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Enacting Change:
Tailoring Your MPA to Focus on Policy in the United States

Leading Through Political Conflict: Can You Handle It?


In the United States, today’s tough political climate demands public servants with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead and manage change through conflict. Are you ready for this challenge?

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) is a rigorous, professional, post-graduate degree that prepares students for interdisciplinary careers working in the public interest. An MPA prepares individuals for management and leadership careers across the field of public affairs — in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

An MPA program values diversity of thought and experience. Relative to other professional degrees, the MPA is far more interdisciplinary, drawing on the fields of economics, finance, management, political science, and psychology. By promoting this interdisciplinary perspective, the MPA provides students with the tools required to navigate conflict and bring people together to improve lives.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

An MPA program values diversity of thought and experience. Relative to other professional degrees, the MPA is far more interdisciplinary, drawing on the fields of economics, finance, management, political science, and psychology. To learn more about what it would mean for you to pursue an MPA, we invite you to request more information today.

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Domestic Policy — Defined

One of the unique characteristics of working in the field of public affairs is the need to promote the interests of the organization and people you work for in the midst of turbulent political conflict. In the United States, this conflict has engendered bitter, bipartisan struggles across many spaces: education, healthcare, immigration, infrastructure, national security, and the environment, to name a few.

While these struggles rage among elected officials, those doing the “business of government” are working hard to implement safer labor and employment laws, promote criminal justice reform to protect the rights of children, advocate for mitigation against climate change, improve infrastructure in the United States, and advance gender equality. In many ways, these impact-driven, mission-focused individuals “doing the business of government” play an important role in the wheels of change. To enact meaningful domestic policy reform, however, you need to have the relevant skills and background. So, how can you best gain the practical skills you need to turn your idealism into reality?

Particularly in today’s tumultuous and polarized political climate, getting an MPA is one of the most effective and results-oriented graduate degrees for students aiming to pursue a career in the public or nonprofit sectors.

This interdisciplinary degree places a strong emphasis on law, policy, and economics, allowing students to gain a comprehensive, nuanced, and detailed understanding of the political, economic, and social dynamics that shape the United States.

Solutions to our world’s most pressing public affairs challenges are implemented via a complex network of public, private, and nonprofit organizations. The MPA provides graduates with the hard and soft skills required to forge these solutions across sectors in a strategic, mission-oriented, and equitable manner. We foster the development of innovative ideas and tools that really matter for improving the political, economic, environmental, and social climate of our world.

A key component of an MPA program is experiential learning. Internships, externships, fellowships, consulting opportunities, and other hands-on experiences help to prepare students to take an active role in shaping domestic policy before and after graduation.

An Educational Guide for Future Leader in Public Affairs

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If you're interested in pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree and a future career in public affairs, we invite you to download and explore our interactive digital resource: An Educational Guide for Future Leaders in Public Affairs.

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The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

Our graduates experience tremendous success finding employment across many key areas of public policy including education, healthcare, criminal justice, sustainability, infrastructure, and economic policy. If you are looking for an opportunity to make valuable contributions to the world around you, then you should make CIPA the next step in your career.”—Maria Fitzpatrick, CIPA Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management

Cornell University is located in Ithaca, New York, a vibrant town that offers the perfect backdrop for two years of concentrated graduate study. Ithaca is also just a short drive or bus ride from many major, metropolitan areas (four hours to NYC, Philadelphia and Toronto; six hours to Washington, DC). Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology is home to a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, all dedicated to preparing students to improve human’s lives by exploring and shaping human connections to natural, social, and built environments.

A unit within the College of Human Ecology, the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) offers a two-year program of study leading to the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. Cornell’s MPA program prepares individuals for management and leadership careers in public service. The MPA offers a solid foundation of core coursework in management, economics and finance, and quantitative analysis.

Cornell’s MPA places a strong emphasis on experiential learning. Real-world consulting opportunities, internships, off-campus study, and Capstone experiences help you develop the skill set you need to be successful in your future careers, and provide relevant material for inclusion in résumés and job interviews. Cornell’s interdisciplinary curriculum also affords you the opportunity to work with renowned faculty across many different departments, schools, and colleges at Cornell, which is among the largest and most diverse of the Ivy League universities.

EIGHT CONCENTRATION OPTIONS

CIPA allows you to choose from eight options and pursue specialized courses to develop expertise in your selected area. Within each of these concentrations, you have the flexibility to formulate a personalized study plan. With the guidance of your advisor, you select a set of five courses that offer you the specialized knowledge you need to achieve your personal goals within a concentration.

There is no one correct or "best" set of courses for any given concentration because students' backgrounds vary as do their goals. It is important that you give serious thought to crafting a set of classes that are complementary and that provides you with a base of knowledge and skills from which you can further improve your professional and personal capabilities.

The goal is for you to leave CIPA prepared to compete as one of the best-of-the-best in your respective field, recognizing that in the course of your career you may make several changes in focus and direction. The CIPA curriculum is designed to balance generalizable knowledge and skills with more specific applications to particular areas of public affairs.

