This Area of Concentration is of growing interest to students, since it offers insight into the decision-making process within government and business. The core of the program is economics and political science. The goal is to prepare a student to analyze technical reports, to understand the behavior of decision makers, and to appreciate the complexity of social issues. Many students have found the study of Public Policy a good preparation for law, business, government service, and other vocations that involve the large institutional structures of our society.
Typically, a student begins the program with introductory work in American government and in both macroeconomics and microeconomics. From there, most participants pursue political theory, bureaucracy, executive or legislative decision-making, and public finance. In addition, course work in the sociology of formal organizations, social ethics, statistics, mass media, modern history, and social psychology is suggested to support the emphasis on politics and economics.
Even before the introductory classes are complete, students may select issue areas on which to focus their research. In the past, the issues selected have included local energy policy, coastal zone management, neighborhood governance, racial discrimination, arts policy, condominium development, bicycle pathways, utility pricing, the governance of small towns, legislative reform, legislative staffing, educational policy-making, and bureaucratic leadership. Internship opportunities expose students to the way decisions concerning these policies are made.
Public Policy students write senior theses that bring to bear their analytic skills on the policy issue of their choice. Often such reports are shared with policy makers, and they have proven to be useful in admission to graduate and professional schools. However, the purpose of the senior thesis in Public Policy, as well as the program as a whole, is not to train students to be experts in particular issue areas or methodologies. Rather, Public Policy majors gain wide exposure to a variety of ideas, values, and methods that may prove useful in their later lives. The direction of debate and discussion is more open than professional training allows. Public Policy here is not a technique, but another avenue to the liberal arts.
For program requirements, click here for the General Catalog.
Academic Learning Compacts