Courses of Study 2022-2023 
    Jul 21, 2024  
Courses of Study 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Cornell Institute for Public Affairs

In the Brooks School of Public Policy  

2201 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
(607) 255-8018 (tel)
(607) 255-5240 (fax)


Course Offerings  

The Institute

The Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) is a unit of the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy.  CIPA offers a two-year program of graduate professional studies leading to the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. The MPA curriculum fosters an understanding of the political and administrative processes through which issues, problems, and policies are formulated; knowledge of the economic and fiscal basis for government action in a market economy; analytical tools for designing and evaluating programs and assessing policy implications; insights  into the behavior of public, private, and nonprofit organizations and their management; and sensitivity to the moral and ethical dimensions of public/nonprofit management and public policy issues. CIPA graduate students (known as CIPA Fellows) also develop leadership and professional skills essential to career advancement.

Graduate Field of Public Affairs

Although administratively CIPA is a unit of the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy, the MPA degree is granted by the Cornell Graduate School.  Faculty hold primary appointments in departments affiliated with the Brooks School. Students need a 3.0 GPA to remain in good academic standing and cannot receive any grade below a C- in a required course.

MPA Program

The two-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program requires a minimum of 16 semester-length courses; CIPA Fellows must take a minimum of four courses per semester for four semesters. Although the MPA program offers a basic structure for study, each CIPA Fellow has flexibility to design a program based on his or her specific area of interest.  Instruction mode for the program is in-person unless otherwise noted.

Foundational Course Work

All first-year, first semester MPA students are required to take the following courses:

PADM 5009   Career Management for Public Affairs

PADM 5110   Public Administration

PADM 5120  Intermediate Microeconomics for Public Affairs

PADM 5310   Applied Multivariate Statistics for Public Affairs

PADM 5414    Project Management

To develop a foundation of basic concepts and capabilities for the study of public policy and public management, CIPA Fellows take five courses across each of the following three foundational areas:

  • Administrative, Political and Policy Processes
  • Microeconomics of Government Policy
  • Decision Analytic Methods

Concentration Course Work

Concentration course work enables Fellows to focus on a specific area of study in public policy or public management. Fellows choose their area of concentration from the following options.

  • Economics and Financial Policy
  • Environmental Policy
  • Government, Politics, and Policy Studies
  • Human Rights and Social Justice
  • International Development Studies
  • Public and Nonprofit Management
  • Science, Technology, and Infrastructure Policy
  • Social Policy

Fellows select a concentration during the second semester of study and are required to complete five concentration courses: one gateway course that serves as field seminar, providing them with an overview of current challenges in the field, and four additional courses selected in accordance with their academic and professional objectives.

Professional Development Coursework

Fellows complete two professional development courses that either build crafts skills relevant to their post-graduate careers, or that contribute to completing their professional writing requirement.

Practical Experience: Internships, Off-Campus Study, and/or Public Service Exchange

Experiential learning is an integral component of CIPA’s educational strategy, and a practical experience is a requirement for obtaining the MPA degree. Summer internships, the CIPA Public Service Exchange, and off-campus study may be used to satisfy this requirement, and many students choose to gain experience through more than one of these options.

Most of our students fulfill this requirement through a summer internship between their first and second year of study. Internships allow students to apply training in a practical environment and establish contacts for permanent employment. CIPA’s Office of Professional Development provides assistance to Fellows in finding internships that match a Fellow’s interests, expertise, and professional goals. Appropriate internships are available in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.  Organizations who have offered internships in recent years can be viewed on the CIPA website.

The CIPA Public Service Exchange is a unique service-learning partnership with nonprofit and government agencies, many of which are located in the Ithaca/Tompkins County area.  These agencies provide real world projects for Fellows to work on.  In the process, Fellows gain practical work experience while completing their MPA coursework.  CIPA Fellows who wish to participate in the Public Service Exchange must register for PADM 5900-Consulting for Nonprofit & Government Organizations.

CIPA Fellows also have the opportunity to gain professional experience off-campus, while taking a semester of courses for credit, through the following programs:

  • CIPA Washington, D.C. Externship Semester
  • CIPA New York City Externship Semester
  • Cornell Capital Semester in Albany, NY

Professional Writing Requirement

As a culmination of studies in the MPA program, Fellows must complete a final project that demonstrates well-developed analytical and expositional skills. This project should provide Fellows with:

  • An opportunity to integrate/refine knowledge and skills that have professional relevance; and
  • Tangible products demonstrating professional competence to prospective employers.

In order to serve Fellows’ different career needs, CIPA offers three options for completing the requirement: a capstone project, a professional report, or a thesis.

