Department of Public Policy
UNC Public Policy is an interdisciplinary social science major designed to provide students with the theoretical perspective, analytical skill, and substantive knowledge needed to respond to domestic and global policy challenges. Our mission is to empower students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve the lives of others.
Our faculty have expertise in a wide range of global and domestic policy including education and labor markets, environment and human welfare, innovation and entrepreneurship, science and technology policy, social policy and inequality, health policy, bioethics, and human rights, international development policy, and global conflict and cooperation.
The undergraduate curriculum emphasizes research and experiential learning and includes exposure to multiple disciplinary fields including policy analysis, economics, history, political science, applied philosophy, research design, and statistics.
All majors and minors have a primary academic advisor in the Academic Advising Program. Students are encouraged to meet regularly with their advisor and review their Tar Heel Tracker each semester. UNC Public Policy’s director of undergraduate studies and student services officer meet with current and prospective students by appointment (see contact information above). For additional information on courses and undergraduate opportunities, see UNC Public Policy's website.
Graduate School and Career Opportunities
The undergraduate major in public policy provides students with conceptual and analytical skills that prepare them for the labor market and graduate school. The integration of a liberal arts education, writing and analytical abilities, and knowledge in a domestic or global policy field prepares students for many career paths. The public policy major can be a foundation for graduate work in a range of social science and professional disciplines, including law, business, education, social work, public health, public policy, public and international affairs, and city and regional planning. Alumni pursue careers in law, education, business, public policy, and global affairs, working in public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Public Policy offers a dual bachelor's-graduate (M.P.P.) degree. The M.P.P. degree requires 48 credits. It is possible to complete the requirements for the bachelor's degree and graduate degree within eight semesters and two additional semesters of study (and one summer), respectively. The M.P.P. includes a summer seminar/internship experience. New UNC Graduate School's dual degree policies allow 12 credit hours of double counting/crossover of bachelor’s credits and master’s credits. Most of the double counting of credits will take place during the second semester of the senior year.
Daniel P. Gitterman, Sudhanshu (Ashu) Handa, Douglas L. Lauen, Benjamin M. Meier.
Fenaba R. Addo, Steven W. Hemelt, Rebecca Kreitzer, Douglas P. Mackay, Jeremy G. Moulton, Brigitte Seim, Mehdi Shadmehr, Patricia L. Sullivan.
Malissa Alinor, Jiayi Bao, Cassandra Davis, Carmen Guttierez, Angel Hsu, Abhisekh Ghosh Moulick, Joaquin Rubalcaba.
Research Associate Professors
Kevin Bastian, Sarah C. Fuller, Simona Goldin.
Research Assistant Professor
Teaching Associate Professors
Anna Krome-Lukens, Jeff Summerlin-Long.
Teaching Assistant Professor
Richard N.L. Andrews, David D. Dill, Michael A. Stegman.
Professor of the Practice Emeritus
W. Hodding Carter III.
This seminar explores linkages among nations, global environmental institutions, and the environmental problems they cause and seek to rectify. The course will examine how global environmental policy is made, with specific attention to the roles of institutions, nations, commercial and nonprofit entities.
This seminar provides students with an opportunity to discuss current topics in United States immigration. Students will explore theories of migration, acculturation and assimilation, and the ways in which policies influence the well-being of immigrants.
This first-year seminar provides an introduction to contemporary policy issues in higher education. Students will discuss challenges to current models of higher education, including accessibility, academic freedom, safety and security, and athletics.
Despite major improvements in living standards across the globe, nearly a fifth of the world's population still lives in extreme poverty. This course will examine the key determinants of human material well-being from an interdisciplinary perspective, discuss interventions and policies that can affect poverty including an assessment of market mechanisms, and interpret quantitative data to understand the causes and consequences of human development failures.
This seminar will define a policy entrepreneur and examine strategies used by policy entrepreneurs to achieve policy change or innovation in the policy making process. We will also explore models of innovative public-private-non-profit partnerships in the delivery of public goods. Honors version available.
Where do social entrepreneurs come from? How do they develop their passion for changing the world? Where do they get their motivation? Can anyone become a social entrepreneur? This seminar will look at the history and theory of social change, review the skills, strategies, and ideas of effective change agents and give students the tools to create a blueprint for their ideas for social transformation.
This course introduces students to the study of health and inequality in the United States. The overarching themes of this course cover topics about population health, the US health care system, and US health and health care policies. In learning these aspects of health, the course also presents a comparative perspective of how health, health care, and health policies in the US differs from those in other countries around the world.
