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Public policy studies major Miranda Cross speaks at Young Diplomat Forum while other students listen


The Public Policy Studies Major

The Public Policy Studies (PPS) major has two components: the core curriculum and areas of concentration, plus an optional honors program for those who qualify.  Students must also complete several pre-requisites to prepare them for the major.  Students may not double-count any single course for both a required part of the core and for an elective. There is no Public Policy Studies minor or advanced degree at Vanderbilt.   


PPS majors must have earned credit for MATH 1201 or 1301 or higher; basic statistics (ECON 1500 or 1510 or both MATH 2820L and either 2810 or 2820); and introductory courses in political science and economics (PSCI 1100, ECON 1010, and ECON 1020). Those with AP credit may be varied out of some of these requirements.    

The Public Policy Studies Core

The PPS core is interdisciplinary and includes rigorous coursework drawn from political science, economics, sociology, anthropology, and history.  PPS students benefit from training in the politics, economics, methods, social contexts, history, and ethics of public policy. 

Core Curriculum (5 courses, 15 credit hours)

If a student cannot take both PPS 2200 and 2250, they may, with prior approval from the PPS Director or Associate Director, substitute one course from ANTH 3122, 3133, 4152; HIST 2722; PSCI 3253; or SOC 3315, 3604, 3605, 3613, 3614.

Electives and Areas of Concentration

PPS majors must take at least five elective courses: two general electives and three in a single area of concentration. The program strongly recommends that students spread their electives across at least two disciplines.

General Electives

The two required general electives may come from any of the courses listed in the areas of concentration below, or they may come from the following list: 

  • PSCI 2240: Political Parties
  • PSCI 2245: The American Presidency
  • PSCI 2253: Public Administration
  • PSCI 3241: American Public Opinion / Voter Behavior      
  • PSCI 3244: The Legislative Process
  • PPS 3160: Public Advocacy
  • PPS 3100: Cities in the 21st Century

Other courses may be approved as general electives with the permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The two general electives do not count toward the three electives (9 credit hours) that must be taken within a single area of concentration.

Areas of Concentration

In addition to developing core skills, PPS majors complete more intensive training within areas of concentration. The boundaries of these areas are not mutually exclusive, and together they span a wide range of policy concerns and disciplinary perspectives. Note: students pursuing the economic policy concentration must take at least two upper-division (numbered above 3000) economics electives from the list. 

PPS 3200:  Research Methods for Public Policy Analysis

PPS 3250 Advanced Quantitative Methods for Public Policy

ANTH 3261: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing

ECON 4050: Topics in Econometrics

HOD 3200: Research Methods for Public Policy Analysis

PSCI 2300: Introduction to Data Science for Politics

ECON 2150: Economic History of the United States

ECON 3150: Topics in the Economic History of the U.S.

ECON 3200: Public Finance

ECON 3230: Urban Economics

ECON 3250: Industrial Organization

ECON 3700: Economic Growth

ECON 4110: Macro Model Policy Analysis

ECON 4210: Law and Economics

ECON 4510/4510W: Seminar: Macroeconomic Policy

ECON 4530/4530W: Seminar: Microeconomic Policy

HIST 1640: HIstory of American Capitalism

HIST 1660: American Enterprise

HODE 3225: Introduction to Public Finance of Education

PSCI 2223: EU Pol Econ & Econ Inst           

PSCI 3252: Business & Public Policy

ECON 3100: Wages, Employment, and Labor Markets

ECON 3110: Poverty & Discrimination          

ECON 3350: Economics of Health

HIST 1440: Afr Amer Hist Since 1877

HIST 1665: Readings American Hist

HIST 2690: Civil Rights Movement

HIST 2740: Immigration, the United States, and the World

HIST 2810: Women, Health, and Sexuality

HIST 3040: Health and the African American Experience

HIST 3045W: Eugenics in the U.S.

MHS 2110: American Medicine in the World

MHS 3020: U.S. Public Health Ethics and Policy

MHS 3220: Healthcare Organizations

MHS 3030: Community Health Research

MHS 3320: Introduction to U.S. Health Care Policy

SOC 3223: Schools and Society

SOC 3304: Race, Gender, and Health

SOC 3611: Women and the Law

SOC 3616: Women and Public Policy in America

SOC 3621: Criminology

SOC 3622: Delinquency and Juvenile Justice

SOC 3701: Racial Domination, Racial Progress

SOC 3711: Women, Gender, and Globalizations

ANTH 2109: Food Politics in America

ANTH 2150: Urban Ecology

ANTH 3134: Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

ECON 2170: Environmental Economics

SOC 3311: Climate Change and Society

SOC 3312: Environment and Development

SOC 3314: Environmental Inequality and Justice

SOC 3315: Human Ecology and Society

SOC 3316: Business, Civil Society, and the Environment

SOC 3317: Energy Transitions and Society

SOC 3318: Sociology of Green Jobs

AMER 3200: Global Perspectives on the U.S.

