Jillian Royal and Chloe Smith, doctoral students at the Jeb E. Brooks Cornell School for Public Policy, were among 40 students from programs across the country who received Equity & Inclusion Fellowships to attend the fall conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (AAPAM). For Royal– a Cornell Dean’s Scholar pursuing her doctorate degree in sociology with a focus on race, racism, and policy analysis– the conference offered a platform to share her perspective and build community.
“As a first-generation American, the daughter of two immigrants, and coming from a low socio-economic background, I have experienced the systemic disadvantages that contribute to the cycle of poverty,” Royal said. “This lived experience has allowed me the opportunity to be able to conceptualize public policy subjects in a manner that differs from my peers.”
Royal holds a bachelor’s degree from Montclair State University and a master’s degree in public administration from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently working on a research project to analyze the disparate impact of COVID-19 policies on different demographic groups and the AAPAM Fall Research Conference in Atlanta last month was her first national public policy conference.
Nick Sanders, director of graduate studies at the Brooks School, said the fellowships, which supported travel and participation, were first offered in 2016 to introduce underrepresented students to the world of public policy. Making conferences and work travel more available and accessible to young scholars is crucial for their future success.
“This fellowship is an important avenue for young scholars to attend AAPAM, a pivotal conference in the public policy space,” Sanders said. “We’re excited to have had Jillian and Chloe there building their networks and spreading the important research students are doing at the Brooks School.”
Smith is a third-year doctoral student whose work is focused on health economics and the economics of crime, specifically drug policy and public health. She is currently investigating the community impacts of overdose prevention centers, fentanyl test strips, and safer supply programs.
“My goal is to study and address societal issues related to health, crime, and inequality that society faces,” she said. “At the conference, I was able to see up-to-date analysis and information on my topics of interest. Now get to apply what I learned to my own ideas.”
Smith holds bachelor's degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of Kansas and spent two years working as a research analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. She said she enjoyed the chance to network with peers and colleagues in her field, a sentiment Royal also said was a major benefit of the travel fellowship.
“As a young scholar, I have not been able to develop strong connections with my academic community outside of my home institution,” Royal said. “This fellowship allowed me to begin to create connections through networking with public policy professionals, and having the opportunity to build a peer community with other policy students.
The Brooks School features a unique PhD program that allows students to be advised, mentored, and funded by Brooks School faculty whether the student is pursuing a PhD in Public Policy, Economics, or Sociology. This interdisciplinary setup enables the program's 43 students to explore diverse policy focuses, ranging from health and social policy to environmental and technology policy.