The policy studies major gives students the skills and institutional knowledge necessary for understanding policy processes, and provides a interdisciplinary course of study in the design, management, and evaluation of policies and institutions.

Faculty affiliates represent all divisions of the college, and the program encourages students to combine coursework in engineering, the natural sciences, humanities, and the social sciences.

An integral part of the major is faculty-student collaboration on applied, real-world problems to address the political, technical, and economic factors relevant to a solution. Students work with an adviser to structure elective courses that relate to a theme of concentration and to develop undergraduate research opportunities, internships, and, for qualified students, an honors thesis. Themes of concentration include:

Arts and Media Policy: including not-for-profit organizations, ethics, government’s role in promoting and protecting culture, censorship, the licensing and regulation of the information sector, and privacy;

Corporate and Public Finance: including financial markets, industry research, and risk management in the public and private sectors.

Economic Policy and Homeland Security: including fiscal, monetary and regulatory policy, workplace safety, product liability, national defense, homeland security, natural disasters, emergency management, and privacy;

Science Policy: including intellectual and physical property rights, ethics, technology transfer, space, biomedical, and environmental;

Social Policy: including health care, education, poverty, family and children, consumer protection and safety, public retirement and welfare programs, criminal justice, housing and urban planning, human reproductive rights, civil rights, and human rights;

Individualized Theme of Concentration
In addition to the five pre-approved themes of concentration, students may create an individualized theme with the approval of the Policy Studies Chair. Examples of individualized themes are:

  • Education Policy
  • Energy Policy
  • Environmental Policy
  • Food Systems and Global Health
  • Global Intelligence and Multi-Media Communications
  • Health Science Policy
  • Human Capital Development
  • Organizational Leadership and Strategy
  • Race, Politics, and Economic Inequality

The major is useful as preparation for employment in business, government agencies, or NGOs; as a foundation for postgraduate professional schools in public policy, law, and business; and as preparation for graduate study in the social sciences.


Majors are required to take 14 courses including Economics 101, 251, 253; one from Government & Law 101, 102, or 103; History 105; Mathematics 141 or 161, 186; Policy Studies 251, 300, 400; and four electives selected from an approved list and relating to one of the following four themes: Arts and Media Policy, Economic Policy and Homeland Security, Science Policy, Social Policy; and the A.B. Common Course of Study.

A policy-oriented internship approved by the policy studies program chair is required. The internship should be tailored to a student’s theme of concentration and typically will take place at the sponsor’s site. Under particular circumstances the internship might be completed on campus or at another location relevant to the project, such as a national capital. Following the internship, students participate in a seminar (Policy Studies 400) to build on the lessons of the internship experience and to prepare a report. This seminar and written report must be completed by the end of the semester after the internship to receive credit.

Visit our “Guide to the Policy Studies Major” to learn more about the thematic concentrations.”