Cornell University: Cornell Brooks School seeks to prepare students, find solutions

Speaking to trustees, alumni volunteers and university leaders, Dean Colleen Barry described ambitious, public-minded goals for the new Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.

“We are moving quickly to establish the Brooks School as a pre-eminent school of public policy with a global mission and a focus on scholarly excellence and impact,” Barry said at the March 26 Cornell Leadership Week keynote.

The Alice Statler Auditorium event featured the annual joint meeting of the Cornell Board of Trustees and Cornell University Council, followed by President Martha E. Pollack’s State of the University Address.

The keynote presentation, “Introducing the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy,” began with Barry’s description of the new school’s goals: “The biggest policy problems we face as a society are inherently interdisciplinary,” she said. “Profound policy challenges like climate change, poverty and growing inequality are problems that literally cannot be solved within the bounds of a single scholarly discipline.

“They require us to pull disciplines together, to collaborate and innovate, and to understand how the policy process works in the real world. And to do so in a manner that is grounded in evidence and solution-oriented,with a mandate to work actively to improve people’s lives and reduce suffering in the world,” she said.

Barry then discussed research opportunities with Gustavo Flores-Macías, an expert in economic and political development, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and associate vice provost for international affairs.

Flores-Macías, one of the school’s founding faculty members, said the school reflects Cornell’s commitment to action-oriented research: “This emphasis on helping find solutions to the great problems of our time is really what makes Brooks so exceptional.”

Barry and Flores-Macias also emphasized the school’s critical role in preparing students from diverse backgrounds, drawn to Cornell by a desire to make a difference. “The future of Brooks is bright because it is shaping the policy leaders of the future,” Flores-Macias said. “It is a big responsibility.”

Barry introduced Tydarius Moxie ’24, a Cornell Brooks School student majoring in policy analysis and management. He grew up in Florida, saw how changes in the Medicaid program there hurt his community, and was inspired to transfer to Cornell because “it allows me to evaluate and improve the quality of policymaking that improves the lives of people,” he said.

“As a first-generation student, the welcome I have received here at Cornell has made my experience wonderful. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t challenging, but I came here for the challenge and I’m enjoying every second of it.”

The Cornell Brooks School was launched in September 2021 and is preparing to graduate its first class of undergraduates, professional masters, and doctoral students this May.

“The Brooks School is a startup,” Barry said. “It is hard work and exhilarating, all at the same time. Every single day is an act of creation but with an eye on building a strong institution that will be enduring.”

Barry concluded her remarks with a direct message to the Cornell Leadership Week audience: “If you’re passionate about the role of public policy and what it can do to improve our society and believe, as I do, that there is no better place in the world than Cornell to do this work, I invite you to join me on the ground floor of this new venture.”

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