Government, Politics and Policy Studies
International Development Studies 
Science, Technology and Infrastructure Policy
Economic and Financial Policy
Environmental Policy
Human Rights and Social Justice
Public and Nonprofit Management
Social Policy

CONCENTRATIONS FOR POLICYMAKERS IN THE UNITED STATES

While a variety of these concentrations are strategic choices for future leaders in domestic policy, we’ll focus on a few that have proven to prepare tomorrow’s domestic US policy professionals for success.

Social Policy

Those who choose to participate in the Social Policy concentration learn an array of tools and policy history required for designing, managing, and evaluating programs in their choice of social policy area which include health, nutrition, education, poverty alleviation, aging, criminal justice, and others. Much of the fundamental material in this concentration introduces students to problem formulation, identification of policy alternatives to address social concerns, cost-benefit analysis and other tools needed to evaluate policy alternatives and policy implementation strategies.

 

Note: For a look at one student’s experience in the Social Policy concentration, take a look at this blog article that discusses one student’s summer internship — Summer Internship: Harlem Youth Court Offers Window Into Education Policy.

Learn More

Science, Technology and Infrastructure Policy

The STIP concentration is intended to assist MPA students in developing the knowledge and skills to work in policy/project analysis, project planning, implementation (including financing and construction) and operations in the areas of science, technology and infrastructure policy. Students can approach the concentration from various perspectives, drawing on Cornell's strengths in engineering, finance, planning, economics, environmental and resource management, policy analysis, and sustainability studies. MPA graduates with this concentration will be equipped to work in either the public or private sector and across those sectors.

 

Note: In this article, a CIPA Visiting Scholar who oversees the CIPA Graduate Certificate program in Infrastructure Project Management and Finance gives us a closer look at his experience working public affairs: Meet an Infrastructure Policy Expert — John Foote.

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Public and Nonprofit Management

Students participating in the Public and Nonprofit Management concentration tailor their studies for careers as general managers in the public sector or as leaders of domestic or international nonprofit organizations. In this concentration, students acquire a strong set of budgeting, investment, debt financing, and data-driven analytical skills as well as managerial skills including negotiations, leadership, staffing, and compensation skills. In addition to these specific skills, students will gain an understanding of the broad political, economic, and regulatory factors that affect the sector in which they are working.


Note: Read our story, Q&A with a Current CIPA Student: Molly Conlin, for a closer look at one student’s journey to make a difference in the nonprofit sector.

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Human Rights and Social Justice

MPA students who choose a concentration in Human Rights and Social Justice focus on human rights, which, although often assumed to be universal, remain controversial in domestic and world politics. Students in this concentration study policies that support the expansion of human rights and the elimination of all forms of discrimination, such as those based on gender, race, class, religion, ethnicity, caste, sexual orientation, disability or marital status both domestically and internationally, and work toward ensuring equal opportunities before the law and in society-at-large. Students pursuing this concentration also analyze the political and economic constraints that stand in the way of the full realization of human rights and learn to serve as advocates for alleviating political, economic, and social inequality.


Note: If you’re thinking about a career in social justice advocacy, explore this story about one MPA student: Gender Equality is Focus of Summer Internship at United Nations Women.

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Economic and Financial Policy

MPA students concentrating in Economic and Financial Policy explore ways in which public policy affects economic and financial decision making, and vice versa. Students may study these policy issues at the level of international organizations, federal/state/local government, non-governmental organizations or the private sector. MPA students can draw on the broad CIPA faculty strength in this area and further identify a public affairs focus. This can include 1) economic policy, public economics and public finance, 2) finance and financial policy, and 3) international economics.


Note: Our recent blog article, How I chose My Concentration in Economic & Financial Policy, examines one student’s experience in Cornell’s MPA program and how he chose a concentration that focused on advanced economic notions.

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PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT COURSEWORK

At CIPA, we’re dedicated to teaching the “nuts and bolts” of professional development and career advancement.

CIPA students are required to take two semester-long courses (or equivalent) that focus on strengthening professional preparation, which many include statistical, analytical, or mathematical skills, professional writing or speaking, leadership or management, or additional skills or knowledge needed for a fellow’s selected concentration. CIPA students may also want to consider including a course from the list of General Concentration courses or from the list of Public and Nonprofit Management courses as one of their two specialized/professional development courses.

THE CIPA CAPSTONE

To earn the MPA degree, CIPA students must complete a “Professional Writing” requirement. Of the options available, most students choose to participate in the CIPA Capstone. A semester-long program for second-year students, the Capstone engages participants in rigorous consultancy projects for either domestic or international clients. Students work on teams conducting research on well-defined policy or management problems posed by their clients, and develop proposals for relevant and actionable solutions.

MPA Capstone & Public Engagement Guide

DOWNLOAD THE CORNELL MPA CAPSTONE & PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT GUIDE

At the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, we value experiential learning. Download and explore this guide in order to learn more about our Capstone and our dedication to public engagement.

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EXTERNSHIPS AND INTERNSHIPS

One of the unique features of the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs is its dedication to experiential learning, revealed in the vast and diverse externship and internship options available to CIPA students. The CIPA Office of Career Management works one-on-one with graduate students to integrate real-world experience into their program of study.

