Minerva Schools at KGI

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Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute
Minerva Schools at KGI Seal.png
Seal of Minerva Schools at KGI
Latin: Universitas Minervae
Other name
Minerva Schools at KGI
Motto Sapientia Critica
Motto in English
Critical Wisdom
Type Private
Established 2012
Dean Stephen Kosslyn
Undergraduates around 500
Location San Francisco, California, U.S.
Website http://minerva.kgi.edu/
Logo for Minerva Schools at KGI.png

The Minerva Schools at KGI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit university program that was founded in partnership between the Minerva Project and Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), a member of the Claremont University Consortium.[1][2] It offers both a four-year undergraduate program as well as two master's programs.[3][4] Minerva’s founder, former Snapfish president Ben Nelson, has referred to it as "the first elite American university to be launched in a century."[5] Larry Summers, former Harvard University President and United States Secretary of the Treasury, chaired its first advisory board, joined by Bob Kerrey, former Democratic senator from Nebraska and president of the New School.[6] In 2017, the school had a 2% admission rate and a 57% acceptance yield.[7]


In April 2012, Minerva Project received US$25,000,000 in venture funding from Benchmark Capital to create the undergraduate program that would become the Minerva Schools at KGI.[2][8] Stephen Kosslyn joined Minerva in March 2013 to serve as Founding Dean. Prior to joining Minerva, Kosslyn served as Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and Dean of Social Sciences at Harvard University. Kosslyn was responsible for hiring the heads of the four colleges in the School of Arts & Science and overseeing the development of Minerva's seminar-based curriculum.[9] In July 2013, Minerva Project partnered with the Keck Graduate Institute to officially launch the Minerva Schools at KGI.[10]

Minerva received WASC regional accreditation for five of its programs: the Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences, the Bachelor of Arts in Arts and Humanities, the Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences, the Bachelor of Science in Computational Sciences, and the Bachelor of Science in Business.[11]

For its 2014 Founding Class, Minerva received 2,464 applications and granted 69 acceptances resulting in a 2.8% acceptance rate making Minerva "the most selective undergraduate program in U.S. history."[12] The school's Founding Class matriculated in Fall 2014, numbering 29 students, each of whom received a full four-year scholarship.

An additional US$70,000,000 in funding to the Minerva Schools at KGI was announced in October 2014.[13]

In 2015, Minerva admitted 220 students out of 11,000 applicants – a 2% acceptance rate. According to founder Ben Nelson, this low 2% acceptance rate has continued in both 2016 and 2017, making Minerva the most selective undergraduate program in the Western World.[14][7]

Starting in 2016, Minerva expanded into postgraduate education by offering a Master of Science In Applied Analyses and Decision Making. The 20-month, part-time program emphasizes research, analysis, and practical decision-making.[15][4]

Some confuse Minerva Schools at KGI as for-profit, when in fact it holds a 501(c)(3) status. Minerva Project is for-profit.[citation needed]


Stephen Kosslyn is the first Dean of Faculty and was responsible for hiring the first four heads of the School of Arts & Science:[16][17]

  • Dr. Brian Ross as Dean of Social Sciences[18]
  • Dr. Richard Holman as Dean of Computational Sciences[19]
  • Dr. Vicki Chandler as Dean of Natural Sciences[20]
  • Dr. Judith Brown as Dean of Arts and Humanities.[21]
  • Dr. John Percival as Dean of Business[22]

In January 2015, Minerva announced the hiring of Dr. Vicki Chandler as Dean of the College of Natural Sciences.[23] Chandler was previously the Chief Program Officer of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and a Professor in the Departments of Plant Sciences and the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona.

Tenure is not available, and faculty are hired under three-year contracts.[23] Professors are trained to use Minerva's proprietary learning platform, The Active Learning Forum.[23] Faculty retain intellectual property rights to their research.[23][24] Minerva does not employ any librarians,[23] relying instead on the library services at Claremont, parent of KGI.


Courses are conducted as online seminars capped at 19 students. Minerva applies a 1972 study[25] that shows that memory is enhanced by “deep” cognitive tasks. Such tasks include working with material, applying it, and arguing about it instead of rote memorization. All classes begin with a short quiz, with potentially a second one later in the class, that is claimed to increase retention. The automated recording of student performance allows tracking of progress.

