About Us

Back to top

Development starts with us.  


Founded in 1915 as the United States’ first rural-focused sociology department, we have built a lasting legacy of pioneering research and leadership in investigating and addressing poverty and inequality. While originally established to research the social organization of a predominantly rural American society at the beginning of the 20th century, our department’s scope has expanded to include more diverse ways in which development influences the shape of human life in the US and globally. Despite many changes in the field of study over the last one hundred years, our commitment to Cornell’s mission of knowledge with a public purpose has always guided our work.

With backgrounds that include demography, geography, sociology, and economics, our community of practice spearheads innovative research and programs on populations, environmental change, and governance. We are renowned globally for our expertise and contributions to the study of demographic transitions, education policy, the politics of food and land use, and agro-ecological approaches among other areas of specialization.

With an undergraduate program and MS/PhD graduate program, we offer an interdisciplinary and transformative educational experience, providing close mentorship for the next generation of change makers and cutting-edge researchers.

Though our work is used to inform policy and populate debates in universities, across think tanks, and governments at every level, we are uniquely dedicated to actualizing change in practical and applied ways with the collaboration of communities. Not only are many of our academics front runners in participatory methods for research, but our department also hosts outreach including adult education programs, capacity building workshops, and institutes committed to enabling community development among vulnerable populations in New York State.