Public Policy Studies

Public policy decisions touch nearly every aspect of daily life, although we often fail to recognize or understand their impact. Daily, we are exposed to the policy proposals and preferences of those in or seeking office and they are in turn influenced by the preferences of the public and the pressures of organized interest groups. Given the impact that policy choices can have on our lives, it is essential that we have an understanding of how policy choices are made and how we might evaluate those choices. Why do we need this knowledge? Policymakers are more responsive to the demands and interests of an active and informed public.

The purpose of the public policy major is to equip students with sufficient competence in analytical skills supported by social science theory to prepare them for graduate or professional study. Majors should be sufficiently prepared to seek positions in organizations which deal with public policy issues: business firms, trade associations, lobbying organizations, and government agencies. The major provides students with the factual, analytical, practical, and theoretical skills necessary for contemporary policy design, implementation, and evaluation.

Public policy is interdisciplinary in nature; it is affected by social and economic conditions; political as well as cultural values; and the structure of government. The study of public policy requires the integration of knowledge from multiple disciplines to understand and critically assess public problems and potential solutions. The public policy major draws upon the knowledge and experience usually available through separate majors such as anthropology, economics, sociology, and political science. Only through a coordinated exposure to these fields can a student understand how they interact in the world of public policy. The interdisciplinary nature of the major makes it a good choice for students considering a double major in related disciplines such as political science or economics.

Public policy students may choose from two disciplinary tracks within the public policy major – American public policy or International public policy. A student who chooses to major in public policy should select an adviser from the political science or public policy faculty, and in conjunction with the adviser, plan a program that is appropriate to the needs and objectives of the students.

Students who have questions about the public policy major should consult Todd Eberly, coordinator of public policy studies.


To earn a bachelor of arts degree with a major in public policy studies, a student must satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  1. General College Requirements (see “Curriculum” section), including the following requirements to satisfy the major:
  2. Eight (8) credit hours of introductory courses in the social sciences. Students must earn a grade of C- or better in each required major course and maintain an overall GPA of 2.0 or better in these required courses:
    • POSC 100: Introduction to Politics
    • ECON 101: Introduction to Economics
  3. Twenty-eight (28) credit hours in the student’s selected disciplinary track. If only one course is listed next to a letter, then that specific course is required. Where a choice of courses is provided, students must select one course from the options provided. Students should note that some core courses are prerequisites for certain elective courses available under this major. Students should consider their elective options when selecting their core courses.
    1. American Public Policy:
      • POSC 201: American Politics
      • ECON 251: Intermediate Macroeconomics, or ECON 252: Intermediate Microeconomics
      • ECON 253: Economic Statistics, or POSC 200: Scope and Methods of Political Science, or SOCI 201: Social Statistics
      • POSC 311: Public Policy
      • POSC 315: Policy Evaluation
      • POSC 367: Public Administration, POSC 330: Congress, or POSC 312: State and Community Politics, or SOCI 330: Sociology of Organizations
      Four (4) semester hours of approved American Public Policy electives (see list)
    2. International Public Policy:
      • POSC 252: Comparative Politics, or POSC 269: International Politics
      • ECON 251:Intermediate Macroeconomics, or ECON 252: Intermediate Microeconomics
      • ECON 253: Economic Statistics, or POSC 200: Scope and Methods of Political Science, or SOCI 201: Social Statistics
      • POSC 311: Public Policy
      • POSC 315: Policy Evaluation
      • POSC 320: International Political Economy, or ECON 318: International Finance, or ECON 356: International Economics, or ECON 360: Comparative Economics
      Four (4) credit hours of approved International Public Policy electives (see list)
  4. Senior Experience in Public Policy (eight credit hours)
    1. Eight (8) credit hours of St. Mary’s Project, or
    2. Four (4) credit hours of PPOL 408 (cross-listed as POSC 408) with a senior experience paper and four (4) credit hours of electives in the student’s selected concentration (see list).
    • Senior Experience.
      Each student must complete an eight-credit St. Mary’s Project in public policy or write a senior experience paper for the course PPOL 408, “Studies in Public Policy” (cross-listed POSC 408). (Please see the course descriptions for PPOL 494 for St. Mary’s Projects and PPOL 408. “Studies in Public Policy.”) The student who chooses to write a senior experience paper instead of a St. Mary’s Project will file a declaration of intent with the course instructor and the public policy coordinator by the end of the sixth week during the semester the student enrolls in “Studies in Public Policy.” Guidelines for the senior experience paper will be given to the student by the instructor. Successful completion of the course shall constitute completion of the senior experience requirement. (This course also meets the senior experience requirement for political science.) Double majors should consult with their adviser for additional information.
  5. The 44 credit hours of major requirements may include field experience and independent study approved by the coordinator of the public policy major.


