What Is Cornell Known For?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a view of the cornell university from afar

What Is Cornell Known For?

Cornell University, located in Ithaca, New York, is one of the eight Ivy League institutions. It is widely known for its pioneering research and holds the 17th position among U.S. universities, according to U.S. News and World Report. However, apart from its revered reputation as a world-class university, what is Cornell known for?

In this blog, we list down the great things that make Cornell what it is today.

Cornell University Fast Facts

  • Location: Ithaca, New York
  • Student Population: 16, 071 undergraduates
  • Acceptance Rate: 7.3%

What is Cornell known for?

In 1865, the New York State Legislature designated the university as a land-grant institution, with Ezra Cornell contributing a parcel of farmland and half a million dollars as the initial endowment. The university welcomed its first students in 1868. Attendees of Cornell are referred to as Cornellians, and the university’s sports teams are called “Big Red,” a name inspired by the football fight song, “The Big, Red Team,” composed by alumnus Romeyn Berry in 1905. Currently, Cornell University hosts nearly 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

A view of Cornell University.

Cornell has a long history of innovation in technology. It was one of the first university campuses to use electricity, starting with a water-powered generator in 1883. Today, Cornell continues to lead by making its campus environmentally friendly.

Here is a list of the other things that answer the question, ‘what is Cornell known for?’:

  • World-class Land-Grant Ivy League School
  • Topnotch Engineering Programs
  • Strong Hospitality Management School
  • Sustainable and Green Initiatives
  • Industry-Leading Research Opportunities

World-class Land-Grant Ivy League School

Cornell University is both a land-grant institution and an Ivy League school. As a land-grant university, established by the Morrill Act of 1862, Cornell’s mission is to provide accessible education in agriculture, science, and engineering. This designation, along with Ezra Cornell’s substantial donation of land and funds, allowed the university to develop strong programs in these fields. This means that, despite being a private institution, Cornell University receives state funding.

Being part of the Ivy League attracts top-tier faculty and students, creating a competitive and intellectually stimulating environment. This dual identity of land-grant mission and Ivy League excellence has positioned Cornell as a leader in higher education, blending public service with world-class research and education. Cornell excels in various disciplines, encourages innovation, and remains dedicated to positively impacting society.

Cornell University is globally renowned for its academic excellence, consistently ranking among the world’s top universities. It offers programs across 14 colleges, including the highly regarded College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, and School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Cornell’s faculty includes Nobel laureates like physicist Hans Bethe and chemist Roald Hoffmann. Notable alumni include Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, author E.B. White, and television personality Bill Nye.

Cornell University website through a magnifying lens

The university’s research facilities, such as the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility, attract global scholars and are at the forefront of innovation. The Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future addresses global challenges through interdisciplinary research.

Cornell’s international programs and campuses in New York City and Doha, Qatar, extend its global reach. Moreover, the extensive Cornell University Library system supports research and learning with vast resources.

Cornell graduates have made significant contributions to business, entrepreneurship, science, and technology. Robert F. Smith, founder of Vista Equity Partners, is a successful businessman and philanthropist focused on enhancing education and promoting social equality. David Duffield, founder of PeopleSoft and Workday, has revolutionized enterprise software with innovative solutions.

In science and technology, Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” has impacted science education and environmental advocacy, inspiring millions. Carl Sagan, a renowned astrophysicist and science communicator, influenced public understanding of the cosmos through his research and popular media.

Topnotch Engineering Programs

Cornell University is renowned for its top-ranked engineering programs. The College of Engineering, established in 1870, offers degrees in mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, and computer engineering.

Cornell emphasizes interdisciplinary research and collaboration. Duffield Hall, a state-of-the-art nanotechnology research facility, encourages teamwork among researchers. The Cornell Center for Advanced Computing supports high-level research with cutting-edge computational resources.

Notable alumni include Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” who earned his mechanical engineering degree from Cornell, and Thomas J. Watson, Jr., who transformed IBM as its CEO.