MPA Employment & Internship Overview Guide

DOWNLOAD THE CORNELL MPA EMPLOYMENT & INTERNSHIP OVERVIEW GUIDE

At Cornell University, we start by asking you to articulate your career aspirations, then work backwards to help you achieve your goals! Download and explore this guide to learn more about the Cornell MPA internship opportunities.

View Resource


Externships:
Students who choose to spend a semester in one of CIPA’s off-campus study programs earn academic credit while completing an externship.

The current representative externship locations for MPA students hoping to work in domestic policy are:

  • Washington D.C.
  • New York City, NY
  • Albany, New York

Internships: To fulfill the Practical Experience component of the degree, most students choose to complete an internship in the summer between the first and second year of study or to do an externship while enrolled in one of CIPA’s off-campus semester programs. The CIPA Office of Career Management will assist you through each phase of your internship search.

Recent representative internship opportunities include:

  1. Amazon.com, Inc.
  2. American Civil Liberties Union of VA
  3. Boston Redevelopment Authority
  4. Brookings Institute
  5. City of New York, Office of Management and Budget
  1.  Chicago Mayor’s Office Fellowship Program
  2. Congressional Research Services
  3. Environmental Defense Fund
  4. New York City Department of Education
  5. U.S. Government Accountability Office

SUBSCRIBE TO PUBLIC POLICY IN ACTION

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Faculty Spotlight

Because CIPA is an interdisciplinary program, our Fellows take courses from a wide variety of faculty members across the university. CIPA core faculty members provide cohesion to the program and coherence in academic advising. Field faculty members represent colleges, departments, and related disciplines across campus; in addition to offering policy coursework specific to their particular field of study, these field members also serve as thesis advisors.

Maria Fitzpatrick

MARIA FITZPATRICK:
DIRECTOR OF THE CORNELL INSTITUTE
FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Maria Donovan Fitzpatrick is an Associate Professor in the Department of Policy and Management, Milman Fellow at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.  She is also an Affiliate in the CESifo Research Network, the Cornell Populations Center, the Center for the Study of Inequality, and the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. Her main area of focus is the economics of education. Specifically her research focuses on early childhood education policies, higher education and teacher compensation, benefits and labor supply.

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Maria Fitzpatrick

MARIA FITZPATRICK:
DIRECTOR OF THE CORNELL INSTITUTE
FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Maria Donovan Fitzpatrick is an Associate Professor in the Department of Policy and Management, Milman Fellow at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.  She is also an Affiliate in the CESifo Research Network, the Cornell Populations Center, the Center for the Study of Inequality, and the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research. Her main area of focus is the economics of education. Specifically her research focuses on early childhood education policies, higher education and teacher compensation, benefits and labor supply.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and attend college?
I was born in Detroit, but we moved to Cleveland, OH when I was 4. So, I grew up in Cleveland and have a lot of hometown pride (as almost all Clevelanders do). I went to UNC-Chapel Hill for college, and there's still a part of me that considers North Carolina a second home.

Did you pursue an MPA? If so, where? / If not, what is your background in higher education?
I have always been interested in policy.  After I got my BA in Economics, I moved to D.C. to work at the Brookings Institution for a couple of years. It was great to be so close to the federal government — I learned a lot about policymaking. That confirmed for me that I wanted to go back to graduate school to be able to help understand how effective policy is (or isn't). So, I went to the University of Virginia and got my MA and PhD in Economics.

What courses do you teach for CIPA students?
Currently, I'm the Director of CIPA, so I get to spend a lot of time with CIPA students. Before I took over as Director, I taught CIPA courses on microeconomics and education policy. Many of my students in my education policy course were students concentrating in Social Policy, one of our more popular concentrations.

What inspired you to teach for the MPA program and what do you most enjoy about it?
I am very committed to the responsibility of academics and Universities to engage with the world and communicate our research and findings in ways that can be useful. I think our MPA students are the embodiment of that goal — they are the living connection between Cornell, and the research we do here, and policymaking in the rest of the world. I most enjoy getting to know the students, learning from their experiences, and helping prepare them with the knowledge to take the next step in their careers.

Did you pursue a career in the field of policy at some point, in addition to pursuing an academic career?
As I mentioned earlier, I spent two years in Washington D.C. at a think tank. It was a great opportunity to learn about policy issues and how the U.S. government works.

What research projects are you currently pursuing?
Currently, I am working on several projects. In one, I am investigating the role of teachers in identifying and reporting child maltreatment. Given that nearly 4 in 10 children experience maltreatment at some point in their lives, this is an important problem. Early detection is key in stopping maltreatment and in helping children recover from its negative effects, and our work shows that teachers play an important role in helping identify abuse and maltreatment. In another set of projects, I am examining the effectiveness of teachers at improving other life outcomes for students — both behavioral and work-related outcomes. And, in a final set of work, I’m looking at how school spending changes when districts are required to spend additional money on teacher pensions. Since the cost of teacher pensions is only likely to grow in coming years, it is important to understand how spending on other school related things — teacher salaries, buildings, etc. — is affected.

