University Mission

Learning. Discovery. Engagement.

Cornell seal outside Law School

Cornell is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York State. Cornell's mission is to discover, preserve, and disseminate knowledge; produce creative work; and promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community. Cornell also aims, through public service, to enhance the lives and livelihoods of our students, the people of New York, and others around the world.

University Vision

Cornell University will be widely recognized as a top-ten research university in the world, and a model university for the interweaving of liberal education and fundamental knowledge with practical education and impact on societal and world problems.

Core Values

The nature and implicit values of Cornell University were the theme of President Skorton's "State of the University" address on October 23, 2009. He argued that Cornell University is supported by four fundamental pillars:

  1. Classical and contemporary inquiry, "shaped by the founder's commitment to liberal and practical education." In other words, Cornell values the arts and humanities as well as advanced scientific and technological research; in broader terms, the university is committed to the interweaving of fundamental knowledge and practical education.
  2. "Thinking otherwise" Cornell's faculty members have a history of being intellectually diverse and entrepreneurial and as Carl Becker indicated, "thinking otherwise." This reflects a deep commitment to academic freedom and a belief that such freedom is essential to creativity and innovation. The One Cornell theme of our strategic plan stresses the importance of creative collaborations that emerge from the "bottom up" rather than from the "top down."
  3. Student access, which expresses a central principle of Ezra Cornell's original vision, namely a university open and accessible to all who merit entrance ("any person"). The longstanding and recently reaffirmed commitment to need-blind admissions reflects this value, as does the commitment of the university to diversity and inclusion and the notion that diversity and excellence are interrelated. The university's commitment to student access has been tested in recent years, given significant competition with peer institutions, and Cornell has addressed this challenge successfully with a program to reduce the costs of a Cornell education for students from families in lower income quintiles.
  4. Public engagement, which expresses the university's commitment to search for knowledge-based solutions to societal and world problems. Public engagement is an interpretation of the university's outreach mission that emphasizes being proactive (actively engaged) and having a public impact. It implies a broadening of the historic land grant mission of the university.

These four pillars of Cornell imply a set of core values that stand at the center of Cornell as an institution.

  • Seek knowledge
  • Support free and open intellectual inquiry and expression
  • Sustain excellence in teaching, research, and public engagement
  • Use knowledge to enlighten ourselves and benefit the world
  • Reward and recognize merit, creativity, and innovation
  • Treat all individuals with dignity, respect, and fairness
  • Embrace difference and diversity
  • Promote cross-cultural and cross-national understanding
  • Be a collaborative, collegial, and caring community
  • Be accessible and affordable to all who meet high academic standards

Themes in the values include excellence, diversity and inclusion, openness, and collaboration.