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State Policy Advocacy Clinic

Putting policy analysis and design skills into practice

Launched in January 2023, the new State Policy Advocacy Clinic at the Brooks School of Public Policy provides undergraduate and master’s students with the opportunity to work with legislators, executive branch officials, academics, community members, local organizations, and national NGOs on state-level policy initiatives. Student teams work together to research, design, and advocate for a wide variety of concrete policy solutions in the fields of health care policy, immigrant rights, children’s rights, criminal justice reform, democracy and good governance, economic development and sustainability.


The Dignity Not Detention Act; Transforming Immigration Detention Practices in New York State

The Dignity Not Detention Act: Transforming Immigration Detention Practices in New York State

Students in the Brooks School’s State Policy Advocacy Clinic developed a white paper on the topic of  immigration detention practices in New York State.

Questions about this report should be directed to Alexandra Dufresne at

Download the Report here


About the Program

The clinic prioritizes projects that advance rural equity and human rights, particularly for populations who traditionally have been underrepresented in the political process. Students in the clinic work with faculty from across the university to help translate their substantive policy expertise into actionable state policies. The clinic is also pleased to have partnerships with a wide range of local, state-wide, and national stakeholders, with whom students collaborate closely.

While the clinic focuses on New York state, clinical partners in other states frequently look to the clinic for research regarding novel ideas and “best practices” adopted in New York that can be shared in other states.  Likewise, students in the clinic devote substantial time and energy to researching which policies in other states have been effective and could be adopted in New York.

Students earn course credit in the clinic and are expected to devote a total of twelve hours per week to the clinic. Beginning in Fall 2023, the clinic will require a two-semester commitment.

Assemblymember Kelles discussing New York State policy with Brooks students
New York State Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles briefs State Policy Advocacy Clinic students on the legislative process.

The State Policy Advocacy Clinic also contains a classroom component in which students work closely with the professor and one another on analyzing and understanding the political, legal, social, and economic conditions that hinder or facilitate effective, evidence-based state-level policy design.  Together the clinic works on developing the full range of concrete policy design and advocacy skills necessary for leading effective legislative and administrative advocacy campaigns, from drafting proposed bill language, to working with advocates with “lived experience”, to writing effective op-eds and running a successful media campaign. The program is designed as an opportunity for students to put all of the policy analysis and design skills that they have learned in the Brooks School to work in practice. More fundamentally, the clinic is designed to help community partners and policymakers advance concrete, well-designed, research and evidence-based policies to promote human rights, economic development, sustainability and equity. In so doing, the clinic strives to translate the tremendous wealth of knowledge and expertise at Cornell into real-world policy options for state and local lawmakers, executive agency leaders, and community leaders and members to consider.

State Policy Advocacy Clinic student asking a question in classroom
The Brooks School State Policy Advocacy Clinic brings students face to face with government leaders.


Clinic Students in the News

Meet our Director

Alexandra Dufresne, Director of the State Policy Advocacy Clinic, is a lawyer who works at the intersection of law and public policy.  Before joining the Brooks School, she directed a human rights clinic in Switzerland and  taught law and policy courses at Yale College and at various Swiss universities. Working closely with community partners in the U.S. and Europe, she has led several successful advocacy campaigns at the state level and before various U.N. Committees and has served on numerous government commissions and boards of nonprofits in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to leading the clinic, Prof. Dufresne teaches courses in international human rights, immigration law and policy, and child law and policy at the Brooks School.  Prof. Dufresne began her career by clerking for the Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, litigating commercial cases at large international law firms, and representing detained immigrants and children in the child welfare system at various legal services nonprofits.