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PUBPO-BA - Public Policy (BA)

Public Policy Undergraduate Matriculated BA - Bachelor of Arts

Program Overview

The undergraduate program in Public Policy provides students with the concepts and tools used in evaluating policy options and outcomes. It prepares students for entry-level positions in organizations concerned with such analysis. The focus is chiefly on health, education, environment, regulation, and science and technology policy, applicable anywhere in the world.

Courses in the major provide students with a background in economics and quantitative methods, political science, law, philosophy, ethics, organizational behavior, and social psychology. Economics and quantitative analyses are central to but insufficient for modern public policy analysis; political science, law, philosophy, organizational behavior, and psychology are among other necessary disciplinary perspectives. Political science offers insights into the decision-making process and information needs of a democracy. Political philosophy and ethics form the foundations of public policy. Organizational behavior focuses on the decisions made outside the market environment in hierarchies, bureaucracies, and teams. 

Seniors have a research capstone requirement consisting either of an honors thesis or participation in a team practicum project, conducting applied policy research for an outside client, typically a nonprofit or government agency. Students majoring in Public Policy are prepared for careers in various fields, including elected or appointed public office; business, law, and governmental agencies; research institutes; or for further study in graduate programs.

The Public Policy undergraduate major develops the skills necessary for understanding the political constraints faced by policymakers, assessing the performance of alternative approaches to policy implementation, evaluating the effectiveness of policies, and appreciating the sharp conflicts in fundamental human values that often animate the policy debate. 

The major has four course elements: preparatory, core, concentration, and senior capstone. Frosh and sophomore years are generally devoted to completing introductory economics, math, and psychology courses. After completing core courses primarily during the sophomore and junior years, students apply these skills by focusing their studies on one of several areas of concentration. The areas of concentration address a specific field of public policy, various types of institutions, or a more profound development of policy analysis tools. Seniors may complete the senior capstone by participating in a practicum, a team policy research project for an outside client, and/or writing an honors thesis. 

Public Policy students are encouraged to secure a faculty advisor within the first two quarters of the major. They must secure a faculty advisor no later than the end of winter quarter of the junior year. The director, student services staff, and peer advisors can assist by suggesting suitable faculty advisors. The program director must approve advisors. The advisor need not be affiliated with the Public Policy program but does need to be a member of Stanford’s Academic Council.

The Public Policy program encourages students to attend the Bing Stanford in Washington Program and to participate in appropriate Stanford internship programs, especially those available through the Haas Center of Public Service and Stanford in Government.