Department of Public Policy

114 Abernethy Hall, CB# 3435; (919) 962-1600



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 major domestic and global policy problems.

The core curriculum includes exposure to multiple disciplinary fields, including economics, political science, policy analysis, philosophy, research methods, and statistics.

The undergraduate major in public policy provides students with conceptual and analytical skills that prepare them for work or graduate school. The combination of a liberal arts education, the development of writing and analytical abilities, and knowledge in a domestic or global policy field serves as the foundation for graduate work in many professions, including law, business, public policy, public and international affairs, social work, public health, education, and city and regional planning.

Public Policy Major, B.A.

First-year and sophomore students considering a major in public policy are encouraged to complete PLCY 101 or 110.

Core Requirements

Additionally, students may select courses across fields and design their own policy field. For information on which elective courses are recommended for each policy field, please confirm with the director of undergraduate studies or the department's student services manager. The particular title of a policy field is not listed on students' diplomas or transcripts. The Department of Public Policy keeps records of student policy fields, and students are encouraged to list their policy field on their résumés.

Note: A maximum of 24 semester hours of courses from professional schools may be taken for credit toward the B.A. degree in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The following courses satisfy the electives requirement and optional policy field concentration:

Additional Requirements

ECON 101 is a prerequisite for PLCY 410. PLCY 460 is a prerequisite for PLCY 698 and 691H, and a pre- or corequisite for PLCY 581. PLCY 581 is a pre- or corequisite for PLCY 691H and 698.

Program Restrictions

PLCY 130, 293, and 393 may not count as electives for a public policy major or field. A maximum of one three-credit independent study course (PLCY 395, 396, 496, 596, or 696) may be counted toward the elective for a public policy major or policy field. A maximum of one three-credit transfer or study abroad course, or two Burch Field Research Seminars in Domestic and International Affairs may be counted toward the elective for a public policy major or field. For credit toward the major, an independent study proposal form must be completed by the student, approved by the independent study instructor, submitted to the student services manager, and approved by the director of undergraduate studies before the internship begins.

Public Policy Minor

First-year and sophomore students considering a minor in public policy are encouraged to complete PLCY 101 or 110.

The undergraduate minor in public policy consists of five courses.

Students must complete at least four of the following core courses:

The regulations governing a minor in an interdisciplinary department, as set forth in this bulletin, apply to the minor in public policy.


All majors and minors have a primary academic advisor in Steele Building. Students are strongly encouraged to meet regularly with their advisor and review their Tar Heel Tracker each semester. The Department of Public Policy's director of undergraduate studies and student services manager work with current and prospective students by appointment (see "Contact Information" below). For additional information on courses, undergraduate research opportunities, and faculty in the department, see

Special Opportunities in Public Policy

Honors in Public Policy

Some students cap their undergraduate experience with a senior honors thesis, partnering with a faculty mentor to develop original research and creative work. Students who successfully defend their theses before a faculty review panel graduate with honors or highest honors.

Students begin the program by taking PLCY 691H Honors in Public Policy in the first semester of their senior year. During this course students will work under the direction of their thesis advisor to complete a research proposal, obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for the research proposal, and complete the first two chapters of their proposed thesis.

If the research proposal is approved by the IRB and the first two chapters are approved by the thesis advisor, students continue their thesis research in the second semester under the direction of a faculty advisor in PLCY 692H. Upon successful completion of the written thesis and an oral examination of the thesis research, the student may graduate with honors or highest honors.

To be admitted to the honors program, students must have at least a 3.3 overall grade point average and 3.5 in the core public policy courses. Core public policy courses include PLCY 210, 220, 340, 460, 581, and ECON 310 or 410 or PLCY 410. Honors students should also have completed at least four core courses in the public policy major, including the prerequisites for PLCY 691H (PLCY 460 and 581). In addition, they should have a written recommendation from at least one faculty member in public policy agreeing to serve as their thesis advisor. Students interested in participating in the honors program should contact the department's director of undergraduate studies and submit an application form prior to registering for PLCY 691H. For more information, see

The honors thesis provides a total of six credit hours toward the major. The completion of PLCY 691H provides three credits toward a policy field concentration. For December graduates, the honors thesis must be submitted to the department and approved by early November. For May graduates, the honors thesis must be submitted to the department and approved by early April.

Undergraduate Research

Most courses in public policy include a research component. In addition, the department offers opportunities for students to work directly with a faculty member on a research project through independent study. The honors thesis process enables students to undertake a major independent policy research project. PLCY 195, 210/210H, 296, 393, 396, 496, 596, and 698 are designated as research-intensive courses, and PLCY 460 and 581 are designated as research methods courses by the Office for Undergraduate Research. Earning a grade of C or higher in any of these courses partially fulfills the requirements for the Carolina Research Scholar designation. The Duncan MacRae Jr. Public Policy Fund provides grants on a competitive basis to public policy majors engaged in mentored research with a public policy faculty member, policy-relevant independent research, and honors theses in public policy.

Experiential Education

Students are encouraged to gain experience through their senior capstone course, through internship placements, and through other experiential education opportunities. PLCY 130, 293, 393, 493, 691H, 692H, and 698 are all approved as experiential education courses.

