Twelve Doctoral Candidates Lobby on Capitol Hill

Cornell doctoral students with Marc Molinaro
Cornell doctoral students meet with New York Congressman Marc Molinaro. Photo: Cornell University Office of Federal Relations.

May 13, 2024

By Katya Hrichak

Twelve doctoral candidates traveled from the Ithaca campus and Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City to Capitol Hill April 17 for the annual Cornell Ph.D. Student Advocacy Day.

Students engaged in meetings with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss how federal funding impacted their ability to access graduate education and advance their doctoral research. They also met with Graduate School alumni and others with experience working as policy fellows with various agencies and organizations.

“Networking with government officials and students in science policy was not only thrilling but informative,” said nutrition doctoral candidate Andrea Robinson. “It reminded me that scientists and science experts play essential roles in the policymaking process as a whole.”

Three Graduate School doctoral candidates and one Weill Cornell student who participated in Advocacy Day were also selected to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (AAAS CASE) Workshop April 14-17 in Washington. There, the students learned more about communicating and advocating as scientists, the inner workings of Congress and roles of staffers, and the policy work of federal agencies.

“I was able to witness the makings of the difficult but necessary task of pushing policy through legislation,” said Robinson, who participated in both the AAAS CASE Workshop and Advocacy Day. “It opened my eyes to possible job prospects at the intersections of science and government.”

During the workshop, students learned about the federal budget process, the structure of Congress, the policymaking process, and effective communication of science and research to policymakers.

Many staff and members of Congress encouraged the students to continue their advocacy and explore post-graduate opportunities like the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships.

“I went to Cornell Advocacy Day without knowing much about how the federal government’s public policy worked,” said Socrates Wong, a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering. “While I have always understood how the government itself worked—branches, constitution, checks and balances, etc.—going to Cornell Advocacy Day allowed me to truly understand how policies are set beyond what was portrayed in politics in media and textbooks.”

Advocacy Day was co-organized by the Office of Federal Relations, the Graduate School Office of Inclusion and Student Engagement, and Weill Cornell Graduate School and was co-sponsored by the Graduate School’s Careers Beyond Academia, part of the Career and Professional Development Office.