At other top universities, the curriculum is either unstructured or rigidly defined and focused on disseminating information. Minerva’s four-year curriculum is expressly designed to balance breadth of understanding with depth of expertise.
At Minerva, each semester builds on the previous one and every course offered is seminal — core to one of the majors, with interconnected subjects that span disciplines. There are no superfluous electives or “hobby” classes. Whether pursuing a single undergraduate degree, a double major, or a double concentration, you will be challenged and inspired throughout your learning experience.
Instead of basic introductory material, your first-year curriculum is devoted to the four Cornerstone courses. Collectively, these courses focus on developing the habits of mind and foundational concepts (HCs) that underlie four core competencies — thinking critically, thinking creatively, communicating effectively, and interacting effectively — that are a common foundation for every Minerva student.
The Cornerstones are structured to teach you to apply all four core competencies across multiple disciplines. For example, in your Formal Analyses course, which sits within Computational Sciences, you learn inductive logic. This concept, part of the critical thinking competency, is first introduced in readings and class activities about cloning, then subsequently applied to topics in artificial intelligence, the study of global pandemics, and whether money makes people happy. In this way, a single concept is explored across various fields — biology, computer science, public health, and psychology. Further, inductive logic may be invoked and graded in any other Cornerstone course, as well as the courses you take in future years.
Irrespective of the major you intend to pursue, the Cornerstone courses — 32 units in all — provide the breadth and depth of knowledge that will be your academic foundation for the three years to follow. From this base of understanding, you will construct a personalized course of study, with each semester building upon the previous ones.
In your second year, you will work with your academic advisor to explore and then select a major, setting the direction for the major core courses you need to complete your degree. Each of the five majors — Arts & Humanities, Business, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences — has been designed to teach you the broad skills and concepts pertinent to that field, while enabling multiple paths to expertise via the concentrations within. This combination of breadth and depth provides a level of flexibility not possible with traditional majors, such as psychology or accounting.
You will continue to develop a disciplinary focus in year three when you select a concentration within your major. The concentrations, which enable more directed work in your chosen field, are more analogous to the majors found at other universities. However, unlike those narrow specializations, at Minerva you learn practical knowledge that can be applied across each major field and to emergent categories within them.
For example, in Computational Sciences, the Data Science and Statistics concentration teaches you to analyze, design, and exploit the infrastructure and technologies required to harness massive amounts of data. These capabilities — extracting and exploiting insights hidden within “big data” — are broadly relevant to nearly every major organization in the world and are the basis for numerous growing industries.
Work on your Capstone project — the culmination of your studies — also begins in the Focus year. In a pair of two-unit courses, you will explore many possibilities and define your vision for this original work, which serves as a bridge to your professional life after Minerva.
Your final year at Minerva centers on completing your self-directed Capstone project. By envisioning, planning, and producing an integrated application of your skills and interests, you are able to create something that is both personally compelling and truly novel to your field. Whether you choose to write an original screenplay, the code for a disruptive technology, an analysis of the most pressing research questions in an academic field, or the business plan for a bold social venture, the idea and implementation are yours to lead. In addition to the project, you write a paper that includes a compelling analytical explanation of your approach to, and the significance of, your Capstone project. The key requirement of your project is that it be a novel contribution to the field.
This effort is complemented by two Tutorial courses per major (for majors other than Business) and any remaining elective courses. The Tutorials are collaborative, student-driven explorations of specific topics; you will work with your professor to select the subject matter and specific readings. For students majoring in Business, Tutorials are replaced by a required business practicum.
The Capstone is completed and presented during Manifest, a month-long term that takes place in San Francisco, following the spring semester of year four. During this celebratory conclusion to your Minerva experience, you present your Capstone work to an audience of faculty, fellow students, and members of the broader community. Your Capstone project will then be evaluated according to the standards relevant to your chosen field. A successful Capstone will effectively propel you into the next stage of your professional life.