Capstone Course

The senior capstone course (PLCY 698) is required of all majors except those writing an honors thesis. It provides students with the experience of working together to produce a policy analysis for a community organization. The projects provide students with a unique opportunity to apply their academic training in a client-centered policy environment.


Public policy majors have the option to complete an internship. Students may receive academic credit for an approved internship if it provides an academically relevant experience in policy analysis or research. PLCY 293 is a Pass/Fail course and is used for internship placement. PLCY 293 is available for public policy majors and minors only. PLCY 393 is graded and can be used for students who participate in the Policy Clinic. The Duncan MacRae Jr. Public Policy Internship Grant aims to support internship opportunities for public policy majors and to defer some of the costs associated with engaging in unpaid summer internships. This is a needs-based award.

Undergraduate Awards

Each year the Department of Public Policy holds a graduation ceremony to honor students' achievements. The Kathy Taft Education Policy Award recognizes a rising senior majoring in public policy with an interest in and dedication to education policy. The Michael A. Stegman Award for Policy Research and Advocacy is awarded to a graduating public policy major who has demonstrated an ability to use policy research and analysis to advocate for social change and a commitment to play a future role in policy research and advocacy.



Richard N.L. Andrews, Maryann P. Feldman, Daniel P. Gitterman, Sudhanshu (Ashu) Handa, Krista M. Perreira.

Associate Professors

Douglas L. Lauen, Patricia L. Sullivan.

Assistant Professors

Christine P. Durrance, Steven W. Hemelt, Pamela Jagger, Douglas MacKay, Benjamin Mason Meier, Jeremy G. Moulton.

Professors of the Practice

W. Hodding Carter III, James R. Sasser.


Gail A. Corrado, Anna Krome-Lukens, Aimee McHale.

Professors Emeriti

David D. Dill, Michael A. Stegman.

Contact Information

Molly Smith, Student Services Manager, CB# 3435, 114 Abernethy,

Professor Patricia Sullivan, Director of Undergraduate Studies, CB# 3435, 117 Abernethy,

Professor Daniel Gitterman, Chair, CB# 3435, 202B Abernethy,


PLCY–Public Policy

PLCY 51 First-Year Seminar: The Global Environment in the 21st Century (3). 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.

PLCY 55 First-Year Seminar: Higher Education, the College Experience, and Public Policy (3). 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

PLCY 61 First-Year Seminar: Policy Entrepreneurship and Public/Private Partnerships (3). 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 partnerships in the delivery of public goods.

PLCY 65 First-Year Seminar: The Politics of Numbers (3). Explores what lies behind official government economic well-being measures: racial diversity, global warming, how we know how many people are poor, welfare reform, Social Security reform, costs and benefits of immigration.

PLCY 70 First-Year Seminar: National Policy: Who Sets the Agenda? (3). Who and what actually set our nation's policy agenda? The President? Congress? The media? Special interests? This seminar will address these questions, looking closely at current events and case histories drawn from the past three decades.

PLCY 71 First-Year Seminar: Justice and Inequality (3). 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.

PLCY 75 First-Year Seminar: Public Policy and Inequality (3). Examines the public policies leading to the growing disparities in American society during the past 25 years. Addresses the political and nonpolitical factors that have led to these inequalities.

PLCY 80 First-Year Seminar: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth (3). This seminar provides an introduction to entrepreneurship and innovation and considers their relationship to economic growth.

PLCY 85 First-Year Seminar: Reforming America's Schools (3). In this course we will examine the main problems that are occurring in America's schools and three popular reform strategies: increasing resources; improving leadership and teacher working conditions; and structural reforms.

PLCY 89 First-Year Seminar: Special Topics (3). Special topics course. Content will vary each semester.

PLCY 101 Making Public Policy (PWAD 101) (3). Overview of the policy-making 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.

PLCY 110 Global Policy Issues (3). 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.

PLCY 130 Getting It Done: Social Innovation (1). A student-driven, instructor-aided workshop open only to students who have received the APPLES Bryan Social Innovation 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.

PLCY 150 Robertson Scholars Colloquium (1). Robertson Scholars Colloquium will explore current policy issues and academic facets of motivation, personal development, ethics, and leadership.

PLCY 190 Selected Topics in Public Policy (3). Selected topics in public policy.

PLCY 195 Research in Public Policy (1–6). Permission of the instructor. Undergraduate research in public policy.

PLCY 196 Independent Study/Reading in Public Policy (1–6). Supervised study for students interested in public policy.

PLCY 210 Policy Innovation and Analysis (3). Students will develop a working knowledge of the foundational theories of the public policy discipline and the integral institutions of public policy. Incorporates current substantive issues in the United States and international policy. Students will explore, summarize, and evaluate alternative policy solutions.

PLCY 220 The Politics of Public Policy (PWAD 220) (3). Examines approaches to American politics and public policy and analyzes why government responds to problems in predictable ways.

PLCY 231 Why History Matters to Public Policy (3). 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.

PLCY 290 Special Topics in Public Policy (3). Special topics in public policy for undergraduates.