Cornell’s engineering programs focus on experiential learning and real-world applications. The Cornell Engineering Project Teams work on practical projects, like autonomous underwater vehicles and sustainable energy solutions, preparing students for careers in industry and academia.

Cornell is committed to diversity and inclusion through initiatives like the Engineering Success Alliance and Diversity Programs in Engineering. These programs support underrepresented students with mentorship, resources, and community.

a view of the cornell university from afar

The College of Engineering at Cornell is among the most selective in the nation, offering 14 majors across different engineering disciplines. During their first three semesters, undergraduates follow a Common Curriculum that includes courses in math, physics, computing, liberal studies, writing, and fundamental engineering concepts. By their second year, students choose their specific engineering major.

Cornell’s College of Engineering has several initiatives to advance education, research, and community engagement:

  • Engineering Leadership Program: Develops leadership skills through workshops, courses, and hands-on learning, preparing students for leadership roles.
  • Cornell Engineering Learning Initiatives (ELI): Provides academic support with peer tutoring, workshops, and study groups to help students excel.
  • Engineering Cooperative Education Program: Offers students real-world experience by working in industry positions while completing their degrees, enhancing employability.
  • Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future: Focuses on interdisciplinary research to address global sustainability challenges, involving significant participation from the College of Engineering.
  • Kessler Fellows Program: Allows engineering juniors to work with startups, gain entrepreneurial experience, and receive mentorship.
  • Diversity Programs in Engineering (DPE): Promotes diversity and inclusion with support programs, mentorship, scholarships, and professional development for underrepresented students.
  • Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF): Provides state-of-the-art resources for nanotechnology research, fostering innovation and collaboration.
  • McCormick Family Teaching Excellence Institute: Enhances engineering education quality through faculty development and innovative teaching methods.
  • Engineering Project Teams: Student-led teams work on practical projects like autonomous vehicles and sustainable energy solutions, participating in national and international competitions.
  • Cornell Cup USA: Sponsored by Intel, this competition encourages students to design and build embedded systems, applying their engineering skills to develop cutting-edge technology.

Strong Hospitality Management School

Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration (SHA), part of the SC Johnson College of Business, is a leader in hospitality management education. Founded in 1922 by hospitality pioneer Ellsworth Statler, SHA was the first four-year hospitality management program in the U.S.

SHA excels through rigorous academics, practical experience, and strong industry connections. The curriculum covers finance, marketing, operations, real estate, and human resources, all tailored to hospitality. Students gain hands-on experience through internships, practicums, and projects with top hospitality companies.

Key milestones include the Statler Hotel on campus, established in 1950, which provides real-world hotel operations experience. Programs like Hotel Ezra Cornell, an annual student-run conference, emphasize experiential learning by connecting industry leaders and students.

Four students smiling at the camera while standing next to a college building.

Notable SHA alumni include J. Willard Marriott, founder of Marriott International; Richard Baker, CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company; and Irene Rosenfeld, former CEO of Mondelēz International. These alumni have significantly impacted the global hospitality and business industries.

Several factors contribute to SHA’s reputation as one of the strongest hospitality management programs in the U.S.

  • First, its faculty comprises experts in hospitality management
  • Second, the school’s extensive industry network and partnerships for internships, mentorship, and career placement (Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, International Partnership of Business Schools, etc.)
  • Third, SHA’s commitment to innovation is evident in its research centers, such as the Center for Hospitality Research

SHA’s global programs and partnerships prepare students for the international hospitality industry. Its strong alumni network provides ongoing support and opportunities for students and graduates.

In summary, Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration excels with its comprehensive, hands-on approach to hospitality management, strong industry connections, and influential alumni. These factors make SHA a top choice for future leaders in the global hospitality industry.

