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Cornell University

CTLC Philosophy and History

A person on a high element at the challenge course

Our Philosophy

Cornell's Team & Leadership Center provides programming that is experiential, engaging and often kinesthetic (though not strenuous). We cultivate reflective practitioners who can draw parallels between the activities provided and the 'real world' situations with which the group is faced, seeking always to provide opportunities for teamwork, leadership and growth. As an offering of Cornell Outdoor Education (COE), we are also guided by a strong commitment to teamwork, excellence, caring, responsibility and health & wellness.

Our History

Cornell Outdoor Education (COE) is one of the oldest collegiate outdoor education programs in the United States.

CTLC's roots begin in late 1970's, when Cornell Outdoor Education collaborated with the Cayuga Nature Center to construct a low and high element challenge course facility for a variety of course offerings, including Basic Mountaineering and Teambuilding.

In the late 1980's, COE began expanding its offerings to professional and corporate groups. In response to growing demand, COE developed teamwork and leadership model-based curricula and assembled activities that could be set up at any location.

In 1994, a strategic plan that prioritized ambitious growth for experiential teamwork and leadership development programs was adopted. Karl Johnson '89 was hired to serve as the first full-time director of Teambuilding and Professional Development Programs, a position that COE advisory board members later endowed in honor of former COE Executive Director Dan Tillemans. In 1997, six years after building the Lindseth Climbing Wall on Cornell's central campus, COE constructed the largest university-based challenge course in the United States. The Hoffman Challenge Course, made possible by a gift from COE advisory board member Robert C. Hoffman '58, has 50 elements, including 20 high elements, a 64-foot high replica of Cornell's McGraw clock tower complete with "tree-fort" platform, and a 400-foot long dual zipline. 

three people sit in the three windows of a wooden tower, attached to zip lines. There is a clock with roman numerals painted on the tower underneath them.

Today, COE serves thousands of participants every year in a wide variety of experiential teamwork and leadership development programs. These programs range from recreational team retreats to intensive, multi-day leadership development programs. Our clientele range from local youth and student groups to Fortune 500 corporations and government agencies. In order to distinguish our services and to continue providing the best service possible to our clients, we now more fully integrate the experiential activities that are the core of our programs with various diagnostic and psychometric instruments. Our trainers are certified to administer a variety of such instruments, including Situational Leadership® II, Emotional Intelligence, and the highly respected Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI). In 2011, we expanded our offerings to include academic leadership courses at Cornell.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at the Cornell Team and Leadership Center

Cornell Outdoor Education (COE) believes in the power of the outdoors and adventure-based programming as a means to create transformational experiences in the lives of individuals and groups. Through our programs and partnerships, COE continually strives to expand opportunities for all students to challenge themselves and grow as leaders. We believe that as we prioritize diversityequity, and inclusion, COE will become an on-campus focal point for all students to develop practical leadership skills. We are committed to guaranteeing access to the full COE experience for all students.