Why do you think work in domestic policy is important?
I think ALL policy work is important. I work on domestic policy because it’s what I know. Also, we are one of the richest nations in the world but have social and fiscal problems like those of our much less wealthy counterparts. I think policy should work to help solve those problems.

Compared to other MPA programs, what do you believe sets CIPA apart?
The sense of community. All of our staff, faculty, and alumni are very supportive and hardworking. That makes CIPA a great place for students to building their networks, skills, and knowledge base for the next step in their careers.

Lastly, what’s your favorite thing about being at Cornell? About living in Ithaca?
My favorite thing about Cornell is the diversity — diversity of knowledge, of ideas, of culture, and of community. It makes for a rich environment where I am learning from the people around me on a daily basis. My favorite thing about Ithaca is the natural beauty, and the sense of community that fosters. It’s rare that one would get to live in a place with so many exquisite natural wonders — trees, streams, gorges, hills, and even snow. It’s all beautiful.

Richard-geddes-border-new

RICHARD GEDDES: PROFESSOR AND FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF THE CORNELL PROGRAM IN INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY

Raymond Richard Geddes (Rick) lives in Ithaca, New York where he teaches at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. He serves as a professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University and is the Founding Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy (CPIP). He holds MA and Ph.D. degrees in economics from the University of Chicago, and prior to joining the CIPA community, he served as a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisors during the 2004-2005 academic year and was a commissioner on the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission.

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Richard-geddes-border-new

RICHARD GEDDES: PROFESSOR AND FOUNDING DIRECTOR OF THE CORNELL PROGRAM IN INFRASTRUCTURE POLICY

Raymond Richard Geddes (Rick) lives in Ithaca, New York where he teaches at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs. He serves as a professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University and is the Founding Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy (CPIP). He holds MA and Ph.D. degrees in economics from the University of Chicago, and prior to joining the CIPA community, he served as a senior economist at the Council of Economic Advisors during the 2004-2005 academic year and was a commissioner on the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your name and hometown?
My name is Raymond Richard Geddes, but I go by Rick. I’m originally from Baltimore, Maryland.

Did you pursue an MPA? If not, what is your background in higher education?
I have a bachelor’s in economics and finance from Towson State University, and I hold an MA and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.

What courses do you teach?
I work in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) so my job is to serve the teaching needs of that department and that includes our undergraduates in PAM. PAM Faculty are increasingly adjusting their courses to meet the needs of the CIPA master’s students. Courses are cross listed, and they count at the senior undergrad level and count at the 5k level for graduate students.

What inspired you to teach for the MPA program and what do you most enjoy about it?
I was originally only teaching Cornell undergraduate students, but I found teaching MPA students at Cornell satisfying for a variety of reasons. I appreciated that the students came from a diverse set of backgrounds and that since our MPA students tend to be a bit older and more mature, they are on a clearer career track. I really appreciated teaching MPA students who were passionate about having an immediate impact on policies in the United States and in other countries.

What kind of work did you do in public affairs prior to teaching at Cornell?
I worked at the White House in the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), which is a unit within the executive branch. I participated in economic consulting for the president at that time. As a result of that, President Bush appointed me as commissioner on the National Surface Transportation Policy & Revenue Study Commission. I was also a Fulbright Senior Scholar during the 2009-2010 academic year to study transportation public-private partnerships in Australia and a Visiting Faculty Fellow at Yale Law School during the 1995-1996 academic year.

Why do you think work in domestic policy is important?
Obviously, there are many domestic policy issues in the United States that need attention: health care, education, infrastructure, and environmental policy, for instance. As the Founding Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy, I’m obviously interested in infrastructure policy. I’m specifically interested in how infrastructure policy and environmental policy interact. For instance, professionals working in infrastructure policy have to take into account how projects will affect water and air quality and must abide by the Endangered Species Act in order to leave the habitats of endangered species undisturbed.

Compared to other MPA programs, what do you believe sets CIPA apart?
First, I think that CIPA is set apart due to the sheer breadth of the Cornell academic requirement. Cornell is a diverse university with expert faculty and a large number of departments from which students receive interdisciplinary learning.

Secondly, Cornell is a land grant university, so public engagement and service is in our DNA. We really take this seriously, and when it comes to public affairs, it’s a natural fit in the very heart and soul of what Cornell is really about. 

Lastly, what’s your favorite thing about teaching at Cornell and about the Ithaca region?
Many things: It’s probably the natural environment, by that I mean the changing of seasons and also the natural beauty of the gorges. There’s a real sense that whether you’re a student or a faculty member, you’re all kind of “in it together in the woods.”  Ithaca itself is wonderful. For a small town in Upstate New York, it really has great restaurants and wonderful music.

Laurie Miller

LAURIE MILLER: ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

Laurie Miller teaches at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs and is the Associate Director for CIPA Public Engagement and coordinator and instructor of the CIPA Capstone and Consulting for Government and Nonprofit Consulting courses.