This seminar investigates the value of equality, and asks which forms of inequality are unjust and ought to be addressed by governments. Topics include income inequality, political inequality, marriage inequality, racial inequality, and global inequality. Honors version available.
Is inequality a policy choice? Students in this course will examine and participate in debates around whether and which policies have the capacity to create, sustain, exacerbate, and/or ameliorate inequalities in the United States.
This course provides students with a variety of opportunities to understand the epidemiologic trends in world health, the institutions of global health governance, and the effects of globalization on global and national health policy. Honors version available.
This seminar provides an introduction to entrepreneurship and innovation and considers their relationship to economic growth. Honors version available.
The course will familiarize students with the major public policies and movements affecting the American labor market. Students will learn how each of the following impacts the labor market: education, the minimum wage, Social Security, pensions, unions, unemployment insurance, welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF), income taxes (including the Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC), self-employment, immigration, automation, and the gig economy.
Examines the role of schools and other institutions play in determining life chances, which educational interventions work well for economically and academically disadvantaged students, and what to do when institutions cease to work well. Students will learn how to analyze complex educational public policy problems. Honors version available.
Special topics course. Content will vary each semester.
Overview of the policymaking process and of major public policy issues. Study of policy and political challenges in areas such as economic and tax policy, the social safety net, income support and the minimum wage, health care, education, environment and energy, foreign policy and national security, and homeland security. Honors version available.
Global issues are challenges whose sources, impacts, and solutions extend beyond the borders of any one country. This course introduces students to some of the most pressing issues facing populations around the globe and to possible policy responses. Honors version available.
Workshop open only to students who have received the APPLES Bryan Fellowship. Each fellowship team develops a project's underlying theory of change and the skills necessary for successful implementation. Students study the theories and implementation of one another's projects and external case studies.
Selected topics in public policy.
Permission of the instructor. Undergraduate research in public policy.
Supervised study for students interested in public policy.
There is a need to define innovative solutions to public policy problems, to provide analysis of different alternatives, and to create a plan that would benefit the largest number of stakeholders. This course focuses on the process of constructing, evaluating, and deciding among alternatives based on their ability to satisfy society's goals. Honors version available.
Examines approaches to American politics and public policy and analyzes why government responds to problems in predictable ways. Honors version available.
This course explores the uses of history and historical perspectives for public policy. Students will learn how historical processes have shaped today's public policies and examine how the origins and development of a policy can inform current policy decisions.
Special topics in public policy for undergraduates.
This course is for students selected as Undergraduate Learning Assistants (ULAs) for public policy courses. During the semester they serve as ULAs. This course will provide support and structure to make them effective in their role, including training in pedagogy and University policies; ongoing mentorship and supervision; opportunities to reflect; and assessment and evaluation. May not count toward the major or minor in public policy. Permission of the instructor.
Permission of the instructor. For public policy majors and minors. Offers students the opportunity to integrate and apply academic knowledge and skills by assuming active roles in nonprofit, nongovernmental, or government organizations. Under supervision of a mentor, students gain valuable knowledge that prepares them for the labor market after graduation.
Permission of the instructor. Independent reading/study in public policy.
Whether raising awareness of issues, building stakeholder coalitions, or advocating policy change, addressing public policy problems requires effective communication. Students will learn and practice cognitive, vocal, and physical skills to enhance communication under stressful conditions like high stakes meetings, negotiations and mediations, or public presentations. Emphasis on exercises that give "soft" skills harder edges so they can be developed and reliably utilized.
This course allows students to enhance their working knowledge of microeconomic theory, explore microeconomic theory as a methodology to solve policy problems, understand market failures and the role of collective action in markets, apply economic models to a variety of policy situations, and evaluate and critique economic analyses. Previously offered as PLCY 410.
Examines students' knowledge and understanding of social entrepreneurship as an innovative approach to addressing complex social needs. Affords students the opportunity to engage in a business planning exercise designed to assist them in establishing and launching a social purpose entrepreneurial venture. Honors version available.
This seminar explores arguments about moral issues in public policy. Students examine both the means used to implement policies and policy ends through discussions of case studies of policy choice. Honors version available.
Students will gain an understanding of the role interest groups play in American public policy and how that role has shifted over time. The course emphasizes the role of interest groups in four policy areas: civil rights, the environment, social policy, and campaign finance.
