-disciplinary knowledge. This scenario does not strongly support the Epistemology learning goal. 

Essential Components

These areas below reflect specific, focused educational items or goals that will be relevant to this scenario. They may involve particular pragmatic dimensions or consequences, or require specific organizational planning within or beyond the college.

  1. A&S common course (variously defined)
    Options include an overview of the college/curriculum, an introduction to careers and professional training opportunities, a topics course or a cross-disciplinary/inquiry course that models liberal educational learning goals, etc. Size options include large seriatim lectures or small seminars.
  2. Capstone or “culminating experience” (variously defined)
    E.g. encourage capstones within majors, or create a set of “common experiences” options where students can apply their liberal arts education in a variety of ways.
  3. Community engaged learning and/or research
    See the “civic awareness/engagement” learning goal (Liberal Education Learning Goals).
  4. Diversity and inclusion
    See the “intercultural knowledge/multicultural competency” learning goal (Liberal Education Learning Goals).
  5. Experiential learning
    Options include: undergraduate research, capstone projects, community-engaged experience, study abroad experience, field work.
  6. Global education or study abroad
    See the “intercultural knowledge” learning goal (Liberal Education Learning Goals).
  7. Persuasive Expression/writing/communication
    See the “persuasive expression” learning goal (Liberal Education Learning Goals).
  8. Language requirement
  9. Quantitative reasoning
  10. Sexual violence prevention
    Note the role of student affairs in supporting/shaping this aim.
  11. Online education


Please comment. General and specific responses to individual Scenarios are especially useful. You might also propose a hybrid “scenario” based on two of the given scenarios, or a significantly different sort of “scenario,” not represented here.

Review Scenario One.

Review Scenario Three.