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Laurie Miller

LAURIE MILLER: ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

Laurie Miller teaches at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs and is the Associate Director for CIPA Public Engagement and coordinator and instructor of the CIPA Capstone and Consulting for Government and Nonprofit Consulting courses.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and attend college?
I grew up in Norwell, a small town on Massachusetts’ south shore, between Boston and Cape Cod. I attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and Lesley College, then went on to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education for a master’s degree with a focus on human development.

Did you pursue an MPA? If so, where? / If not, what is your background in higher education?
While teaching and directing early education programs at the lab schools at Hampshire College and the University Massachusetts, I saw how high quality programs supported the development of young children and working parents, and wanted to help make them more accessible to all families. This drove me to pursue an MPA with a concentration in social policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Moving to New York City from a small town background in Massachusetts was a leap! I lived in NYC for 10 years, working first in housing policy as an administrator and liaison to the federal government for New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, then as a program associate and lead researcher for a three-year study of access to transitional child care benefits for families leaving TANF in several states for the Pew Charitable Trusts and Child Care Action Campaign.

What specific course do you teach for CIPA students?  How does the course fit into the MPA curriculum?
I teach CIPA’s capstone course for second-year CIPA students. In the capstone, students work in small teams on consulting projects with client agencies from the public and private sectors to come up with solutions to pressing policy or management issues. Students are able to work on a project related to their concentration and gain experience in project and team management, policy analysis, and professional writing and presentation. Students meet the CIPA writing and professional course requirements through the capstone. They also have the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve learned in their CIPA courses to address real problems while working closely with real-world professionals, in a classroom setting. For CIPA students, the capstone serves as a bridge from CIPA to their careers.

What inspired you to teach for the MPA program and what do you most enjoy about it?
I jumped at the chance to develop the capstone course at CIPA. My own capstone experience was pivotal for my career. I was able to easily begin a position in housing policy and budgeting (a new field for me) immediately after my MPA, and subsequently move between the public and private sectors and several policy areas due to the skills I gained through the capstone: namely, the ability to independently conduct policy research and analysis, manage complicated projects, and navigate dynamic organizations, professional relationships, and policy contexts. I enjoy working closely with students on their capstone projects, and witnessing their professional growth in one short semester. I also treasure having the opportunity to work with my former students when they offer projects as capstone clients

Did you pursue a career in the field of policy at some point, in addition to pursuing an academic career?
Yes, I was very fortunate to be able to pursue my dream of working in social policy, with the help of my MPA and networks of colleagues developed along the way. After working in NYC, I joined Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C. where I worked with experts, policy makers, and advocates to promote affordable and high quality child early education programs (child care, Head Start and universal pre-K). I conducted research on community-based early childhood initiatives and the coordination of federal, state, and local funding in several states, and worked with local public and private sector stakeholders to foster community collaborations. I reported on policies and their impacts to local, state, and federal policymakers; collaborated with national, state, and local organizations and governments to develop and  improve policies for young children and families; and trained and advised emerging policy leaders.

What research projects are you currently pursuing?
Current domestic research projects include studies of water contaminants, effects of wildfires on air quality, and infrastructure research in consultation with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); an impact evaluation for a college readiness program in several school districts in central New York state; a review of administrative process and efficiency for the NY State Education Department’s Office of College and University Evaluation; research on criteria for allocating federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to developers in New York City and 10 states; and compensation and administration studies for a public school system in Massachusetts, and the Town of Dryden in central New York. I’m also working on several international projects related to: climate migration in Mexico; refugee resettlement and mental health in Greece; health facility quality in Belize; transportation infrastructure and tourism in Colombia; best practices to reduce human trafficking; and increasing education, job training and employment opportunities in Uganda and Tanzania.

Why do you think work in domestic policy is important?
Effective policy interventions are needed to address challenges related to rapid environmental, technological, economic and social change, and increasing inequality. At CIPA, students can learn how to craft more effective policies based on evidence and research.

Compared to other MPA programs, what do you believe sets CIPA apart?
The people! We are a relatively small program with motivated students who want to have a positive impact in the world — and wonderfully supportive staff and faculty.

Lastly, what’s your favorite thing about being at Cornell? About living in Ithaca?
I love the fact that Cornell is a big university in a small city. I love the people here and feel lucky to be able to partner with amazingly creative and dynamic Ithacans on projects. There is a strong sense of community. There is an amazing range of opportunities to have fun on and off campus — lectures, concerts and other performances, exhibits, dancing, swimming, kayaking, biking, wine tours, and restaurants. And it’s easy to get to big cities, like Washington D.C., New York, or Toronto.

Alumni Spotlight

The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs values diversity of thought and experience, and this is exemplified in our diverse community of domestic and international students. We spoke with a couple of CIPA MPA alumni to get their thoughts on going back to school to pursue an MPA, what they found most valuable about Cornell’s MPA program, and how they plan to use their education to impact change.

j-stone-117781

JULIE STONE

Julie Stone is Jewish American and was raised in sunny Los Angeles. Her musical husband is Panamanian, and they have two children. She’s an alum of CIPA’s MPA program, and she now works at Mathematica Policy Research where she works to advance delivery systems and financing innovation in Medicaid and Medicare. We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experience in the program and about her career in domestic policy.