The objective of this course is to enhance students' understanding of the causes and consequences of United States immigration within a social, historical, political, and economic context.
This is a graded seminar course that focuses on a study of domestic and international affairs within the United States policy-making process. This seminar is taught in Washington, DC. Students must apply for this program with UNC Study Abroad.
This is a graded seminar course that focuses on the role of policy experts (and advocates) in addressing domestic and global challenges. This seminar is taught in Washington, DC. Students must apply for this program with UNC Study Abroad.
The course will explore the gap between public policy and the lived experiences of and reactions from constituents. Students will explore this gap by studying the development of twentieth-century public policy, examining the differing outcomes across groups, and the contemporary impact on housing, voting, education, and policing.
A range of public policy topics at the state and local level.
An analysis of the evolution of American health policy with special emphasis on current health care finance and delivery challenges.
If you eat, you are impacted by federal, state, and local food policies. These policies are, in turn, shaped by values. This course examines the ethical perspectives that underpin different approaches to food policy, including food labeling, nutrition assistance, agricultural subsidies, and responses to food deserts.
Recommended preparation, at least one course in ethics (PHIL 160, 163, or 170) or one course in economics. Issues at the intersection of ethics and economics, including value; the relation between values and preferences; rationality; the relevance to economics of rights, justice, and the value of human life.
Public policies affect men and women differently, and they participate differently in the policy-making process. This course examines several key areas of public policy, some expressly related to gender or sexuality and others that have significantly gendered impacts, organized around four themes: family, labor, body, and the world.
This course will provide an overview of some of the most challenging energy issues of the 21st century and will cover the tools and perspectives necessary to analyze those problems.
Explores linkages among nations, global environmental institutions, and the environmental problems they cause and seek to rectify. Introduces pressing challenges of the global environment such as China and India's energy and climate policies, the environmental impacts of coal, nuclear energy, shale gas and fracking, and marine pollution. Discusses perspectives of nations, the role of financial markets and NGOs, and the international community involved in crafting policy solutions.
Climate change-perhaps the defining issue of the 21st century-is a highly complex problem that requires interdisciplinary collaboration to develop policy responses. This course explores the science of climate change and uses theories from multiple disciplines, including law, political science, economics, and earth and atmospheric sciences, to frame solutions to this global challenge. Students will apply quantitative and qualitative tools to understand causes and impacts of climate change, as well as policy responses.
Law is one of the main technologies of action of individuals and of the American state. This seminar offers useful ways of thinking about the relationship between law and public policy.
Special topics in public policy for undergraduate students.
Permission of the instructor. The clinic offers students the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge by collaborating with local nonprofits and governmental agencies. Under faculty guidance, students identify, explore, and recommend solutions for real-world public policy problems while developing skills in team building and professional leadership.
Permission of the instructor. This course aims to empower undergraduates to explore ways that local public, private, and non-profit sectors collaborate to address problems that cannot be solved by one sector alone. Students will utilize the Intersector toolkit to gain an understanding of how to diagnose, design, implement, and assess successful cross sector collaborations.
Permission of the instructor. Research in public policy for undergraduates. Honors version available.
By special arrangement and permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.
Advanced Undergraduate and Graduate-level Courses
Many risks and shocks can make individuals and families vulnerable to economic hardship. This course examines America's social policy regime through a wide-ranging investigation of the origins, development, and future of critical features of our social safety net. We pay particular attention to challenges emerging in the era of globalization.
Course explores contemporary threats to national security, approaches to national security strategy, policy instruments, the role of military force, and the policy-making process.
Focuses on the entrepreneurial process to solve social or environmental issues. Using modern methods and tools, students engage in experiments to test hypotheses around problem definition, opportunity recognition and solutions. Experience gained in this course enable students to launch their own social enterprise or join social enterprises in progress.
This course aims to provide students with the tools necessary to most effectively engage in interpersonal conflicts. Students engage with diverse conflict management practitioners--from formally incarcerated individuals to public policy negotiation to international conflict mediators and role-play cross-cultural communication, inter-governmental negotiations, human rights, and workplace negotiations. Students will learn new negotiation and mediation skills, build upon existing ones, and learn to cope with stress, discomfort, and emotions when in conflict. Previously offered as PLCY/PWAD 330.
Application of statistical techniques, including regression analysis, in public policy program evaluation, research design, and data collection and management. Honors version available.
