Public Policy

Faculty Chairs: Jennifer Hochschild & Josh Kertzer

Overview:  Public policy is a vibrant interdisciplinary field in which political science plays a central role.  Political science research on policy addresses both normative and empirical questions: What kind of policies should be adopted to achieve our goals and to express our values?  How and why do policy makers decide which goals to pursue? Why do policies vary so widely?  Under what conditions do they work well? Many faculty in the Government Department do research on policy questions and teach courses that address a wide range of policy arenas.  

Studying the politics of public policy can help students become more effective policy makers. The Government Department’s new public policy program is designed to help students with policy interests tailor their concentration to gain a good foundation in political science while also developing expertise in a specific policy arena.  It provides training useful for careers in government, international organizations, non-profits, and think tanks. 

Requirements: Four courses out of the ten courses required for the concentration:

  • 1 course on ethics and public policy chosen from the list below.
  • 3 courses on politics and analysis related to a specific policy arena chosen from the list below. To take advantage of the diversity within political science, we encourage students to enroll in courses that take different analytical approaches to the topic—from different subfields, or that take different theoretical approaches.  Since many of our students take policy courses at the Kennedy School for concentration credit, we will also incorporate some of these pre-approved courses into the program. 

All four courses must be taken for a letter grade (except for courses taken during Spring 2020, when emergency satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading was in effect).

Individual Plan of Study: Students are asked to write an individual plan of study in consultation with their Concentration Advisers and faculty mentors. In this plan, students identify the policy focus they want to pursue, their educational goals, and the courses that will help them develop this expertise. In addition to courses in the Government Department, we also encourage them to take related courses in other fields, whether through a secondary concentration or through some of their elective courses.

Possible Areas of Focus: (Students can propose additional topics)

  • Social Policy: Education, Welfare, Immigration, Health Care, Criminal Justice

  • Economic Policy: Development, Globalization, Environment

  • Foreign Policy: Security, Trade, Finance, Human Rights

Gov Ethics & Public Policy Courses Offered in 2020-21:

Gen Ed 1171: Justice: Ethics in an Age of Pandemics. Michael Sandel

Gov 1033: Educational Justice. Jacob Fay

Gov 1049: Ethics and Public Policy. Eric Beerbohm

Gov 94db: Meritocracy and its Critics. Michael Sandel

Gov 94em: Crime, Responsibility, and the Law. Gabriel Katsh

Gov 94gk: The Politics and Ethics of Medical Care. Gabriel Katsh

Gov Courses on the Politics of Policy Making Offered in 2020-21:

Gen Ed 1052: Race in a Polarized America. Jennifer Hochschild

Gen Ed 1092: American Society and Public Policy. Theda Skocpol & Mary Waters

Gov 1135: Political Economy of Development in Africa. Pia Raffler

Gov 1338: Institutional Development in Native America. Daniel Carpenter

 Gov 1389 (cross-listed as DPI 308): How Decision Makers Translate Public Opinion into Public Policy. Benjamin Schneer

Gov 1730: War and Politics. Stephen Rosen

Gov 1740: International Law. Christoph Mikulaschek

Gov 1735: Controlling the World’s Most Dangerous Weapons. Matthew Bunn

Gov 1759: Behavioral Insights and Public Policy: Nudging for Good. Michael Hiscox

Gov 1780: International Political Economy. Jeffry Frieden

Gov 1790: American Foreign Policy. Joshua Kertzer

Gov 1796: American National Security. Graham Allison

Gov 93c: Public Policy Practicum. Alexander Gard-Murray

Gov 94ch: The Politics of Human Rights. Stephen Chaudoin

Gov 93cj: Criminal Justice Policy Practicum: Opportunities Beyond Bars. Jennifer Halen

Gov 94cp: Political Economy of the Environment. Alexander Gard-Murray

Gov 94gm: The Politics of Climate Change. Alexander Gard-Murray

Gov 94ia: Sino-American Relations. Alastair Iain Johnston

Gov 94nd: Global Cities in East Asia. Nara Dillon

Gov 94oa: Inequality and American Democracy. Theda Skocpol

Gov 94nw: The Politics of Nuclear Weapons. Stephen Rosen

Gov 94rg: A Revolt Against Globalization? Peter Hall

Gov 94sp: The Future of War. Stephen Rosen

Gov 2047: The Political Economy of the School. Paul Peterson

Harvard Kennedy School Policy Courses Offered in 2020-21:

BGP 100: Business-Government Relations. Roger Porter

BGP 601: Political Economy of Trade. Robert Laurence

DPI 122: Politics and American Public Policy. David King

DPI 391: Race, Inequality and American Democracy. Khalil Muhammad

DPI 460: Latin American Politics and Policymaking. Candelaria Garay

IGA 103: Global Governance. Kathryn Sikkink

SUP 601: Urban Politics, Planning and Development. Quinton Mayne

SUP 715: Morals, Money and Movement: Criminal: Justice Reform. Cornell Brooks

DEV 308: Social Institutions and Economic Development. Michael Woolcock

Summer Internships: We encourage students to do policy-related summer internships.  In addition to cooperating with the Institute of Politics internship program, we are also expanding our own international internship program, which provides funding and internship opportunities in China, Brazil, and Europe.  During the pandemic, we encourage students to do remote internships or other kinds of internships that they can pursue safely, following public health guidance for their local areas.

Applying: Concentrators should complete the Public Policy plan of study supplement, review it with their concentration adviser, and submit the completed form to the Government Department Undergraduate Coordinator, Karen Kaletka