Academic Programs
Philosophy & Pedagogy

Acquire Practical Knowledge

Our academic philosophy is student-oriented. It centers on imparting practical knowledge that prepares you for success in any career you pursue — even one that does not yet exist. Instead of the traditional emphasis on information dissemination, Minerva focuses on developing your abilities to think critically and creatively, to communicate effectively, and to work well with others. These aspects of your education are far more important than simply memorizing facts and concepts because they provide a set of practical and adaptable skills, together with an understanding of how to apply them in the world.


of employers said a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than a job candidate's degree.

Source: 2013 study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities

Today, information is abundant and easy to access; content has become a commodity. Instead of memorizing content, you will gain the four core competencies needed for leadership, innovation, broadly adaptive learning, and global citizenship. We have divided these competencies — critical thinking, creative thinking, effective communication, and effective interaction — into an extensive set of teachable components, the learning objectives that underlie the Minerva curriculum.

The core competencies are the very same skills being sought by top global organizations because they are recognized as critical for success in our rapidly-evolving, interconnected world.

A Structured Approach

By reinforcing the learning objectives — a set of “foundational concepts” you can build on for the rest of your life and a set of automatic mental skills called “habits of mind” — Minerva helps you build a robust foundation for future success. Together, the habits of mind and foundational concepts (HCs) form the basis of what we teach in all fields of study.

In addition to learning the HCs, you also gain a breadth of understanding across disciplines and cultures, as well as depth in the areas you are most passionate about. Through a mix of interdisciplinary exploration and concentrated study, you gain diverse knowledge across fields and expertise in your selected domain.

The Science of Active Learning

Effective learning does not come from the passive absorption of facts, yet most classes at top universities are large lectures devoted to disseminating static content. At Minerva, the pedagogic model is flipped. Classes are devoted to discussing, debating, and collaboratively working on topics learned from assignments you complete outside of class time.

This teaching methodology is the result of decades of cognitive and behavioral research in the science of learning. Your active participation in class and engagement with the course material fosters better understanding and retention of key concepts, as well as an ability to apply those concepts to practical — and entirely novel — situations. This “far transfer” of applied thinking is the hallmark of deep understanding.

Another benefit of our scientific approach is rapid and frequent feedback, where you gain insight into your performance and progress frequently and in weekly office hours with your professors. These are opportunities to review your assignments and discuss your performance in class, helping you respond to criticism, build on your strengths, and continue your intellectual growth.

Joy in class on ALF
“The students, not the professors, are the focal point of each seminar. We are constantly encouraged to participate, which is one of the many ways our classes are different from the traditional lectures at other institutions.”
Joy Okoro
Class of 2019
Lagos, Nigeria

Photo: Shaul Schwarz/Getty

The Components of Competency

As the basis for your academic development, the learning objectives (HCs during the first year; content-based goals thereafter) become a common vernacular shared across courses and cohorts. Each of these components is assigned a hashtag that you can use as a shorthand for the learning objective. For instance, an aspect of critical thinking is being able to analyze alternative choices and identify their respective trade-offs. Part of weighing each choice is considering the different types of future costs and benefits for all stakeholders and reacting accordingly. This habit (H) is described at length, but is simply labeled by the shorthand: #utility. Thus, when discussing decision making, you may refer to #utility as an aspect of your thinking.

There are nearly 80 of these HCs, each with a direct relationship to one of the four core competencies. Through deliberate practice and application, you will incorporate them into the way you approach challenges — and they will inform how you view the world around you.

Applications for Fall 2023 are now open.

Are you ready for a challenge?