  1. American Public Policy
    • ECON 325: Urban Economics and Urban Issues
    • ECON 350: Environmental Economics
    • ECON 351: Industrial Organization and Regulation
    • ECON 355: Labor Economics
    • ECON 357: Money and Banking
    • ECON 359: Public Sector Economics
    • ENST 450: Studies in Environmental Policy and Law
    • POSC 312: State and Community Politics
    • POSC 330: Congress
    • POSC 351: Constitutional Law I
    • POSC 367: Public Administration
    • POSC 371: American Political Thought I
    • POSC 371: American Political Thought II
    • POSC 451: The Supreme Court and Public Policy
    • POSC 461: Studies in American Politics*
    • SOCI 300: Sociology of Organizations
    • SOCI 347: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
    • SOCI 365: Social Stratification
  2. International Public Policy
    • ECON 318: International Finance
    • ECON 360: Comparative Economic Systems
    • ECON 372: Economics of Developing Countries
    • POSC 320: International Political Economy
    • POSC 333: Asian Politics
    • POSC 405: Democratization
    • POSC 462: Studies in Comparative Politics*
    • POSC 468: Studies in International Relations*
  3. Courses Approved for Either Concentration
    • ANTH 341: Economic and Ecological Anthropology
    • ECON 350: Environmental Economics
    • ECON 354: Natural Resources Economics
    • ECON 363: Political Economy
    • ECON 459: Senior Seminar in Economics*
    • POSC 364: US Foreign Policy
    • POSC 385: Topics in Pol Sci or Pub Policy*
    • SOCI 302: Medical Sociology
    • SOCI 312: Economic Sociology
    • SOCI 355: Demography
    • SOCI 385: Research Methods
    • SOCI 490: Senior Seminar*
    * Where the topic of the course is appropriate. (Appropriateness of the topic will be determined by the coordinator of the public policy major.


PPOL 408. Studies in Public Policy (4F)

This 400-level seminar represents a capstone experience for students majoring or taking courses in public policy. Its focus may change depending upon the instructor or students’ interests. Topics may include federal, state, or local public policy, comparative public policy, or international policy, as well as specific areas such as the environment, health, social welfare, or taxation policy. Students majoring in public policy may fulfill the senior experience requirement with this course. This course is cross-listed as POSC 408. “Studies in Public Policy” and may be used to meet the senior experience requirement in political science as well.

PPOL 493/494. St. Mary’s Project in Public Policy (1-8E)

The St. Mary’s Project in public policy is a two-semester experience. The project, which may take many forms, draws on and extends knowledge, skills of analysis, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work. During the first semester a student initiates his or her project, identifies an area to be explored, and proposes a method of inquiry appropriate to the topic. A faculty mentor supervises the project research. Students will complete the project in the second semester under the direction of the faculty mentor. The project should demonstrate the student’s ability to undertake research in an area of public policy, to analyze the patterns of interaction among the political actors as appropriate, and to present the results of the research to the College community in a cogent and meaningful manner. Eight credit hours of this course satisfy the requirement for a St. Mary’s Project. With the approval of the public policy coordinator, this requirement may be satisfied by completing eight credit hours of the St. Mary’s Project in any discipline or cross-disciplinary study area.