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Public Policy Major

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Gain the tools and perspectives needed to translate your passions into real action. Launch a career as a bold problem solver and fearless changemaker.

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The Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy is a hands-on, interdisciplinary program that gives you the analytical and decision-making skills to make a positive difference. Focused on problems and solutions rather than theories or institutions, the public policy major prepares you to be an effective champion of real change. Whether you are passionate about reducing poverty and inequality, tackling climate change, reforming immigration or any issue that inspires you, the public policy major is the foundation you need to make an impact.


  • Take a diverse set of courses that bring together an understanding of how to think about complex problems with the tools and approaches to create real solutions and positive change.
  • Engage in hands-on learning and work with clients on real-world projects through internships and coursework.
  • Access the expansive professional opportunities found in the national capital region, from the corridors of the US Capitol to the hallways of Annapolis.
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What is Public Policy?

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Public Policy Careers

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Life as a Policy Terp

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Being so close to the center of this nation’s political sphere is an unmatched perk of studying public policy at SPP. So many opportunities present themselves in this area.
Jordan Teixeira


The public policy major curriculum consists of two components - a required set of courses that provides a conceptual, analytical and practical foundation in public policy, and an elective set of courses (a pre-designed focus area, a self-designed focus area, or a general set of policy electives) that allow a deeper exploration of particular topics. You must complete 120 total credits (58 credits for the public policy major and your general education requirements) to graduate with a degree in public policy. 

Benchmark Requirements

Students are expected to demonstrate continuing progress in their major by successfully completing the following courses in the specified timeframes:

Benchmark Requirement 1 

Must be completed by the end of two semesters into the major

  • PLCY100 Foundations of Public Policy
  • HIST201 Interpreting American History: From 1865 to the Present
Benchmark Requirement 2

Must be completed by the end of four semesters into the major

  • PLCY101 Great Thinkers on Public Policy
  • STAT100 Elementary Statistics and Probability or higher (STAT100 equivalent accepted)

Core Requirement

  • PLCY201 Public Leaders and Active Citizens 
  • PLCY203 Liberty and Justice for All: Ethics and Moral Issues in Public Policy 
  • PLCY300 Governance: Collective Action in the Public Interest (Pre-req: PLCY100)
  • PLCY302 Examining Pluralism in Public Policy 
  • PLCY303 Public Economics: Raising and Spending the People's Money (Pre-req: ECON200) 
  • PLCY304 Evaluating Evidence: Finding Truth in Numbers (Pre-req: STAT100 or equivalent) 
  • PLCY306 Public Policy Analysis in Action (taken after 60 credits)
  • PLCY309 Policy Internship (OR Approved Study Abroad) 
  • PLCY400 Senior Capstone (taken after 90 credits; Pre-req: PLCY306)
  • PLCY401 Contemporary Issues in Public Policy (taken after 90 credits)
  • ECON200 Principles of Microeconomics  
  • Introduction to Public Policy Focus Area or General Policy elective

In addition to the required core courses for the Public Policy major, Policy majors must take four policy elective courses. Students have two options when it comes to selecting electives: 1) They can choose to declare a focus area, working with an advisor to select a focus area (listed below), or (2) they can choose general policy electives from either within or outside the School of Public Policy.

General Elective Plan

Students who wish to take a variety of Public Policy courses and not declare a focus area may select four electives to round out their Policy curriculum. These students have the option to choose from courses within the School of Public Policy (PLCY courses) or select electives from other schools/departments. 

- If all four electives are PLCY courses, no approval is needed. Students may choose any four electives that interest them from the School of Public Policy.
- If any of the four electives are outside of the School of Public Policy, students must have their course plans approved by their academic advisor
and should complete the Using Non-PLCY Courses as Electives Form.

Focus Areas 

Gender and Racial Justice

Students pursuing the Gender and Racial Justice Focus area must take the required anchor course as well as three additional electives from the list below.  Students should then complete the Focus Area Approval Request Form.