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j-stone-117781

JULIE STONE

Julie Stone is Jewish American and was raised in sunny Los Angeles. Her musical husband is Panamanian, and they have two children. She’s an alum of CIPA’s MPA program, and she now works at Mathematica Policy Research where she works to advance delivery systems and financing innovation in Medicaid and Medicare. We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experience in the program and about her career in domestic policy.

What did you study prior to enrolling in Cornell’s MPA program?
I did my undergraduate degree in Film and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where I had the pleasure of spending four years watching movies and reading books.

What first attracted you to Cornell’s MPA?
While in college and during the four years I spent prior to attending Cornell, I did extensive volunteer work for the San Francisco Democratic Party and served on committees and boards for a variety of Jewish organizations committed to advancing social justice. During those years, I began to realize my passion for public affairs. I became determined to give my life meaning and to strive to improve the world around me. I quickly realized that my undergraduate degree in film and comparative literature hadn’t prepared me for the world of public policy. I needed a well-rounded graduate degree to provide me with the substantive know-how to launch me into a career in the public sector. I set my mind to applying and discovered CIPA through an internet search. I called to learn more about the program and application process. The then CIPA director, Professor Arch Dotson, happened to be in the office when I called. He picked up the phone and we spoke for over an hour about the interdisciplinary and flexible nature of Cornell as well as its academic rigor. I shared information about my background, my volunteer work and passion for public policy. He warned me that if I were to come to CIPA, I would need to be trained in statistics, economics, public finance and law as I was sorely missing that in my academic background. I was so excited to broaden my education and was so surprised by the friendly and open nature of Professor Dotson that I applied immediately. At that time, CIPA had rolling admissions and I was accepted a few weeks later with a welcome call from a CIPA student. I quickly packed my bags, said my goodbyes to my Bay Area life and moved myself far away from the world I was used to. When I walked into the CIPA office and met the friendly and welcoming staff, I knew I was in the right place. I had launched myself into an extraordinary academic and personal adventure and I was so excited.

What first interested you in a career in public affairs? What drew you to work in domestic policy?
I suppose I have always had a great urge to address the challenges and troubles I see in the world right around me – homelessness, disparities in access to health care, unaddressed mental health issues, among others. I am so often frustrated by the realization that this highly-developed nation has the resources and capacity to address all these challenges but has failed to do so. What is needed is the resolve, political commitment, and know-how to get it done. I guess I have always wanted to be part of this solution, to make a difference at home in support of the people around me. CIPA provided me the training, knowledge and credibility to position myself for a strong start in this effort.

What concentration did you choose at CIPA? And why?
While at CIPA, I wavered between international development and domestic policy. My professor at the time, Dr. David Lewis, helped me understand what a big impact even small efforts could make in developing countries. I was drawn to that. At the same time, the enormous passion held by another professor, Dr. Mildred Warner, for social policy called my attention. In the end, my decision to focus on domestic policy stemmed from personal reasons: a drive to improve the world around me – the one I see and read about daily.

After completing the MPA at Cornell, where did you go on to work?
During my first and second years at CIPA, I did an internship at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a nonpartisan legislative support agency of the U.S. Congress. I then went to work at CRS full time following graduation. For over a decade, I served as one of Congress’s in-house health policy experts supporting every stage of the legislative process, from developing change concepts to writing specifications for legislation. I also trained Members of Congress and staff in Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance policy. I helped them understand the potential consequences of statutory changes on vulnerable and underrepresented populations and on state and federal budgets. In 2011, I moved with my family to San Francisco to work for the California Medicaid Research Institute, at the University of California, San Francisco. There, we sought to create linkages between Medicaid researchers and California’s Medicaid department to promote evidence-based decision-making. I then supported the transition of up to 400,000 low-income adults in Medicaid while serving as the policy director for a state association that represents California’s safety net hospitals and clinics. At Mathematica Policy Research, . I have been so lucky as to be able to help advance behavioral health integration, support health care providers in addressing social determinants of health, and assisting with the implementation of innovative models intended to improve quality, patient outcomes, and curb spending. Explain how Cornell’s MPA prepared you for mission-driven work in domestic policy. Cornell provided me with a solid grounding in economics, statistics, public administration and the law. This foundational knowledge taught me to distinguish between spin and unbiased information. It also helped me distinguish myself amidst thousands of Congressional staff. Further, my studies gave me the tools to support Members and their staff find objective evidence amidst the enormous body of bias and persuasive information for which they are bombarded on a daily basis. My time at CIPA also sparked my commitment to connecting evidence to policy-makers, a commitment that has deeply motivated me throughout my career in public policy.

