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Liberal Studies

Global and diverse societies require that engineers have an awareness of historical patterns, an appreciation for different cultures, professional ethics, the ability to work in multi-faceted groups, and superior communication skills.  Cornell has a rich curriculum in the humanities, arts, and social sciences, enabling every engineering student to obtain a truly liberal education. 

Liberal Studies Requirements for Students Entering Fall 2020 and later

Liberal Studies Requirements for Students Entering Fall 2019 and Earlier

Examples of learning outcomes that characterize liberal arts include:

  • Understanding human life in cultural contexts through interpretive analysis of individual behavior, discourse, and social practice. (CA)

  • Ability to interpret continuities and changes – political, social, economic, diplomatic, religious, intellectual, artistic, and scientific – through time. (HA)

  • Appreciation of literature and the arts through critical study of art and its history, aesthetics, and theory. (LA/LAD)

  • Understanding the bases of human knowledge and decision-making, ranging from cognitive processes, to abstract reasoning, to the ability to form and justify moral decisions (e.g. cognitive psychology, linguistics, philosophy, ethics). (KCM)

  • Recognition of human life in its social context through the use of social-scientific methods, with topics ranging from attitudes of individuals to interpersonal and broad societal relationships.  This includes understanding the challenges of building a diverse society, and/or examining the various processes that marginalize people and produce unequal power relations. (SBA)

  • Understanding of diverse cultures through the study of foreign languages. (FL)

Liberal arts commonly include courses in the humanities (e.g. history, art history and criticism, literary studies and writing, classics, philosophy, religious studies), foreign languages, and the social sciences (e.g. sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, psychology), as well as interdisciplinary courses involving these disciplines (e.g. area studies, women’s studies).  Performance arts are also considered liberal arts and include theatre, dance, instruction in musical theory and/or musical performance (non-PE).

Courses generally not considered liberal arts include those in athletics, business (including accounting, finance, marketing, management, and entrepreneurship), methods of practice of education, and engineering (including project teams and research involvement).  Many of these courses belong rather to a “professional curriculum” covering specific methods and practicums, or are largely technical in nature.  However, liberal arts do include a subset of courses in business taught from a humanities or social science perspective (e.g. sociology of business, history of business, and business ethics).

Approved Courses:

The College of Engineering recommends that students enroll in courses identified as fulfilling the Liberal Studies categories as listed in the current University Courses of Study, and as designated already by the Colleges of Arts and Science (A&S) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).  In addition to those courses, there exists a list of petitioned liberal studies courses for engineering students.  The tabs in the gray area at the top of the page signify (1) the two colleges where liberal studies courses are primarily taught (The College of Arts and Sciences (AS) and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)) and (2) the liberal studies groups cited above.  

As the liberal studies distribution is reviewed and updated throughout the year, new courses are added to the list and can be found by clicking on the "Other Yes" tab. Courses that have been reviewed and denied liberal studies status can be found by clicking on the "Other No" tab.