Sustainable and Green Initiatives

Cornell University has many sustainability initiatives showcasing its commitment to environmental stewardship. The Climate Action Plan (CAP), launched in 2009, aims for carbon neutrality by 2035. By 2020, Cornell had reduced carbon emissions by 36% from 2008 levels through energy conservation, renewable energy installations, and sustainable building practices. The Cornell Sustainable Campus Initiative, started in 2007, coordinates efforts like the Green Office Certification and the Student Sustainability Coordinator Program.

Cornell’s innovative sustainable energy systems include Lake Source Cooling, which uses Cayuga Lake’s cold water to cool campus buildings, cutting energy use by 86%. The university also operates multiple solar farms generating over 28 MW of power, including the 18 MW Cascadilla Community Solar Farm. Cornell has over 25 LEED-certified buildings, such as the LEED Platinum-certified Human Ecology Building and the LEED Gold-certified Gates Hall.

Off-campus, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future promotes interdisciplinary sustainability research. The Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offers sustainability education and resources across New York State. Engaged Cornell integrates sustainability into community engagement, involving students in projects like sustainable farming in Tanzania.

Key contributors to Cornell’s sustainability efforts include former President David Skorton, who launched the Climate Action Plan, and the Sustainable Cornell Council, founded in 2019, which oversees campus-wide sustainability efforts.

Group of friends doing their homework.

Initiatives and Milestones

Climate Action Plan Launch (2009)

  • Significance: Marked Cornell’s formal commitment to achieving carbon neutrality.

Earth Source Heat Initiative (2008)

  • Objective: Develop a geothermal heating system for the campus.
  • Progress: Pilot project to test the feasibility of using deep geothermal wells for heating.

Sustainability Month

  • Annual Event: Celebrated every April
  • Activities: Includes lectures, workshops, and sustainability fairs to promote awareness and engagement.

Cornell University shows a strong commitment to sustainability through various programs and initiatives. These include renewable energy projects like Lake Source Cooling and solar farms and interdisciplinary research at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. The Sustainable Cornell Council guides these efforts, ensuring sustainability is a core value. With goals like carbon neutrality by 2035 and programs like Engaged Cornell and Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell sets a strong example for integrating sustainability into higher education and the community.

Industry-Leading Research Opportunities

What is Cornell known for in the world of research? Cornell University is recognized as one of the leading research universities in the United States due to its extensive and industry-leading research opportunities across various disciplines. This reputation is built on a foundation of innovation, significant contributions to knowledge, and a commitment to addressing global challenges.

Research Centers and Programs

Cornell University Center for Advanced Computing (2007)

  • Focus: Provides high-performance computing resources and expertise to support research across disciplines.
  • Impact: The CAC has supported groundbreaking research in bioinformatics, materials science, and social sciences.

Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (1977)

  • Mission: Facilitate research and development in nanotechnology.
  • Achievements: CNF has been instrumental in electronics, materials science, and biomedical engineering advancements. It serves as a resource for researchers worldwide.

Weill Cornell Medicine

  • Significant Contributions: Pioneering medical research in genetics, oncology, and neuroscience.
  • Notable Programs: The Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center, which focuses on translating research discoveries into new cancer therapies.

Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based Sciences and Education (CLASSE)

  • Focus: Research in accelerator physics, particle physics, and synchrotron radiation science.
  • Key Projects: The Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) supports research in materials science, chemistry, biology, and environmental science.

Teacher instructing his students.

Cornell University leads in innovations and impactful research across various fields. Professor Dan Luo and his team have advanced CRISPR-Cas9 technology, revolutionizing genetic engineering. In renewable energy, the Earth Source Heat project started in 2018, aims to develop a geothermal heating system, showcasing Cornell’s commitment to sustainability.

Cornell AgriTech focuses on food and agriculture advancements, developing disease-resistant crops and sustainable practices. Notable figures in Cornell’s history include Carl Sagan, known for his work in planetary science and popularizing science, and Barbara McClintock, a Nobel Prize winner for discovering transposable elements in genetics. Steven Strogatz has significantly contributed to applied mathematics, particularly nonlinear dynamics and complex systems.