Finally, what’s your favorite thing about the MPA program and Ithaca’s region?
CIPA expanded my world view. It provided me a forum to make friends from around the globe and gave us a reason to find common interests and shared views. These connections and bonds are likely to endure a lifetime. In addition, I will always be enormously grateful for the rigor of CIPA’s education. Although I complained at the time about being overwhelmed by work, my CIPA education strongly launched me into a career in public policy, setting me up to shine over and over again throughout my career. Finally, I will never forget my moments of awe and joy as I waited for the morning Cornell bus and watched the icicles glistening in the light or listened to the whispering birds singing in the mornings. For a girl born and raised in Los Angeles, where environmental noise comes from vehicles and loud voices, life in Ithaca was truly enchanting.

olinda-hassan

OLINDA HASSAN

Olinda Hassan is a CIPA alum. She was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but she now calls Arizona her home. She pursued the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs’ MPA program and now works as a Senior Policy Manager at Spotify where she addresses important policy issues in tech. She answered a few questions about what she learned at Cornell along with how she plans to use her MPA in the future.

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olinda-hassan

OLINDA HASSAN

Olinda Hassan is a CIPA alum. She was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but she now calls Arizona her home. She pursued the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs’ MPA program and now works as a Senior Policy Manager at Spotify where she addresses important policy issues in tech. She answered a few questions about what she learned at Cornell along with how she plans to use her MPA in the future.

What did you study prior to enrolling in Cornell’s MPA program?
I have a BA in International Relations and Economics from Wellesley College. I was a Fulbright Fellow in Bangladesh, teaching English and working on research in mobile technology and how it helps students in emerging markets. I was always interested in technology, so naturally, I wanted to find a way to converge my policy interest to cutting-edge advancement in technology and communication.

What first attracted you to Cornell’s MPA?
The flexibility: I liked the diverse curriculum and options that gave me just enough courses to explore my options while also building my own path during the two years. I was drawn to the strong connection to other departments and studies (i.e. Johnson School, ILR, Engineering, Hotel School) and the strong sense of ethics and connecting our world to individual purpose.

What first interested you in a career in public affairs? What drew you to work in domestic policy?
I pursued an interest that tied my background and the impact I wanted to have in society. I believe someone pursuing an MPA/MPP are those who similarly want a profession that aligns with their passion. I am originally from Bangladesh, and I spent years studying abroad in Egypt, Turkey, India, and Morocco and have always believed in the power that technology has in countries where access to information can be tricky. I have also spent years through study or family in countries where censorship was actively implemented by the government or society. Thus, social media was always an important tool for me and one I always used for my professional career.

What concentration did you choose at CIPA? And why?
Entering CIPA, I knew I would concentrate on Financial and Economic policy to help me gain the analytical and data skills needed to be in the private sector. This concentration would enhance my study of economics in undergrad and show me applicable ways to use analytical skills in the professional world.

After completing the MPA at Cornell, where did you go on to work?
I got an internship at the Trust & Safety Department at Twitter in 2013, got involved in a lot of projects, networked within the department, and was offered a full-time position upon my return from graduate school. Working at Twitter helped me realize:

  • How important policy issues were in tech, and why tech companies in Silicon Valley  needed people like us to come in with diverse viewpoints to craft policies that would affect global users,
  • About data privacy, security, and laws around the internet and how to synthesize that information for Twitter in a way that protected users while still remembering that there is a bottom line to meet,
  • How work can be fun!

Explain how Cornell’s MPA prepared you for mission-driven work in domestic policy.
The courses, as well as my peers at CIPA, helped me learn how to apply my coursework in real life. I was able to learn not just from my professors but my peers who brought in diversity of experiences to the program, from governmental, the private sector, to nonprofits and academia. CIPA courses are rigorous, but they are all tied to public engagement: It was a great way to learn and to think about how my future work can be used to serve the public. While I work in the private sector, my public affairs mindset helps me see policy issues from a perspective that thinks about our users, the world, and how we are all connected.

Finally, what’s your favorite thing about the MPA program and Ithaca’s region?
I appreciate the diversity of your peers, in job experience, age, nationalities, etc. You really learn how to engage with just about anyone from your CIPA peers. The flexibility to choose your thesis or capstone in your second year and supportive faculty to help you tie in your learnings to a deliverable that can be used in a professional setting.

The Cornell community brings in a diverse student body and speakers who are world leaders. There is always something happening whether a lecture, a concert, or a gathering to keep you excited and motivated about the world.

Jamie-Frank

JAMIE FRANK

Jamie Frank is a 31-year old CIPA alum from Tewksbury, Massachusetts. She pursued the Social Policy concentration when getting an MPA from Cornell, and she now works on the education finance team at the New York state Division of Budget.

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Jamie-Frank

JAMIE FRANK

Jamie Frank is a 31-year old CIPA alum from Tewksbury, Massachusetts. She pursued the Social Policy concentration when getting an MPA from Cornell, and she now works on the education finance team at the New York state Division of Budget.

What did you study prior to enrolling in Cornell’s MPA program?
English Literature and Psychology.

What first drew you to Cornell’s MPA?
I knew I wanted to earn a degree in public administration, and I was very excited by the caliber of the professors I would be able to work with, the flexibility in curriculum, and the impressive things alumni had gone on to do.

