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.

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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.

Cornell MPA Guide Cover-min-sq


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 Jeb e. brooks school of public policy


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 the Cornell Brooks School MPA the next step in your career.” — Maria Fitzpatrick, Professor; Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the Brooks School

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). The Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, all dedicated to preparing individuals for management and leadership careers in public service.

The Cornell Brooks School offers a two-year program of study leading to the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. The MPA Program at the Cornell Brooks School 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.

The Cornell Brooks School 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 career 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

The Cornell Brooks School MPA 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 ability 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 the Cornell Brooks School 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. Cornell Brooks School MPA 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.

Professional Development Coursework

In the MPA program at the Cornell Brooks School, we’re dedicated to teaching the “nuts and bolts” of professional development and career advancement.

Brooks MPA 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. 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 Capstone

To earn the MPA degree, Brooks MPA students must complete a “Professional Writing” requirement. Of the options available, most students choose to participate in the Capstone program. 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.



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

Download The Guide


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

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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 Brooks School MPA internship opportunities.

View Resource


Students who choose to spend a semester in one of the MPA Program’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.
  • 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 the MPA Program’s off-campus semester programs. The Office of Career Management will assist you through each phase of your internship search. Recent representative internship opportunities include:

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


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Subscribe to the Cornell University MPA blog, Public Policy in Action. Through the stories we share, we hope to cultivate a community of exceptional students who have the analytical, leadership, and communication skills necessary to succeed in serving others across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Faculty Spotlight

Because the Cornell Brooks MPA is an interdisciplinary program, our students take courses from a wide variety of faculty members across the university. Core MPA 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 insta

    Maria Fitzpatrick

    Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the Brooks School

    Maria Donovan Fitzpatrick is a Professor in the MPA Program. She is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well
    as an Affiliate in the CESifo Research Network, the Cornell Population Center, and the Center for the Study of Inequality. 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.

    Read Interview

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    Richard Geddes

    Professor; Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy

    Rick Geddes researches the funding, financing, permitting, operation, and maintenance of heavy civil and social infrastructure, with a focus on the adoption of new technologies. His research has examined network-wide road pricing, infrastructure resilience, and innovative infrastructure financing via public-private partnerships. Professor Geddes is the Founding Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy (CPIP).

    Read Interview

  • laurie-miller-0463-14-014

    Laurie Miller

    Senior Lecturer; Associate Director; MPA Program, Public Engagement

    Laurie Miller conducts research on health, education and economic development in the United States, Central America, and sub-Saharan Africa using mixed methods and participatory research approaches.

    Professor Miller’s research, government and independent consulting experience in the public sphere informs her work with students as they engage with public agencies, NGOs, and other partners to address public concerns internationally, in the United States, and locally.

    Read Interview

Alumni Spotlight

The MPA Program at the Cornell Brooks School 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 Brooks MPA alumni to get their thoughts on going back to school to pursue an MPA, what they found most valuable about the Cornell Brooks School MPA program, and how they plan to use their education to impact change.

  • julie-stone

    Julie Stone

    MPA Alum

    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 alumna of the Cornell Brooks School 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.

    Read Interview

  • olinda-hassan

    Olinda Hassan

    MPA Alum

    Olinda Hassan is a Brooks School MPA alum. She was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but she now calls Arizona her home. She pursued the Cornell Brooks School 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.

    Read Interview

  • Jamie Frank

    Jamie Frank

    MPA Alum

    Jamie Frank is a Cornell Brooks MPA 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.

    Read Interview

Affording Ivy League Tuition

Because Cornell is the only Ivy League school with land-grant status, the Cornell Brooks School MPA program is more affordable than some other Ivy League schools offering an MPA, including Columbia. Similarly, the Cornell Brooks School MPA 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 the MPA program’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, merit-based fellowships, and external funding.

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



The Cornell Brooks School MPA 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


Ready to take on some of the world’s most complex policy challenges? You’re in the right place. We are looking for students of exceptional quality who have the analytical, leadership and communication skills necessary to succeed in a career serving the public in government, nonprofit or for-profit sectors. Let’s get started.

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