Capstone Project

The CIPA Capstone is a semester-long course designed for second-year MPA Fellows.  It offers an opportunity for Fellows to apply the knowledge and skills that they have acquired through coursework and internship experience by engaging in rigorous pro bono consulting projects for real-world public, private, and nonprofit clients.  Each semester, two Capstone courses are offered, one addressing public service initiatives or policies posed by U.S. clients, and the other addressing initiatives or policies posed by clients from other countries.  For each Capstone project, Fellows form consulting teams that propose solutions which are relevant and actionable.  Through this experience, Fellows learn about managing client projects and undertaking sophisticated policy analyses within the constraints of different political environments and organizations.

Professional Report

Most Fellows undertake an internship during the summer between their first and second years, and most of these will require a written deliverable at the conclusion of the experience. Some Fellows, based on their professional and career objectives, will prefer to follow up their internship experience by writing a more thorough and authoritative professional report for their client than was possible during their internship period. Work on a professional report is supervised by a representative of the client organization and by a member of the faculty of the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. Fellows choosing to write a professional report may register for an independent study or directed reading course in the fall or spring semester of their second year.  In order to satisfy the professional writing requirement, a Fellow’s report must be approved by both the client organization and the faculty supervisor.


The thesis option is best-suited for Fellows who intend to pursue a Ph.D. beyond the MPA degree, and who have some topical concern within the broad domain of public affairs that can be well-served by focused research. Thesis research is supervised by a member of the faculty of the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. Fellows who choose this option may enroll for a semester of directed reading/independent study under the supervision of their thesis advisor. In order to satisfy the professional writing requirement, a Fellow’s thesis must be approved by the faculty supervisor and must meet the formatting requirements of the Graduate School.

Co-Curricular Activities

CIPA Fellows gain practical skills by organizing, managing, and participating in a variety of professional development activities on campus. These provide Fellows with opportunities to share work experience with other Fellows and to meet practitioners and distinguished faculty members in the field of public affairs. These student-led initiatives include:

  • Cornell Public Affairs Society (CPAS):  CPAS is the student-run professional organization of CIPA. CPAS aims to provide Fellows with access to opportunities and experiences that enhance their professional, interpersonal and leadership skills to prepare them for a successful career in public affairs.
  • The Cornell Policy Review:  This is CIPA’s student-edited academic public policy journal. Fellows serve as both editors and contributors, and the editorial board solicits book reviews, interviews, and scholarly contributions from members of the Cornell community, alumni and others.
  • Women in Public Policy (WIPP):  This student organization is dedicated to furthering the understanding of the current role of women in public affairs and policy both in the United States and abroad.
  • International City/County Management Association (ICMA):  CIPA Fellows pursuing careers in local government participate in Cornell’s chapter of ICMA, which is jointly sponsoring by CIPA and the Department of City and Regional Planning.
  • Cornell Latin America Student Society (CLASS):  Members of CLASS work together to foster the engagement of the Cornell community in projects, awareness, and other opportunities in Latin America.

Residence Requirement

Fellows are required to spend four semesters of study in residence to complete the MPA  Exceptions are made for Fellows completing an approved semester of off-campus study.


The CIPA program seeks diversity in its student body, drawing from a pool of applicants who have studied in a wide range of disciplines. No specific background or undergraduate major is required, although individuals with previous work experience in policy making or implementation are strongly encouraged to apply. Admission to CIPA is selective. A faculty committee evaluates individual applications based on the following:

  • overall academic record
  • potential for public-policy leadership as evidenced by professional work and community, extracurricular, or other relevant experience
  • three letters of recommendation
  • current résumé
  • a written statement of purpose, as outlined on the CIPA website
  • a public affairs essay as outlined on the CIPA website
  • an online video interview

Applicants for whom English is a second language will need to meet minimum scores on either the TOEFL or IELTS exams.  Required minimum scores on the TOEFL exam are: writing 20, listening 15, reading 20, speaking 22, as well as an overall combined score of at least 100.  Minimum requirements on the IELTS exam are: 7.0 in each section as well as an overall score of at least 7.5.

Although CIPA has a policy of rolling admission, applications should be submitted as early as possible to be considered for merit-based tuition fellowships. For more information, contact the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, 294 Caldwell Hall (tel: (607) 255–7049; fax: (607) 255–5240;;

Financial Aid

Cornell Institute for Public Affairs is able to provide some merit-based tuition fellowships. The Institute itself, however, is unable to provide full support for any individual student. Fellows often win support from Fulbright, Truman, Rangel, World Bank, and other fellowship programs. In addition, Cornell University offers numerous employment opportunities for graduate students. Applicants are encouraged to explore all available sources of external funding, including grants that may be provided by current employers.