Overview | From the Dean | Frequently Asked Questions


  • Cornerstone classes are taught by full-time faculty starting in a student’s first year.
  • Students develop a community through living in the same residence hall, and learning together in common courses with a distinct faculty group.
  • Cornerstone students participate in select trips and experiential learning activities, along with enhanced opportunities for internships and study abroad.
  • Students develop exceptional writing and critical thinking skills, and the ability to examine diverse opinions with reasoned thought as they relate to complex concepts and challenges facing the world today.
  • Students who complete the program graduate with the prestigious designation “Cornerstone Scholar,” and the ability to propose real solutions to society’s most pressing challenges.
  • Employers and graduate school programs will take note of the unique and enhanced learning experience that comes with graduating as a Cornerstone Scholar.
  • The Cornerstone Program fosters a love of lifelong learning.

From the Dean

The Cornerstone Program is an innovative and interdisciplinary program enhanced by a humanities-centered path of study that aligns with each scholar’s academic interests, uniquely preparing them for success in today’s challenging workforce or in graduate school.

In addition to Gateway Courses and Pathways offered exclusively to Cornerstone students, students will enjoy several benefits that come with this highly engaged college experience. Among them is the opportunity to develop a community through living in the same residence hall, and learning together in common courses with a distinct faculty group. Some of our most renowned teachers are enthusiastically committed to this program.

I encourage you to learn more about the Cornerstone Program on this website. Or, if you have any questions about the Cornerstone Program, please contact me at 202-319-5115 or by email at cua-cornerstoneprogram@cua.edu.

With best wishes,
Thomas W. Smith, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Arts and Sciences 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much harder are Cornerstone courses?

Cornerstone courses are not about degree of difficulty, but about depth. The courses allow for seminar-style discussion and require engagement, and because the Pathway courses align with a student’s interests and career goals, they lead to a highly rewarding academic experience.

What are the requirements for maintaining Cornerstone status?

Once students are admitted to the program, the only requirement is successful completion of coursework as defined by University Policy.

What requirements can Cornerstone courses fulfill?

Students receive regular credit for all of the courses they take in the Cornerstone Program. Depending on the school and major, these courses may fulfill general education requirements, substitute for courses in a student’s major, or count as free electives.

Do I need to balance Cornerstone requirements with my major and minor?

Cornerstone courses are designed to complement your degree requirements. Your advisor will work with you to ensure your schedule is manageable and that your Cornerstone courses are integrated into your chosen program of study.

What are the requirements for earning the title of "Cornerstone Scholar"?

Cornerstone students who take Transformative Texts 1 and 2 and complete the Medical Humanities, Global Scholars, or Politics, Philosophy & Economics Pathways will receive the designation of "Cornerstone Scholar." Students on the Research Scholars pathway must take Transformative Texts 1 and complete the Pathway to be recognized as "Cornerstone Scholars."

Can I join both the Cornerstone Program and the University Honors Program?

No, not simultaneously. Since both programs are living and learning communities, students can only be in one program. Both programs also offer the possibility of applying to join in the freshman or sophomore year and the Cornerstone staff is happy to support any Cornerstone students who wish to apply to the Honors Program and welcome any students who want to join Cornerstone after admission.

We know you may have more questions about this exciting program. We invite you to contact us.