ASIA 2560: Current Japan-U.S. Relations

ECON 2220: Latin American Development

ECON 3600: International Trade

ECON 3610: International Finance

ECON 3650: Development Economics

ECON 4520/4520W: Seminar on Globalization

HIST 1690: Sea Power in History

HIST 1691: Evolution of Warfare

HIST 1730: The U.S. and the Cold War. U.S. History, 1945-1991

HIST 1740: The U.S. and the Vietnam War

HIST 2457: Drug Trafficking and Society in Latin America

HIST 2535: Latin America and the United States

HIST 2700: The U.S. and the World

HIST 2710: The U.S. as a World Power

HIST 2721: Globalizing American History, 1870-1940

HIST 2722: Globalizing American History, 1940 2010

HIST 2735: Debating America in the World, 1890-2010

HIST 2740: Immigration, the United States, and the World

JS 2540: Power and Diplomacy in the Modern Middle East

MHS 2410: HIV/AIDS in the Global Community

MHS 2420: Economic Demography and Global Health

MHS 3110: Global Health and Social Justice

PSCI 2220: Crisis Diplomacy

PSCI 2222: American Foreign Policy

PSCI 2225: International Law and Organization

PSCI 2236: The Politics of Global Inequality

PSCI 2251: The Politics of U.S. and GLobal Immigration

PSCI 3229: Strategy and International Politics

PSCI 3272W: The War in Iraq 2003-2011

PSCI 3275: National Security

GSS 3201(formely WGS 3201): Women and Gender in Transnational Context

GSS 3281 (WGS 3281): Globalization and Policy Making

CMST 2950: Rhetoric of Mass Media

CSET 3090: Introduction to Science and Technology Policy Analysis

CSET 3100: Science Policy Bootcamp

ECON 3270: Economics of Information and Communications Technology

HIST 2780: Superhuman Civilization

HIST 3050: Innovation

HIST 3070W: Science, Technology, and Modernity

MHS 3120: Medicine, Science, and Technology

PHIL 1008/1008W: Introduction to Medical Ethics 

PHIL 3608: Ethics and Medicine

SOC 3206: Creativity and Innovation in Society

Honors in Public Policy Studies

Students may apply for the honors track if they have a GPA of 3.30 or higher for all previous courses taken for credit and a GPA of 3.50 for all courses counting toward the PPS major. Students normally apply for honors during the second semester of their junior year. By the end of the junior year, honors students should have completed all the required core courses in the PPS major.  

PPS honors students enroll in one three-credit-hour honor seminar (usually PPS 4980 in the fall and PPS 4999 in the spring), or in a three-credit-hour independent study with their faculty honors advisor, in both the fall and spring of their senior year. Each honors student has a faculty advisor to provide guidance on the research project and to chair the thesis committee. Successful completion of the honors program entails both the production of an original written thesis and an oral exam on the thesis project. The thesis committee evaluates both the written thesis and oral exam.

The following is a list of honors projects in PPS for Spring 2024.

Annabelle M. Abbott: Shifting Strategies: Analyzing Russian Cyber Activity in a Changing Global Landscape

Faculty Advisor: Brett Goldstein/Committee Members: Tuna Moore, Holly Tucker


Michaela Chua: America’s “Racist Roads”: A Case Study on the Impact of Representation and Political Power

Faculty Advisor: Jessica Trounstine/Committee Members: Katherine Carroll, Bill Purcell


Angela Lynn Yan: Culture and Family’s Influence on Young Asian Americans’ Pro-Abortion Views

Faculty Advisor: Sophie Bjork-James/Committee Members: Vivian Shaw, Katherine Carroll


Stanley Zhao: Overcoming Language Barriers: A Difference-in-Differences Approach to Proposition 58 and EL Education in California

Faculty Advisor: Leah Rosenstiel/Committee Members: Carolyn Heinrich, Emily House


Rohit Kumar Kataria: Assessing the Correlation Between Community College Website Quality and Transfer Student Outcomes in Idaho, Ohio, and Pennsylvania

Faculty Advisor: Adela Soliz/Committee Members: Liz Zechmeister, William Doyle


Sarah Lindsey Schwartz: Die Mauer im Kopf Wird Realität: An Exploration into Germany’s East-West Divide and Changing Political Dynamics Following the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Faculty Advisor: Mario Rewers/Committee Members: Patrick Greiner, Silke Schade

Declaring a Major in Public Policy Studies

To declare a major in Public Policy Studies fill out the Kuali major declaration form. If you have questions please contact PPS Associate Director Katherine Carroll, who serves as the advisor for all PPS majors.