What first interested you in a career in public affairs?
After undergrad, I taught the second grade in a high-poverty school, and I kept finding myself thinking that there were policies in place that kept teachers from being as successful as they could be, so I wanted to learn how effectuate change and then use my experience as a driving force in making those changes.

What concentration did you choose at CIPA?
Social Policy. I wanted to focus on how government (at every level) affects the well-being of children and families.

What drew you to work in domestic policy?
I chose domestic policy because it was an interest to me. I taught domestically and found there were still systems that were worlds apart from each other here in the same country, and it’s where I could do the most good.

After completing the MPA at Cornell, where did you go on to work?
After graduation, I accepted an offer with the New York State Division of Budget, working on the education finance team. This was a dream offer, as I was able to apply what I had done in my earlier roles in education with what I had studied in school--public finance, public policy, administrative decision making to serve the people of the State of New York.

Explain how Cornell’s MPA prepared you for mission-driven work in domestic policy.
One of the reasons I chose CIPA was the importance of mission-driven work. In my current role, we spend every day advising on policies on how to make life better for the people in the State, and I think some of the experiential work I was able to do with CIPA (the consulting and capstone classes) both had a focus on delivering real results for real people, which helped me to develop that mindset.

Tell us about one faculty member who impacted your future career and prepared you to make an impact in domestic policy.
There are so many faculty members that I am so thankful for having had the opportunity to learn from. One that stands out to me in John Sipple, whom I took statistics from social policy from. He is an education expert as well, so he really helped me define what I wanted to do in education in a non-instructional role, and his stats class helped me developed the quantitative skills necessary for me to succeed.

Finally, what’s your favorite thing about the MPA program and Ithaca’s region?
My favorite thing about the MPA program is the flexibility within the concentration courses, so that you can tailor the specific skills you need with content you are interested in. In regard to Ithaca, the natural beauty cannot be overstated, and I miss it very much!

Affording Ivy League Tuition

Because Cornell is the only Ivy League school with land-grant status, CIPA’s MPA program is more affordable than some other Ivy League schools offering the same degree, including Columbia. Similarly, CIPA is also more affordable than other prestigious institutions like New York University and Georgetown. Combined tuition, fees, and overall living expenses range from $20,000 to $40,000 less than our competitors.

Despite CIPA’s affordable costs, a variety of funding opportunities are available to pay for your Ivy League tuition at Cornell, including merit-based fellowships, part-time campus employment, federal loans, CIPA-supported fellowships, and external funding.

Merit-Based Fellowships

About 50 percent of our students receive merit-based fellowships from a number of sources. These fellowships, based on previous academic performance, partially cover tuition. If you are admitted to CIPA, you will receive notification of your award in your admission letter.


Fellowships Supported by CIPA:

Part-Time Employment

Cornell’s Student Employment website is the source for information and policies about student jobs on campus. The site maintains a jobs database open to Cornell graduate students.

Federal Loans

Cornell currently participates in two federally funded programs: the William D. Ford Direct Loan and the Federal Graduate PLUS loan. These programs are available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are matriculated toward the degree.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

If you work for a nonprofit organization, you may be eligible for the federal loan forgiveness program. The program forgives loans on the balance of your student loan after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Qualified employers include government organizations, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and other nonprofits that provide qualifying service.

Whatever your financial standing, Cornell University is dedicated to helping high-achieving and competitive students to fund their graduate education at CIPA. If you have questions about financing your graduate degree at Cornell, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

ADMISSIONS TO CIPA

CIPA offers rolling admissions. To receive optimum consideration for funding opportunities, however, we encourage you to submit your application by the end of January.

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APPLICATION PROCESS AND REQUIREMENTS

The Application
  • Complete Cornell’s Online Graduate School Application. For questions pertaining to any technical issues or errors, contact the Graduate School office at 607-255-4884.
  • Submit unofficial copies of your college and university transcripts. An official paper transcript is required for all admitted students before matriculating.
  • There is NO GRE requirement. 
  • Submit your résumé and three letters of recommendation.
  • Applicants for whom English is a second language will need to meet minimum scores on either the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Required minimum scores on the TOEFL exam are: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22, as well as an overall combined score of at least 100. Our field requirements for the IELTS exam are: 7.0 in each section as well as an overall score of at least 7.5.
  • Submit both a Statement of Purpose and an Essay. See detailed information below for completing these submissions.
  • You will be sent email instructions to participate in an online interview to complete your application.
The Statement of Purpose
  • 500 words maximum
  • Detail why you are applying to the program.
  • Include personal and/or professional experiences that have led to your interest in Cornell's MPA program.
  • Describe your future goals and explain how you would put an MPA graduate education to use.
  • Include examples of volunteer work, positions of responsibility, and any other life experiences that have contributed to your interest in public affairs.
The Essay
  • 1,000 words maximum
  • Briefly describe an area of public affairs to which you would like to make a contribution.
  • Discuss what you would like to see accomplished in this area.
  • Explain how you would go about initiating, supporting and sustaining changes in this area so as to enhance public well-being and public services.
About the Online Interview
  • Once Cornell receives your application, you will receive an email with information about completing an online interview. It will include login information and detailed instructions.

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