These achievements prove Cornell’s leadership in research and its lasting impact on science and society.

Frequently Asked Questions

What majors is Cornell known for?

What is Cornell known for in terms of majors and programs? Cornell University is popular for its excellence in various disciplines. Here are five standout majors:

  • Engineering: The College of Engineering is among the nation’s top universities, offering programs in mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, and computer engineering. It is known for world-class research and innovative education.
  • Hotel Administration: Part of the SC Johnson College of Business, the School of Hotel Administration is a leader in hospitality management, with an extensive curriculum, strong industry ties, and a focus on experiential learning.
  • Agriculture and Life Sciences: The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) excels in agricultural sciences, life sciences, environmental sustainability, and food systems.
  • Architecture: The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) is highly regarded for its architecture program, emphasizing design excellence, critical thinking, and innovation.
  • Business: The SC Johnson College of Business, which includes the Johnson Graduate School of Management, the School of Hotel Administration, and the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, offers programs in finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and hospitality management.

What sport is Cornell known for?

What is Cornell known for in the field of athletics? Cornell University is renowned for its strong ice hockey and rowing traditions.

  • Ice Hockey: The men’s team, part of the Ivy League and ECAC Hockey conference, has a storied history. They play at Lynah Rink, a symbol of Cornell’s passionate hockey culture. The team has produced numerous NHL players, including Hall of Famer Ken Dryden, who led them to a national championship in 1967. Known for extensive training, skilled coaching, and a competitive spirit, Cornell hockey has multiple ECAC championships and frequent NCAA tournament appearances.
  • Rowing: Cornell’s rowing program, including both men’s and women’s teams, competes in prestigious regattas like the IRA National Championships and the Head of the Charles Regatta. The program has produced numerous Olympians and national team members.

View of rowers working together.

What makes Cornell stand out among other Ivy League Schools? 

Cornell University stands out among Ivy League schools due to its dual identity as a private Ivy League institution and a land-grant university. This unique combination allows Cornell to offer elite academic programs and public service missions. Established through the Morrill Act, Cornell is committed to accessible education and practical knowledge in fields like agriculture, engineering, and veterinary medicine. This blend of private and public funding supports a diverse student body and extensive research initiatives.

Cornell’s interdisciplinary research opportunities further set it apart. With facilities like the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility, Weill Cornell Medical College, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the university promotes groundbreaking research.

Cornell’s commitment to sustainability, evident in initiatives like the Climate Action Plan and Earth Source Heat project, demonstrates its leadership in addressing global challenges. The university’s collaborative environment, strong industry connections, and influential alumni network ensure that students and faculty lead in innovation and impact, reinforcing Cornell’s unique position within the Ivy League.

Is Cornell an expensive university? 

Yes, Cornell University is considered expensive, especially compared to public universities. For the 2023-2024 academic year, the estimated cost of attendance for undergraduate students, including tuition, fees, room, board, and other expenses, is around $80,000 per year. However, Cornell offers financial aid packages to help make education more affordable, and many students receive grants, scholarships, and other forms of financial assistance based on need or merit.

What are your odds of getting into Cornell?

Getting into Cornell University is highly competitive, with an acceptance rate of around 10-11%. Key factors include strong academic achievements, such as GPAs above 3.9 and top SAT scores between 1450-1560 or ACT scores of 33-35. Taking advanced courses like AP, IB, or honors classes is also important. Extracurricular involvement, leadership roles, and meaningful contributions are valued more than a long list of activities.

Well-crafted personal essays that reveal your character, experiences, and aspirations, along with strong letters of recommendation from teachers and mentors, are crucial. Additionally, demonstrating a good fit for the specific program or college within Cornell can improve your chances. Admissions decisions are holistic, considering a variety of factors and unique strengths.


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