The major in Public Policy provides students with an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the mechanisms by which government interacts with stakeholders for the common good. It draws on the principles, practices, and research methods of the social sciences and philosophy to provide students with the theoretical and analytic skills relevant to today’s most pressing global issues. While discussions of public policy issues are often controversial and polarized, the underlying principle of the major is one of sound analysis first and logical advocacy second. These skills are further developed through internship and/or practical research experiences.

Students who major in Public Policy often enter careers in the government or within the government relations sections of the private sector. The major also provides a strong background for students planning to attend law school or to continue on with graduate studies in public policy, public administration, public health, or social policy.

The Public Policy major has 10 units:

  • Five units: Economics and Management 101 and 230, Philosophy 304, and Political Science 216 and 338.

  • One unit in statistics chosen from among Economics and Management 235, Mathematics 209.

  • One unit in research methods chosen from among Anthropology and Sociology 224, Economics and Management 379, and Political Science 100.

  • Two units, which must be taken in two different departments, chosen from the following restricted electives related to public policy:

    • Anthropology and Sociology 345, 370
    • Economics and Management 232, 273, 322, 323, 331, 353, 354, 375
    • Education 202
    • Environment 220
    • History 243
    • Philosophy 206, 301, 302, 303, 308, 335
    • Political Science 214, 220, 319, 322, 323, 324
    • Substitutions as approved by the Ford Institute Director.
  • One unit from among an internship, Honors Thesis, or directed study in Public Policy approved by the Ford Institute Internal Advisory Committee.

  • A substantial paper and an oral presentation on a topic related to public policy.  This paper and presentation will be completed as one of the requirements listed above.

Students who double major in Public Policy and another field may count up to one unit towards the requirements of both majors. If there is more than one unit of overlap between the majors, then the student must take additional electives in one of the majors to substitute for every unit of overlap beyond one in consultation with the Department Chair or Program Director.

Students who enroll in the Washington Semester program at the American University can receive up to two units of credit toward the requirements of the Public Policy major, subject to the approval of the Ford Institute Director and the Ford Internal Advisory Committee.


The public policy major requires students to complete nine units, including five required courses in economics and political science, two courses in statistics and research methods, and two restricted electives in sociology, economics, history, philosophy, or political science.  An approved internship can be counted as one of the two restricted electives.

Recommended Sequence of Study

Courses to take in the first year:

Economics 101 Introduction to Economics
Political Science 101 Politics of American Democracy
Math 141 Calculus of a Single Variable I (not required for major but useful for good masters programs in public policy)

Courses to take in the sophomore or junior year:
Economics 230 Intermediate Microeconomics
Political Science 216 Public Policy
Statistics (Econ 235, Math 109, or Math 210)

Courses to take in the sophomore, junior, or senior year:
At least two restricted electives in public policy, taken from at least two different departments.
Research Methods (A&S 224, Econ 379, PLSC 201, or PLSC371)

Courses to take in the junior or senior year year:
Economics 322 Issues in Modern Political Economy

Required Courses

Economics 101 (or 101H) Introduction to Economics.  This course explains how economists think about public policy and decision making.  It emphasizes the importance of weighing benefits against costs when choosing between different options.  Usually taught every semester.

Political Science 101 Politics of American Democracy.   An overview of the dynamics and structure of the American political system:  the Constitution, civil liberties, Congress, the Presidency, bureaucracy, interest groups, political parties, and voting behavior.  Contrasts the principles of democratic action with a behind-the-scenes examination of how public policy is actually made.  Usually taught every semester.

Economics 230 (or 230H) Intermediate Microeconomics.  Theoretical analysis of consumer choice theory and demand, production and cost, the firm and market organization, distribution and general equilibrium, game theory.  Usually taught every semester.

Political Science 216 Public Policy Analysis.  An examination as to how government decides to address problems.  The stages of the policy-making process.  Special attention is paid to the methods of program evaluation.  Substantive policy areas are discussed, with an emphasis on social welfare, health, education, urban, and environmental protection policies.  Usually taught in the spring semester.

Economics 322 Issues in Modern Political Economy.  This course presents the contrasting public policy views of contemporary American liberals, conservatives, and moderates.   The assigned readings draw from a variety of disciplines--particularly economics and law, but also political science, cognitive psychology, sociology, and history.  Policy areas addressed vary from semester to semester but could include such topics as affirmative action in education and employment, campaign finance reform, pollution control, and the role of the government in providing or regulating health insurance.  Offered alternate years, spring semester.

Statistics and Research Methods

Statistics—one of the following three courses:
Economics 235 (or 235H) Economic Statistics
Math 109 Statistical Methods
Math 210 Introduction to Statistical Analysis

Research methods—one of the following three courses:
Anthropology and Sociology 224 Social Research
Economics 379 Econometrics
Political Science 201 Scope and Methods in Political Science

Restricted Electives

Take at least two of the following, including at least one from two different departments:

Anthropology and Sociology 345 Race and Ethnicity
Anthropology and Sociology 370 Social Stratification
Economics 232 (or 232H) Intermediate Macroeconomics
Economics 271 Women in the Economy
Economics 273 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
Economics 323 Governmental Economics and Policy
Economics 331 Money and Banking
Economics 353 Labor Law, Unions, and Management
Economics 354 Labor Economics
Economics 375 Health Economics
History 248 United States Constitutional History
Philosophy 304 Ethics and Public Policy
Political Science 214 Congress and the Presidency
Political Science 220 Interest Groups and Political Action
Political Science 263 Media and Public Policy
Political Science 308 Urban Politics and Policy
Political Science 319 Political and Social Movements
An approved selected topics course or seminar (A&S, E&M, or PLSC 289, 389, or 402)
One unit of an approved internship
One unit of an approved directed study

Faculty and Staff

Public Policy Major Advisory Committee

Jon Hooks, department chair and professor of economics and management
Jon Hooks

Department Chair and Professor of Economics and Management
B.S., 1984, Cameron University; M.A., 1985, University of Texas, Dallas
Ph.D., 1989, Michigan State University
Office: Robinson 103
Phone: 517/629-0530

Bindu Madhok, department chair and John W. Porter Endowed Professor of Philosophy
Bindu Madhok

Department Chair and John W. Porter Endowed Professor of Philosophy
B.A., 1983, University of Calcutta
Ph.D., 1990, Brown University
Office: Vulgamore 209
Phone: 517/629-0338

William Rose, department chair and associate professor of political science
William Rose
Department Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science
B.A., 1981, J.D., 1987, University of Toledo
Ph.D., 1999, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Office: 305 Robinson
Phone: 517/629-0416

Gregory Saltzman, professor of economics and management
Gregory Saltzman
Professor of Economics and Management
S.B., S.M., 1976, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
M.A., 1978, Ph.D., 1982, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Office: Robinson 101
Phone: 517/629-0422

Kyle Shanton, department chair and associate professor of education
Kyle Shanton

Department Chair and Associate Professor of Education
B.A., 1985, University of Iowa
M.A., 1990, Ph.D., 1998, University of Arizona
Office: Olin 226
Phone: 517/629-0559

Douglas White, visiting assistant professor of biology, Albion College
Douglas White

Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
B.S., 1976, Pennsylvania State University; M.S., 1978, University of Tennessee
Ph.D., 1989, Rutgers University
Office: Putnam 150
Phone: 517/629-0266

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