Positioning our College

Positioning our college in the marketplace

Cornell Engineering is an exhilarating ride through exciting inquiry in the company of brilliant colleagues working together toward breakthrough discoveries. Young people who engage with our curriculum emerge with the confidence to take on any challenge. They know how to think on their own and to keep up the interests they love—and they're accustomed to breaking rules. Breaking rules is about bringing down the barriers between disciplines and drawing ideas from close in and distant sources. Breaking rules leads to break-through research. It provokes new questions and running at problems in new ways that ultimately benefit people and society. Cornell Engineering students and faculty don't always fit the mold. They begin as independent thinkers and are rewarded for following their instincts. Their achievements in research happen in an environment where pushing limits, stretching boundaries and yes—even breaking rules to advance engineering science—is the essence of who we are and what we do.

Summarized in one proactive phrase

Breaking rules to do something great means:

  • Seeking breakthrough solutions
  • Questioning everything
  • Removing impediments to promising research
  • Crossing boundaries of disciplines to find answers
  • Embracing the dynamic marketplace of ideas
  • Enjoying the act of radical collaborative inquiry

" What did I learn at Cornell Engineering? I learned to break the rules."
  - Engineering Alumna

Limits to our intent

Does our rallying cry encourage throwing apples through windows or conducting unethical research? Absolutely not. The phrase "breaking rules" is not meant to sanction harm to people or property—just harm to stodginess and overly-constrained habits of mind. We always use the break the rules statement with a statement about how this is helping the greater good. We embrace the creative, not the undisciplined. We celebrate the bold, not the reckless. "Breaking rules" encourages intellectual questioning—taking risks—even rebelliousness in the face of dogma. We still have to absorb age-old principles of physics and math. But we dare to be skeptics and to question as we learn.