  • PLCY288A:  Introduction to Public Policy Topics; 21st Century Racial Justice and Gender from the Bullhorn to the Ballot (required anchor course)
  • PLCY288B:  Introduction to Public Policy Special Topics:  The Impact of Discriminatory Housing Policies on the Black Community
  • PLCY311:  Women in Leadership
  • PLCY388A:  Special Topics in Public Policy:  Child and Family Policy Impact
  • PLCY388I:  Special Topics in Public Policy:  Child and Family Advocacy Impact
  • PLCY388P:  Special Topics in Public Policy:  US Immigration Policy  
  • PLCY388Z:  Special Topics in Public Policy:  Race, Capitalism, and the Wealth Gap
  • AASP101:  Public Policy and the Black Community
  • AASP187:  African-Americans, Mass Incarceration and the Prison Industrial Complex
  • AASP298P:  Poverty, Race and African-American Children
  • AASP313:  Black Women in US History (cross-listed with HIST329E & WGSS/WMST314)
  • AASP314:  The Civil Rights Movement
  • AASP443:  Blacks and the Law
  • AASP499T:  Special Topics in PP and the Black Community; Race and the Juvenile Justice System
  • AAST222:  Immigration and Ethnicity in the United States
  • AAST298A:  Special Topics in Asian American Studies; Islam in/and America
  • AAST398B:  Asian American Social Policy and Community Advocacy
  • AAST398C:  Politics of Transnational Adoption - Intersectional Analysis of Class, Race, Gender, and Nationality
  • AAST398F:  Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies
  • AAST398X:  Immigrant Communities, Leadership, and Organization
  • AAST499M:  Asian American Public Policy
  • AMST120:  Race, Gender, and the Global Economy
  • ANTH264:  Immigration Policy, Immigrant Lives (cross-listed with IMMR219C)
  • CCJS325:  Slavery in the 21st Century:  Combatting Human Trafficking
  • CCJS346:  Domestic Violence
  • CCJS370:  Race, Crime, and Criminal Justice (prereq: CCJS100 and permission from department)
  • ECON175:  Inequality: Determinants and Policy Remedies
  • FMSC290:  Family Economics (Restricted to majors or non-majors with less than or equal to 60 credits)
  • FMSC381:  Poverty, Affluence, and Families (prereq: SOCY100 or SOCY105; must be FMSC major)
  • FMSC420:  African American Families
  • FMSC430:  Gender Issues in Families
  • FMSC489E:  The Role of Men in Gender Equitable Communities
  • GVPT368L:  African-American Politics from Frederick Douglass to Barack Obama (cross-listed with AASP499P)
  • IMMR200 (USLT219A):  Introduction to Immigration and Migration Studies
  • LASC234:  Issues in Latin American Studies I
  • LASC235:  Issues in Latin American Studies II
  • LASC250:  History of Colonial Latin America
  • LASC251:  Latin America Since Independence
  • LGBT285:  Homophobia in the US Society in the New Millennium
  • LGBT448C:  Sex and the City
  • LGBT448J:  International LGBT Issues
  • LGBT448K:  Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Human Rights
  • LGBT448L:  Law and Identities
  • SOCY236:  Gender and Health
  • SOCY241:  Inequality in American Society
  • SOCY242:  Sociology of Homelessness
  • SOCY325:  The Sociology of Gender (cross-listed with WMST325)
  • SOCY424:  Sociology of Race Relations (prereq: 6 credits of SOCY; cross-listed with AAST424)
  • SOCY432:  Social Movements (prereq: 6 credits of SOCY)
  • USLT202:  US/Latino Studies II - Contemporary Overview 1960s to Present
  • ULST403:  Citizens, Refugees, and Immigrants (cross-listed with AAMST498N & IMMR419D)
  • WMST200:  Introduction to WGSS - Gender, Power, and Society
  • WMST211:  Love, Labor & Citizenship - American Women since 1880 (cross-listed with HIST211)
  • WMST265:  Constructions of Manhood and Womanhood in the Black Community
  • WMST325:  The Sociology of Gender
  • WMST380:  Feminist Analysis of the Workplace
  • WMST420:  Asian American Women:  The Social Construction of Gender
  • WMST425:  Gender Roles and Social Institutions
  • WMST491:  Judaism and Construction of Gender
  • WMST498M:  Women and the Civil Rights Movement (cross-listed with AASP498I and HIST360)

Global Action and Problem Solving (GAP) 

Students in the GAP Focus area must take the required anchor course as well as three additional electives from the list below.  Students should then complete the Focus Area Approval Request Form.  Students wanting additional courses focused on global and international issues can look for sections of core classes designated as global as well as the Politics and Pandemics section of PLCY401.

