As a senior public policy major, you will have the option of evaluating a policy or issue submitted by a local government. Through this, you could help shape public policy; other students have. Your courses will focus on the outcomes of government decisions and take a practical approach to real-world problems. 

About the Major

Government majors focus on the process of decision-making, while public policy majors focus on outcomes, from massive programs such as Medicare and Social Security to the details of social services and education policy. The interdisciplinary concentration draws on the tools and insights of political science, economics and philosophy to evaluate governmental decisions and design more effective programs. This practical approach makes public policy a hands-on major where students can make a difference in the lives of people and communities.

What I really liked about the public policy (major) is that it connects a lot of things that I feel passionately about. So it takes government – obviously, it’s a very important piece of it – but it also interjects aspects of economics and philosophy, which are things that inform government decision-making.

Brian Sobotko ’16 — public policy major

Why draw on three disciplines? Because in the real world, policy decisions have three distinct dimensions. Students evaluate decisions by asking fundamental questions: Is this policy economically feasible, and what are its costs and benefits to society? Is this policy morally defensible? Is this policy politically viable? Taken together, these perspectives give students the tools to analyze governmental decisions, to research issues and practices – and to write and speak with force and clarity about public policy.

Careers After Hamilton

  • Director of Product Strategy, IBM
  • Sustainability Coordinator, Wesleyan University
  • Volunteer, Peace Corps
  • President/Co-Founder, Biomarker Strategies
  • Director of Environmental Advocacy, Safe Climate Campaign
  • Strategic Advisor, City of Seattle
  • Writer, Money Magazine
  • President/CEO, Consumer Health Foundation
  • Program Lead Editor, U.S. Global Change Research Program

Contact Information

Public Policy Program

198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323

Meet Our Faculty

A Sampling of Courses

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The Pursuit of Happiness 247

What is human happiness? What factors increase or decrease it? Why are some countries and cultures happier than others? How can government policies promote happiness? This course considers: -- the nature of happiness from the major philosophical traditions, --the cognitive biases that impede our ability to maximize happiness, --the empirical literature on subjective well-being from the fields of economics, political science, and psychology, --recent trends in capitalist societies and their effects on happiness, and --government policies that might improve human happiness.

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Introduction to Public Policy 251F

The study of policy analysis using and comparing a variety of disciplinary and analytic traditions. Consideration of controversies over particular policies at the national and local level and the premises underlying them. Examination of methods and principles used in formulating and evaluating public policy. Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning.

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Conflict Resolution: Policies and Strategies 280

This course examines conflict from a variety of perspectives. We will investigate how arbitration, adjudication, and mediation differ, in addition to exploring how the policies and strategies of cultural and legal institutions dictate different approaches to mediation. Societies cope with conflict by enacting policies consistent with their culture and values. This course examines conflict resolution policies in the U.S. and abroad, including the legal system, the media, the educational sector, and international dispute resolution.

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The Politics of Public Policy 314

Analysis of the values and choices central in the democratic policy-making process with a focus on political institutions, with an emphasis on presidential leadership and how complex systems of governance actually function. Also looks at ethical and global implications of policy making to trace some of the principle tensions in democratic public policy making. Utilizes several case studies that exam the political implications of policy decisions.

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Topics in Public Policy 382S

The application of theories and methods of evaluation, design and implementation in an intensive study of a significant problem of public policy. Emphasis on skills of analysis, writing and group problem-solving. Coursework may be supplemented by field work as well as participation by scholars and practitioners sponsored by the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center. Writing-intensive.

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Senior Project 500-501

A one- or two-semester senior project, culminating in a thesis.

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