Cornell College

Mount Vernon, IA
United States

Cornell College is a nationally ranked, highly selective undergraduate liberal arts college of 1,200 students with a historic campus in the picturesque town of Mount Vernon, Iowa– a town distinguished by its vibrant local art scene and recognized by Frommer’s as one of "America's Coolest Small Towns.”  Founded in 1853 by members of the Methodist Church, Cornell College is highly regarded for the quality and distinctiveness of its academic programs, its first-class faculty, its engaged, talented students—and most especially for its distinctive One Course At A Time (OCAAT) curriculum, which offers students a flexible and compelling learning environment. One of only 270 colleges in the United States to host an active chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Cornell College has been consistently ranked as one of the best values in higher education, was featured in Colleges That Change Lives, and was identified by The New York Times as one of 20 "stealth powerhouse" colleges.

The college is a member of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, a consortium of 14 distinguished private liberal arts colleges (which include Carleton, Grinnell, Colorado College, Macalester and Knox Colleges). Cornell boasts a student body that is at once national, international, and highly diverse:  Students hail from 48 states and 15 foreign countries, with 19 percent domestic students of color and 6 percent international students.

Small classes, the One Course At A Time curriculum, an undergraduate student/teacher ratio of 11 to 1, and accessible faculty are often mentioned by students as being among the strengths of the College.  Cornell offers 36 majors, 26 minors, and 11 pre-professional programs.  In part due to the OCAAT format, there are numerous opportunities for independent research in all disciplines, as well as a variety of internships that take advantage of the College's location near Chicago, St. Louis, and Cedar Rapids/Iowa City.  Featured interdisciplinary centers at Cornell are Dimensions: The Center for the Science and Culture of Healthcare for pre-medical and health career preparation; the Berry Center for Economics, Business, and Public Policy studies; the Center for Law and Society; the Center for Literary Arts; and Cornell Fellows, a premier internship program.

Cornell graduates have contributed to society in all fields and endeavors and include recent recipients of the National Medal of Science, the Pulitzer Prize, and in 2012 the Black Engineer of the Year.

History: Cornell College has operated continuously in Mount Vernon, Iowa, since 1853, seven years after Iowa achieved statehood. Founded as the Iowa Conference Seminary, it adopted the name Cornell College and introduced a collegiate program in 1857.

Cornell was the first college west of the Mississippi to grant women the same rights and privileges as men, and, in 1858, to award a degree to a woman. Harriette Cooke, on the faculty from 1857 to 1890, was one of the first women in the nation to be paid a professorial salary equal to that of her male colleagues. Early in its history Cornell also adopted a policy of welcoming students of all religions and races. Its first black graduate, Frank Armstrong, class of 1900, served on Booker T. Washington's staff before going on to a career as a physician in Chicago.

Cornell’s founder, Methodist minister George B. Bowman, was aided by a group of prominent Mount Vernon citizens who wished to provide educational opportunities for their children beyond the one-room schools that operated for no more than a few months each year. Bowman chose Samuel Fellows, a native New Englander and experienced teacher, to be the first head of the school. These two strong leaders saw to the opening of the school, the construction of the first two buildings—Old Sem and College Hall, both of which are still in use—and the adoption of a classical liberal arts curriculum.

William Fletcher King became president in 1863 and served for 45 years, one of the longest presidencies in the history of American higher education.

Along with its commitment to the preservation of the best of the old, Cornell has been willing to adopt innovative changes. One-hundred-twenty-five years after its founding but in the same pioneering spirit, in 1978 Cornell faculty adopted the One Course At A Time curriculum, transforming the way teaching and learning happen at Cornell.

Campus: Cornell is located on a beautiful, wooded hilltop in Mount Vernon, Iowa, just a few blocks from the town's historic main street.  There are 44 buildings on 129 acres.  Cole Library is also the Mount Vernon public library, making it the only such library in the country.

Cornell is one of three campuses in the country listed entirely on the National Register of Historic Places—it was the first in the nation to be so listed—and the College maintains a longstanding commitment to maintaining its buildings even as it creates newer and more modern facilities.  Recent examples include two award-winning projects:  the conversion of the alumni gymnasium into a spacious home for the art department in 2002, and the addition of the state-of-the-art Kimmel Theatre to Armstrong Hall in 2004. Cornell has developed a master plan for facilities.

The President: Jonathan Brand has been president of Cornell College since July 2011. He holds a law degree from Cornell University, a master's degree in French literature from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor's degree in history and French from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In his first year at Cornell, he’s overseen strategic planning, preparations for renovations of the Thomas Commons as well as the opening of the McLennan Center in Chicago, the creation of the Center for the Literary Arts, and planning for the transition from nine to eight terms a year. In addition, he has worked closely with the college’s board of trustees, met with students, faculty, and staff, and traveled extensively to meet Cornell alumni.

Before coming to Cornell, he served as President of Doane College in Crete, Neb. for six years and as Vice President of Institutional and Budget Planning and Special Assistant and Counsel to the President at Grinnell College for seven years. At Doane, Brand successfully oversaw record enrollment, the completion of a $45 million fundraising campaign, the renovation and construction of multiple buildings, the addition of majors in biochemistry and journalism, the creation of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and a reduction in the faculty teaching load across the institution.


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