This course examines the political and economic dimensions of the food we eat, how it is produced, who eats what, and related social and environmental issues, both domestic and international, affecting the production, pricing, trade, distribution, and consumption of food. Honors version available.
Introduces factors shaping environmental decision making by individuals, businesses, governments, advocacy groups, and international institutions. Explores public policy incentives and action strategies for influencing them.
Growing research shows that socially marginalized communities are disproportionally more at risk from environmental hazards and thus unable to recover fully. This course is designed to introduce students to natural disasters, their impact on marginalized populations, and the policies that help or hurt communities from recovering. We will also address topics of systemic racism, equity, and think critically about terms such as vulnerability and resiliency to determine their applicability in the 21st century.
This course provides an understanding of how poverty is defined, the consequences of poverty, and policies to reduce poverty. It explores the determinants of human development outcomes from an interdisciplinary perspective (with a heavy economics focus).
Special topics in public policy for undergraduate and graduate students.
This course offers students an opportunity to reflect upon and enhance their internship experience. The external internship must be designed to allow the student to do policy-relevant research, policy analysis, program evaluation, and/or policy advocacy under the supervision of a mentor at a nonprofit, nongovernmental, or governmental organization (students will not receive credit for any partisan or campaign-based internship, regardless of their duties).
By special arrangement and permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.
To introduce advanced undergraduates and graduate students to the three basic purposes of data science: to describe the social world, to make predictions for policy planning, and to establish causal relationships. The focus of the course will be on examples and applications rather than statistical and mathematical foundations, but will require hands-on computer programming and data analysis.
Reviews environmental problems in developing countries. Analyzes proposed solutions, such as legal remedies, market instruments, corporate voluntary approaches, international agreements, and development policies. Discusses the link between trade and environment, environmental cases from the World Trade Organization, and sustainable development.
This course provides a foundation in public finance theory and applications. Students learn to analyze taxation policies and expenditures on income redistribution, programs for the poor (e.g., TANF), and social insurance programs (e.g., Social Security). Honors version available.
Reviews current debates and policy solutions in education. Topics analyzed through three of the most commonly used evaluative criteria: equity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Topics: equality of educational opportunity, racial segregation, the black-white test score gap, school choice, and the use of incentives to promote increased performance. Lecture, case studies, discussion. Honors version available.
This course critically examines the causes, consequences of racial wealth inequality and social policies to address these disparities. More specifically, we will examine the merits and limitation of various paradigms aimed at explaining these persistent disparities, explore how economic inequality is affected by race, systemic racism, and sociodemographic factors (education, gender, marriage) and identify evidence-based policy options and proposals for reducing wealth inequality.
Coursework will focus on public policy approaches to global health, employing interdisciplinary methodologies to understand selected public health policies, programs, and interventions. For students who have a basic understanding of public health.
Course focuses on rights-based approaches to health, applying a human rights perspective to selected public health policies, programs, and interventions. Students will apply a formalistic human rights framework to critical public health issues, exploring human rights as both a safeguard against harm and a catalyst for health promotion.
Introduction to analysis of science policy. Course explores how events transformed science's role in American life and how science relates to industry and economic development. Topics include the mechanisms of allocating scientific resources, the commercialization of academic discoveries, regulating emerging technology, and achieving consensus on controversial scientific issues.
Students will explore the scientific method as applied to policy research. They will formulate testable policy research questions, become familiar with methods for conducting policy research, and learn to think critically about causal inference. Honors version available.
Intensive introduction to environmental management and policy, including environmental and health risks; policy institutions, processes, and instruments; policy analysis; and major elements of American environmental policy. Lectures and case studies. Three lecture hours per week.
Special topics for undergraduate and graduate students.
Permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.
Design of public policy instruments as incentives for sustainable management of environmental resources and ecosystems, and comparison of the effects and effectiveness of alternative policies.
Special topics for graduate or undergraduate students.
Permission of the instructor. In preparing their honors theses, students will formulate a testable policy research question, design a study to answer this research question, and learn to think critically about causal inference.
Permission of the instructor. For senior public policy majors. Directed research for the honors thesis. Students may only receive credit for one semester of this course. An application for enrollment must be completed by the student and approved by the director of the public policy honors program.
Permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.
Pre- or corequisite, PLCY 581. Students apply knowledge and skills gained in the major to a real-world policy problem. In small teams, students produce actionable, client-centered, public policy analysis for a government agency or nonprofit organization. Students also develop skills in team work, leadership, communication, professional etiquette, and time management.