Students initially take four “Cornerstone Courses” that introduce "Habits of Mind" and "Foundational Concepts" that cut across the sciences and humanities. In a science class, for example, students develop an understanding of the need for controlled experiments. In a humanities class, they learn the classical techniques of rhetoric and develop basic persuasive skills. The curriculum then builds from that foundation. Minerva encourages students to use massive open online courses to learn what is typically taught in first-year courses.[23]

According to its Dean of Faculty, Stephen Kosslyn, Minerva has administered CLA+ tests on its own students and these results indicate that its pedagogy is working. Kossyln writes: "In fall 2016, Minerva freshmen performed in the 95th percentile compared to freshmen at other schools — we are highly selective, and expected a result like this. That same group, when compared to college seniors, performed at the 78th percentile as incoming freshmen. Then, by spring 2017, just 8 months later, those same Minerva freshmen performed at the 99th percentile when compared to the seniors at all the other institutions. But more than that: Minerva was ranked number 1 of all schools that administered the test."[26]


Minerva maintains two residence halls in San Francisco, California, one in the Nob Hill neighborhood and one on Market Street, as well as one in Berlin and Buenos Aires. Further residence halls are planned to open in Seoul, Hyderabad[27] and London.[23] Istanbul was removed from the list of prospective cities in July 2016 following political instability in Turkey.

Minerva has no classroom facilities, since all classes are conducted through an active learning platform developed by the school, focused on participation and intellectual engagement.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jackson, Abby. "This college startup has a 1.9% acceptance rate, making it tougher to get into than Harvard". BusinessInsider. Retrieved 2 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Farr, Christina (6 January 2014). "This entrepreneur is trying to create a 'perfect university' to displace Harvard & Yale". VentureBeat. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Academic Programs | Minerva Schools at KGI". www.minerva.kgi.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  4. ^ a b "Minerva Master of Science Graduate Program". www.minerva.kgi.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  5. ^ Weissmann, Jordan (5 April 2012). "Can This 'Online Ivy' University Change the Face of Higher Education?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Empson, Rip (April 3, 2012). "With $25M From Benchmark And Larry Summers Advising, Can Minerva Build An Online Ivy?". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Schools, Minerva (2017-06-23). "A Letter From Founder Ben Nelson to the Minerva Community". Medium. Retrieved 2017-10-12. 
  8. ^ Buchanan, Leigh (Oct 30, 2012). "A True Elite Education at Half the Price". Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "Minerva Project Names Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn as Founding Dean" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Minerva Project and KGI Partner to Launch the Minerva Schools at KGI" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  11. ^ "Statement of Accreditation Status Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences". Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "Minerva Schools at KGI Admit Founding Class" (PDF). Minerva Schools at KGI. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  13. ^ "Minerva Project Announces $70 Million in Additional Funding" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  14. ^ "San Francisco start-up Minerva 'more selective than Ivy League'". Financial Times. Retrieved 17 August 2016. 
  15. ^ "Minerva Schools at KGI Offer New Master of Science In Applied Analyses and Decision Making". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-04-09. 
  16. ^ "Minerva Project names Dr. Stephen Kosslyn as Founding Dean". 
  17. ^ "Future of Higher Education Forum Features Minerva Schools". Georgetown. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  18. ^ KGI, Minerva Schools at. "Minerva Schools at KGI Announce Appointments of Two New Deans". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-02-11. 
  19. ^ KGI, Minerva Schools at. "Minerva Continues to Grow its Academic Team, Announces Two Appointments". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-02-11. 
  20. ^ KGI, Minerva Schools at. "Minerva Schools at KGI Names Vicki Chandler Dean of the College of Natural Sciences". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-02-11. 
  21. ^ KGI, Minerva Schools at. "Minerva Schools at KGI Names Judith C. Brown Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-02-12. 
  22. ^ KGI, Minerva Schools at. "Minerva Schools at KGI Announce Appointments of Two New Deans". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2017-02-11. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g Wood, Graeme (August 13, 2014). "The Future of College?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-08-16. 
  24. ^ Roush, Wade (18 April 2014). "Minerva's Plan to Disrupt Universities: A Talk With CEO Ben Nelson". Xconomy. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  25. ^ Craik, F. I. M.; Lockhart, R. S. (1972). "Levels of processing: A framework for memory research". Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior. 11 (6): 671. doi:10.1016/S0022-5371(72)80001-X. 
  26. ^ Schools, Minerva (2017-10-10). "Minerva Delivers More Effective Learning. Test Results Prove It". Medium. Retrieved 2017-10-12. 
  27. ^ "Minerva schools to open next year". Telangana Today. 2017-02-20. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 

External links[edit]