Skip to main content

Mission and Goals

in this section

This is a brief summary of the mission and goals of the College of Engineering. Read more in our strategic plan

A Vision of Leadership

Cornell University’s College of Engineering will create a better future for all through its leadership in research and excellence in engineering education. It will accomplish this by fostering a challenging, enlightened, and collaborative academic environment that demands excellence, encourages innovative education, and supports ground-breaking discovery. Its esteemed faculty will be world renowned for their creative scholarship and innovative teaching. The college’s graduates will be recognized and valued for their commitment to excellence, enthusiasm for learning, ethical behavior and integrity, and exceptional leadership.

A Mission of Distinction

Cornell University’s College of Engineering is a rigorous and dynamic intellectual community that plays an important role in the interdisciplinary life of a uniquely broad and renowned research-intensive university. In this context, the college’s mission is to: Provide students with a broad and exceptional education that prepares them to excel in their professions and to become creative leaders and mentors in an increasingly complex world; Lead responsively and creatively in the discovery of new knowledge and transforming inventions and technologies; and Create a better future for all people through the application of innovative ideas and resources and the solution of important and complex global problems.

Supporting Values

The college’s core values underscore and support its vision and mission to be a world leader in engineering education and innovative research through its commitment to:  

  • Treat all individuals with dignity and respect, judge impartially, critique fairly, and encourage without reservation;
  • Value differences and recognize that multiple perspectives enhance creativity;
  • Embrace innovation, demonstrate a willingness to take risks, and persist in the face of challenges to achieve the seemingly impossible;
  • Excel at what really matters, and aspire to greatness;
  • and Be worthy of the trust and respect that the college has earned.
Enabling Goals

In order to achieve its mission and bring its vision to life, the College of Engineering has established the following goals:  

  • To be considered one of the top five engineering colleges in undergraduate and graduate studies;
  • To be recognized as the premier research university in advanced materials, information sciences, and nanoscience, and a leader in bioengineering, complex systems, and energy and the environment;
  • To recruit, retain, and enable a diverse community of exceptional faculty, students, and staff;
  • To educate future leaders who are the most sought-after engineering graduates in the world; and
  • To establish and maintain facilities and infrastructure that are second to none in supporting the achievement of the college’s vision, mission, and values.
Student Learning Goals

In terms of their general abilities, our graduates will

  1. Have a broad education, including liberal studies.
    In this global economy, engineers work with people of many different cultures, and in plying their trade, engineers may have occasion to deal with business people, politicians, community groups —people from all walks of life. A broad education will provide the understanding necessary to deal with such groups effectively.
  2. Be proficient in oral and written communication.
    Ideas and plans are ineffective if one can’t convey them appropriately. The saying, “marketing is half the battle,” applies in engineering as well as business. The ability to communicate well in meetings, to make good presentations, to describe ideas, plans, and completed work in writing —all these are crucial in engineering.
  3. Be proficient in information literacy, i.e. be able to locate, evaluate, and effectively interpret claims, theories, and assumptions in science and engineering.
    Finding relevant material takes more than a quick look at and a google search. Engineers must know how to search the literature in their field —journal articles, patents, and so forth. Just as importantly, scientific and engineering discrimination is needed in determining the relevance and usefulness of the literature.
  4. Have experience with teamwork.
    Most engineering work requires a team of professionals from different engineering disciplines to complete a project. Many projects include business and environmental managers, who might approach problems in a different manner. The ability to work well in teams is a prerequisite for the successful engineer.
  5. Be aware of professional and ethical responsibilities.
    Society thrives on trust, and society suffers when someone breaks that trust. Shirking of professional and ethical responsibilities has helped cause spectacular disasters —e.g. the O-ring shuttle disaster (1986), the ENRON financial disaster (2001), and the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico (2010). But engineers face professional and ethical decisions on a much smaller scale, sometimes on a daily basis, and situations often present unexpected subtleties that make choices difficult. Successful engineers are aware of the professional code of their engineering discipline and of general ethical consideration.

In terms of their discipline, students will be well grounded in the mathematical, scientific, and engineering skills that are the basis of their discipline. More specifically, our graduates will have:

  1. The ability to design experiments, to analyze the data, and to interpret the results.
    Successful engineering often depends on experiments set up to analyze a new device, an engineering design, or even a marketing strategy. The model on which an experiment depends must be simple enough to allow analysis but close enough to the real world to produce meaningful results. Organizing and analyzing the data, making sense of patterns, interpreting results, and judging the logical reasonableness of interpretations are all important skills.
  2. The ability to design, model, and analyze engineering systems.
    The development of an engineering system requires an interplay of design, modeling, and analysis. As the design proceeds, modeling to predict performance may be done using a mathematical representation of the system, using computer simulations or an actual prototype. Many factors must be analyzed, such as performance, safety, cost, sustainability, and marketing considerations.
  3. The ability to formulate and solve problems.

    Problem solving fulfills needs; the project's need for success and the engineer's innate need for application. Creative solutions require the ability to define the real problem, to propose diverse ideas, and to critically analyze each idea to optimize with regard to constraints of economics, safety, environment, and society. Engineers must be able to pare a complex problem to its key issues, to devise a rudimentary solution, and then develop incrementally to a sophisticated solution by iterative ideas and analysis.

  4. The ability to use the techniques and tools necessary for the practice of their discipline.
    Engineers often find themselves working on a project in collaboration with engineers from a variety of disciplines. Each collaborator, by virtue of their disciplinary education, brings to the team discipline-specific habits of thought and accompanying tool kit. Success of the project depends on each collaborator applying their skill set capably.