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Who’s Who in the PhD Program

The Graduate Field

Graduate studies at Cornell is organized into graduate fields, which comprise faculty from across the university with shared interests. The Graduate Field of Public Policy consists of more than 50 faculty members trained in economics, sociology, government, and other policy-relevant disciplines. See the full list of faculty in our graduate field. The graduate field faculty set the curriculum, mentor students, sit on PhD committees, and evaluate graduate student progress in the program.

The Special Committee

Each PhD student forms a Special Committee, composed of a chair and at least two other Cornell faculty. The Special Committee plays a key role in advising students about their intellectual and professional pursuits. The Committee also supervises and evaluates students’ 2nd Year Paper and the A and B Exams.

The Graduate School requires that students select a Special Committee by the end of their third semester of study. The Special Committee chair is usually an expert in the student’s chosen subfield of concentration, and must be a member of the Graduate Field of Public Policy. The other two field members may come from any graduate field at Cornell. The membership of the Special Committee can change as students develop their research agendas.


Nick Sanders in front of grey background

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) leads the graduate field of public policy. They work to establish academic priorities, allocate resources for graduate students, and oversee admissions. They are a key point of contact for graduate students in the program. The DGS also serves as the advisor for all first year PhD students as they begin their studies and become familiar with the graduate faculty. The current DGS of Public Policy is Nick Sanders.

Eric Maroney

The Graduate Field Assistant (GFA) is the second key point of contact for graduate students. The GFA serves as a liaison between students and faculty members. They are familiar with campus resources and can answer many questions about the degree process and admissions. The GFA also can help you with paperwork and clarify your student status. The current GFA of Public Policy is Eric Maroney.

The PhD Students

Brooks PhD students play a crucial role in the life of the graduate program. They have shared offices in the newly-renovated Martha van Rensselaer Hall along with the faculty of the Brooks School. Public Policy PhD students participate in many student-led organizations and initiatives on campus. Click here for more details about the Cornell graduate school communities.

In addition to the PhD in Public Policy, Brooks also funds students in the PhD Programs in Economics and Sociology. These Brooks-funded Economics and Sociology PhD students are identified for joint funding based on their interest in applied and policy-relevant research and they typically work as RAs and TAs for Brooks faculty. Brooks-funded Economics and Sociology PhD students are subject to all degree requirements of their PhD granting field, but they also have access to the resources, expertise, and community of Brooks.

The Graduate School

The Graduate School sets policy and academic requirements for the PhD programs at Cornell. It also provides resources and support to graduate fields, and works to create opportunities and build community for graduate students across the university.