Public Policy Minor


Citizens interested in addressing societal problems and even experts with deep, technical knowledge of particular issues often find that politics and governance interfere with and complicate proposals for change.  The process through which policy problems are defined, whether issues find a place on the political agenda, and the particular alternatives that gain prominence may owe less to their efforts and preferences than to political developments and the institutional context. Once policies are enacted, the political process starts anew as implementation unfolds.  Policies may develop very differently “on the ground” than intended, as policy design and delivery can alter their meaning or actual outcomes and produce unintended consequences.  Political factors also influence the sustainability of policies and how, once in place, they themselves influence the political process.

The public policy minor enables students to comprehend such paradoxes by developing their understanding of the political dimensions of public policy and how they shape its conception, formulation, implementation, chances of success, intended and unintended consequences, and evaluation.  Students will have the opportunity to take courses that deal with public policy in the United States, Africa, China, Europe, India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, and with attention to domestic policy (including health, education, energy, criminal justice, natural resources, immigration, social welfare policy, and urban policy) and foreign policy (including foreign aid and national security). The minor is housed in the Government Department but policy courses offered by other departments, if their content pertains to the purposes of the minor, will also be approved for elective credit.


The requirements to earn the Minor are:

1.  Submit an online enrollment application to the Undergraduate Field Coordinator, Danielle O’Connor in the Government Department.

2.  A minimum of 15 credits and five qualifying courses.

3.  Among the five qualifying courses, students must successfully complete (at least) one of the following gateway courses:

• GOVT 3032 - The Politics of Public Policy in the U.S.

• GOVT 3585 - Comparative Public Policy

4.  Students must also take one methods course. The following courses fulfill this requirement:

• GOVT 3282 - Data Science Applications in Political and Social Research

• GOVT 3990 - Puzzle Solving with Data

• GOVT 3999 - How Do You Know That? Causal Inference in the Social Sciences

5.  An additional three electives, from a list of eligible courses.

Note: We recommend that students consult with an advisor about charting their pathway through the minor. Some may opt to choose their electives exclusively from one of the following groupings: US domestic policy, foreign policy, comparative policy. Others may seek a diversity of courses or courses with a common theme.

6.  Students must earn a minimum grade of C+ on all classes to be used toward the minor.

7.  Government majors who wish to qualify for the minor may count a maximum of one course toward both the major and the minor.

8. At least four of the five courses must be taken within the Government Department.  Students may count, subject to advisor approval, a maximum of one public policy course offered by another department or school at Cornell.  The gateway course must be taken in the GOVT department.

Students are encouraged to sign up for the minor early, rather than waiting until they have completed the requirements.  This will permit them to benefit from faculty advising and other opportunities.  Students may tailor the minor for their particular academic and career goals.

Eligible Courses

This is only a partial list of courses that will count toward the policy minor.  If a course is listed below, it will count toward the public policy minor.  If you have questions about whether another course counts toward the public policy minor, please refer questions to Aaron Childree (see below), and include a syllabus with your inquiry.

FALL 2024

Methods Requirement:

No methods courses offered FA24


  • GOVT 1111: Introduction to American Government & Politics

  • GOVT 2225: Controversies About Inequality

  • GOVT 3121: Crime and Punishment
  • GOVT 3293: Comparative Politics of Latin America
  • GOVT 3294: Post-Truth Politics
  • GOVT 3303: Politics of the Global North
  • GOVT 3947: Race and World Politics
  • GOVT 4000 SEM 103: Inequality and the Welfare State

Cornell in Washington: Any courses taken as part of Cornell in Washington program may count toward the electives.


Aaron Childree, Minor Coordinator

Danielle O’Connor, Undergraduate Coordinator
210 White Hall, (607) 255-4180

David Bateman, Associate Professor
218 White Hall

Peter Enns, Professor
205 White Hall

Gustavo Flores-Macias, Professor
219 White Hall

Peter Katzenstein, the Walter S. Carpenter Jr. Professor of International Studies
321 White Hall

Suzanne Mettler, the John L. Senior Professor of American Institutions
217 White Hall

Jamila Michener, Associate Professor
305 While Hall

Isabel Perera, Assistant Professor
302 While Hall

Nicolas van de Walle, the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Government
206 White Hall

Jeremy Wallace, Associate Professor
211 White Hall

Christopher Way, Associate Professor
306 White Hall

Jessica Chen Weiss, the Michael J. Zak Professor for China and Asia-Pacific Studies
319 White Hall