A portrait of Martha Pollack

New School’s Focus Echoes Cornell’s Founding Mission

The Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy unites work being done in departments and programs throughout the University

By Martha E. Pollack

The idea of “knowledge with a public purpose” is one that is intrinsic to our land-grant mission here at Cornell. From our inception, we have been a university that faces outward: engaging with our community, our nation, and the world, and advancing human progress through our exploration, innovation, and expertise.

Being faithful to our mission means that we have a responsibility both to share our discoveries and to find ways of amplifying the positive impact of our academic enterprise. The research done at Cornell, in areas from technology to national security to economic inequality to climate, has the potential to affect societies in ways that will profoundly influence the future of humanity.

For this critical research to be put to the best possible use, it must be shared not just with students and researchers, but also with those responsible for national and international policy—those with significant responsibility for shaping our shared future.

The research done at Cornell has the potential to affect societies in ways that will profoundly influence the future of humanity.

Last fall, with the generous support of Jeb Brooks, MBA ’70, and Cherie Wendelken, the University was able to bring to life a Cornell aspiration of many years: a school of public policy that would leverage the expertise of faculty across disciplines, and advance the public policy work being done in our departments and programs.

The new Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, which graduated its first class in May, was the result of a multiyear review of opportunities to elevate Cornell’s excellence and impact in the social sciences. It brings the University’s broad-ranging expertise in public policy teaching, research, and engagement together with our many policy-focused institutes and programs, from Cornell in Washington to the Cornell Center for Health Equity.

And with a founding faculty of policy- and government-focused scholars—many of whom now hold dual appointments across the University—the Cornell Brooks School has connected our policy expertise with subject-specific expertise in critical areas such as data science and technology policy; environmental and sustainability policy; global security; health policy; inequality and social policy; the politics and economics of development; and race, racism, and public policy.

The school is also now home to our undergraduate programs in public policy and healthcare policy, professional masters’ programs in public administration and health administration, and a doctoral program in public policy: training students at every level to tackle the policy challenges of our present and our future.

The Cornell Brooks School has connected our policy expertise with subject-specific expertise in critical areas.

To quote the Cornell Brooks School’s founding dean, Colleen Barry: “Profound policy challenges like climate change, poverty, and growing inequality are inherently interdisciplinary. They require us to collaborate and innovate, and to understand how the policy process works in the real world. And they demand an approach grounded in evidence and oriented toward solutions, with a mandate to work actively to improve people’s lives.”

I believe that the Cornell Brooks School is exceptionally, and perhaps uniquely, well placed to rise to these challenges.

It is an interdisciplinary school, established to respond to today’s interdisciplinary problems; it approaches these problems within the framework of diversity, equity, and inclusion that is key to our ethos, and essential to successful policy outcomes; and it is built on our deserved reputation for academic rigor and excellence, an extraordinary depth and breadth of expertise, and the ability to build knowledge from theory to practice and back again.

I am grateful for the generosity of the Brooks and Wendelken family and the work of our stellar faculty in bringing this vision to life, and look forward to the many new ways the Cornell Brooks School will find to create, and apply, knowledge for a public purpose.

Top image: Photo by Jason Koski / Cornell University

Published August 19, 2022

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