  • PLCY388W: Special Topics in Public Policy; Global Action and Problem Solving (Required anchor course)
  • PLCY388C: Special Topics in Public Policy; Cybersecurity Policy: Practical Hacking for Policymakers
  • PLCY388G: Special Topics in Public Policy, Global Perspectives on Leading and Investing in Social Change
  • PLCY388Q: Special Topics in Public Policy; Introduction to International Security
  • PLCY388R: Special Topics in Public Policy: Nuclear Security Policy
  • ANTH265 Anthropology of Global Health
  • ANTH323 Plagues, Pathogens and Public Policy
  • AREC365 World Hunger, Population, and Food Supplies
  • CCJS325 Slavery in the Twenty First Century: Combating Human Trafficking
  • ENST 233 Introduction to Environmental Health
  • ENST436 Emerging Environmental Threats (pre-req of ENST233)
  • FGSM310--FGSM390 (Federal Fellows and Global Fellows courses, as relevant)
  • FMSC110S Families and Global Health
  • SOCY335 Sociology of Health and Illness
  • Other courses outside of the School of Public Policy upon approval 

International Security Policy

Students in the Security Policy Focus area must take the required anchor course and then choose three additional electives from the list below.  Students should then complete the Focus Area Approval Request Form.  Students wanting an additional course in the core can take the Modern Warfare section of PLCY401 or the Politics and Pandemics section of PLCY401.

  • PLCY388Q: Special Topics in Public Policy; Introduction to International Security (required anchor course)
  • PLCY388C: Special Topics in Public Policy; Cybersecurity Policy: Practical Hacking for Policymakers
  • PLCY388M: Special Topics in Public Policy; Homeland Security and World Order
  • PLCY388R: Special Topics in Public Policy: Nuclear Security Policy
  • PLCY699K: Civil Conflict and Terrorism (by permission)
  • PLCY 798C: Science, Technology, and International Security Policy (by permission)
  • PLCY 798M: Arms Control and Nonproliferation Policy (by permission)
  • FGSM330/HNUH 338T: Homeland & National Security Policy (Federal Fellows)
  • FGSM355/HNUH359T: International Security and Intelligence (Global Fellows)
  • FGSM350/HNUH358T: Critical Regions & International Relations (Global Fellows)
  • FGSM360/HNUH368T: U.S. Diplomacy (Global Fellows)
  • Other courses outside of the School of Public Policy upon approval 

Nonprofit Leadership and Social Innovation 

Choose four courses from the Nonprofit minor course list and complete the Focus Area Approval Request Form.

Public Leadership 

Choose four courses from the Public Leadership minor course list and complete the Focus Area Approval Request Form.

Sustainability Studies 

Choose four courses from the Sustainability minor course list and complete the Focus Area Approval Request Form.

Create your own Focus Area 

Students interested in building their own focus area should create a sample plan including four electives that share a common area of study.  Examples include Education Policy, Criminal Justice Policy, Election Security, etc. Students who wish to take this route must have their sample plan of study approved by their academic advisor by completing the Focus Area Approval Request Form. 

The foundation of undergraduate education at the University is its general education program, with all students taking series of courses within specially designed categories. The general education program provides you with fundamental skills, broad knowledge, and approaches to intellectual inquiry that will benefit you regardless of your area of study.

Fundamental Studies

Fundamental Studies courses ensure that you have the basic skills in written and oral communication, in mathematical analysis and in critical thinking that are important to your success across the curriculum and in your career.

Distributive Studies

Distributive Studies courses expose you to a variety of disciplines even as you concentrate in your chosen field. They offer insights into the methods of different disciplines, the kinds of questions disciplines asks, and their standards for judging answers.


I-Series courses speak to important issues that spark the imagination, demand intellect, and inspire innovation. They challenge you to wrestle with big question, and examine the ways that different disciplines address them.


Diversity courses investigate the complexities of human difference and commonality, emphasizing the promises and problems of plural societies and the challenges that must be addressed to achieve just, equitable, and productive societies. 

Learn more about the General Education Program at the University.

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Interested in both a Bachelor's and Master's degree?

Earn your Bachelor's and Master's degree in Public Policy in as few as five years with our dual Bachelor's/Master's program.

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