Jason Wu / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A banner for the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy hangs outside of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall on August 16, 2022.

May 3, 2023

A Major Switch: Policy Analysis and Management Major to Become Public Policy Major

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The policy analysis and management major — which is designed for students interested in policy implementation, government and social issues — is currently offered through a partnership between the College of Human Ecology and the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. However, in April, the Brooks School Office of Enrollment and Student Services announced its plans to transition the program to a public policy major, also offered through the partnership between the Brooks School and College of Human Ecology.

Students in the PAM and public policy majors are both charged state contract college tuition rates due to the partnership between the Brooks School and CHE to support these majors. For the 2023-2024 school year, annual tuition rates before financial aid for state residents attending contract colleges are discounted by $21,316.

According to Prof. Sharon Sassler, sociology, the benefit of the PAM major’s relocation into the Brooks School of Public Policy is that students will gain a broader perspective into relevant issues that currently affect the United States and the world through additional course offerings and faculty insight.

The new public policy major, which will be formally introduced this coming August, adds two requirements to the PAM major — a course in race, racism and public policy and an engaged learning experience in which students will apply their studies to building real-world solutions. 

With this change, the Brooks School aims to increase engagement between students and faculty, conduct concentrated research and provide students with career development opportunities. 

Jim Hanchett, assistant dean of communications at the Brooks School of Public Policy, also emphasized that a public policy degree title is more effective in propelling career advancement.

“Our research of the landscape for graduates showed us that ‘public policy’ was a more recognizable degree name than ‘policy analysis and management’, which will help graduates as they move through their careers,” Hanchett said.

Tydarius Moxie ’24 has found that PAM is not a universally recognizable major throughout his own time in the major. Moxie noted that he has enjoyed the flexibility of the major, but that in interviews, he often has to explain what the PAM major actually is as recruiters have not previously heard of the degree.

“It is my responsibility to sell myself in a way that makes me valuable or an asset to that company,” Moxie said.

Moxie, who is also a student ambassador and member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Brooks School of Public Policy, noted that there are a few different academic requirements for the public policy major. However, Moxie believes that adopting a more recognizable major name is the main benefit of the program shift.

According to Hanchett, the department has worked to expand opportunities for current PAM and future public policy majors to enroll in Brooks School electives in subjects including data science, global security, health policy, the economics of development and environmental policy. The new major also includes a more expansive offering of focused curricula, such as sustainability.

Students who are currently pursuing the PAM major — including those entering their senior year — will be offered the choice of continuing their studies in the major or switching to the public policy major. Students on either track are able to take the new courses being developed as part of the public policy degree.

Victor Wu ’25 explained that he intends to stick to the PAM major, but noted that he plans to take several of the courses that would fulfill the public policy’s engaged learning requirement regardless, as he is excited about the University’s initiation of innovative curriculum opportunities with newly recruited faculty.

Sassler teaches a family policy class from a sociology and demography perspective. She recounted hearing that a new class would be offered by a legal scholar on child policy.

“Initially, I [thought,] ‘Oh I could be threatened by this,’” Sassler said. “[But I could also look at it as] students are going to have more opportunities to learn about these topics [such as family and child policy] from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds… It’s better to have this array of opportunities than to just be able to take one class on their topic that they’re interested in.”

To both Sassler and Wu, the Brooks School of Public Policy is exciting because it brings together members of existing departments — such as sociology and government — under one school title to provide greater recognition for public policy studies at the University.

“A lot of the faculty have long wanted to be in this interdisciplinary public policy space,” Sassler said. “By having these new faculty from other departments, crossing classes with us and offering new classes, it means more opportunities [such as] offering more engaged classes.”

Sassler noted that Cornell in Washington is one of the most notable engaged learning opportunities that will benefit from the major restructuring. 

CIW is an off-campus opportunity that provides students the chance to spend a semester or summer in the nation’s capital learning about policy, translating knowledge into action and building a professional network. 

According to Director of CIW John Cawley, as a result of the move into the Brooks School, CIW is newly grouped with like-minded programs, which include the novel public policy major and the Master of Public Administration degree. Cawley noted that such fusion allows students to engage with their academic interests on a variety of levels and concentrations. 

“Moving into the Brooks School of Public Policy is the best thing that could have happened to CIW,” Cawley said.

Sydney Lonker ’25 is a current PAM major who also said she does not plan to switch to the public policy major. Lonker said her peers in the PAM major are torn as to whether the switch to the new major is beneficial for students.

“You do see a difference in attitudes between those who want to still graduate with PAM — which will no longer exist in a couple of years — and those who want to now graduate as a public policy major,” Lonker said. “[The new major] does look quite different from the original PAM major.”

Upon her application to the University, Lonker recalled, she envisioned herself as a student of the College of Human Ecology. She had been unaware of arrangements for the establishment of the Brooks School of Public Policy and described feeling mixed emotions afterward.

“My initial attitude about Brooks was in stark contrast to one of my closest friends, who was incredibly excited about the founding of the Brooks school and a new public policy program,” Lonker said. “My first year, I was a little frustrated that Brooks students were cut off from Human Ecology resources, events and competitions.” 

According to Hanchett, the Brooks School offered new programs, events and opportunities to replace those offered by the College of Human Ecology.

Despite her initial frustration, Lonker is now more optimistic about the change, as her career path aims more toward law than her initial vision of finance. She feels that Brooks aligns a lot more closely with her new interests.

Moxie similarly described that as someone interested in healthcare administration or management, the PAM title actually fits his academic interests. However, Moxie noted that the overall switch will help work towards a recognized public policy program at Cornell that attracts students from around the world. Moxie also said that he appreciates that the public policy major’s enhanced focus on race and social justice reflects the nation’s pressing concerns.

Altogether, faculty and students are excited about how an official public policy degree will prepare Cornellians to transform the world as policy leaders.

“There are many problems in the world,” Sassler said. “A degree in public policy prepares our students to go out and tackle many of these really important issues with an interdisciplinary perspective.”

Correction, May 5, 10:25 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that there is a PAM department and mischaracterized the partnership between the College of Human Ecology and the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. The article has been corrected to accurately reflect the program’s structure.