Fields of Study

The Cornell system of graduate education is organized around two key foundational elements: graduate fields and the special committee system.

Both represent a belief and tradition grounded in academic freedom that continues to attract outstanding graduate students to Cornell and both encourage students to work across departments, disciplines, and colleges.

As embodied in the graduate field structure, academic freedom is a foundational value for the Graduate School, which is a centralized unit, formally independent of the various colleges of the university. To learn more about our fields of study system, visit the following pages:


The complete "Fields of Study, Subjects, and Concentrations" is available in PDF form as well.

Faculty and Staff Support

Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

Faculty members in each field appoint a director of graduate studies (DGS) to represent them to the Graduate School and coordinate activities of the field. The DGS is the primary liaison between the field and the Graduate School. He or she helps establish academic priorities and allocate resources for graduate students. The DGS strives to enhance the quality of graduate education and general student welfare. These individuals also oversee the admissions process and may be the most familiar with admitted students when they arrive. The DGS signs documents required by the Graduate School.

Graduate Field Assistant (GFA)

Graduate field assistants (GFAs) help students, faculty members, and the DGS. The GFAs serve as liaisons between students and faculty members. They are familiar with campus resources and can answer many questions about the degree process. Your GFA also can help you with paperwork and clarify your student status.

Graduate Student Services Office

In addition to the GFA and the DGS, the Graduate School has staff members who can assist students on administrative issues. The graduate student services staff serve as a resource for issues related to admissions, records, fellowships, and financial aid.