PLCY 293 Internship in Public Policy (3). For public policy majors and minors. Permission of the instructor. Provides participants opportunities to work in policy-related internships for a semester. Internship sites range from governmental agencies to nonprofit organizations. Students assume active roles in their organizations and gain valuable knowledge that prepares them for the labor market after graduation.

PLCY 296 Independent Study/Reading in Public Policy (1–6). Permission of the instructor. Independent reading/study in public policy.

PLCY 305 Public Policy Communication (3). Students choose a societal problem and communicate the problem as demanded by governmental process. Course focuses on simulated public hearings; writing/revising documents (problem definition memo, witness testimony); writing/revising an organization's public comment on proposed legislation/regulation.

PLCY 326 Social Ventures (PLAN 326) (3). See PLAN 326 for description.

PLCY 327 Introduction to Entrepreneurship (3). A historical overview of the role and importance of entrepreneurship in the economy and society, and a survey of the critical competencies all entrepreneurs (social, commercial, or artistic) must possess.

PLCY 340 Justice in Public Policy (3). 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.

PLCY 349 Immigration Policy in the 21st Century (3). 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.

PLCY 352H Burch Field Research Seminar in Domestic and International Affairs (3). This is a graded seminar course that focuses on a study of domestic and international affairs within the United States policy-making process. This course is a "study abroad" course taught in Washington, DC. Students must apply for this program.

PLCY 360 State and Local Politics (3). A range of public policy topics at the state and local level.

PLCY 361 Health Policy and Politics (3). An analysis of the evolution of American medical care with special emphasis on current health care policy issues and debates about future directions. Compares other national models to those of the United States.

PLCY 364 Ethics and Economics (PHIL 364) (3). See PHIL 364 for description.

PLCY 371 Energy Policy (3). 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.

PLCY 372 Global Environment: Policy Analysis and Solutions (ENEC 372) (3). Explores linkages among actors, institutions, and the environmental problems they cause and seek to rectify. Introduces pressing challenges of the global environment and perspectives of actors involved in crafting policy solutions.

PLCY 390 Special Topics in Public Policy (Undergraduate) (3). Special topics in public policy for undergraduate students.

PLCY 393 Public Policy Clinic (3). Permission of the instructor. The clinic provides an opportunity for students to solve a public policy problem for local nonprofits and governmental agencies. Working in small consulting teams with faculty assistance, students will learn how to use their knowledge and skills to propose solutions to complex problems.

PLCY 395 Research in Public Policy (1–6). Permission of the instructor. Research in public policy for undergraduates.

PLCY 396 Independent Study/Reading in Public Policy (1–6). By special arrangement and permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.

PLCY 410 Microeconomic Foundations of Public Policy (3). Prerequisite, ECON 101. 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.

PLCY 420 Taxation and Public Policy (3). This course examines United States tax policy in terms of the historical and institutional development of tax systems; theories of consent; the use of tax-based instruments such as tax credits and subsidies for social policy; and outcomes associated with taxation, particularly from racial and gendered perspectives.

PLCY 425 Risks, Shocks, and the Safety Net (3). 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.

PLCY 430 Analysis of National Security Policy (3). Course explores contemporary threats to national security, approaches to national security strategy, policy instruments, the role of military force, and the policymaking process.

PLCY 440 Justice and Inequality (3). Growing economic inequality has been identified as a pressing public policy problem in a number of countries. In this course, we explore the justice of economic inequality. Is economic inequality ever morally permissible? If so, for what reasons?

PLCY 455 9/11 and Its Aftermath (PWAD 455) (3). Examines the nature of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and strategies for addressing it, including analysis of post-9/11 changes to United States national security strategy, law enforcement and intelligence, and homeland security.

PLCY 460 Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy (4). Application of statistical techniques, including regression analysis, in public policy program evaluation, research design, and data collection and management.

PLCY 470 Business, Competition, and Public Policy (3). This course focuses on competition policy in the United States using relevant Supreme Court decisions as well as economic and policy-related motivation for specific business behavior.

PLCY 475 Political Economy of Food (3). This course examines the political and economic dimensions of the food we eat, how it's produced, who eats what, and the related social and environmental issues, both domestic and international, affecting the production, pricing, trade, distribution, and consumption of food.

PLCY 480 Environmental Decision Making (ENEC 480) (3). 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.

PLCY 485 Poverty, Health, and Human Development in Low Income Countries (3). Prerequisite, ECON 101. 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).

PLCY 487 International Trade: Theory and Policy (3). Prerequisite, ECON 310 or 410. The objective of this course is to provide students with knowledge of international trade theory and to help them apply this knowledge to thinking critically about current important topics in international trade.

PLCY 490 Special Topics in Public Policy (3). Special topics in public policy for undergraduate and graduate students.

PLCY 493 Internship in Entrepreneurship (3). Prerequisite, ECON 325. An approved internship or the consent of the instructor is required. Open only to PLCY majors in the entrepreneurship minor. Students spend a minimum of eight weeks in an entrepreneurial environment taking on significant responsibilities and working on a specific project that result in a rigorous agreed-upon deliverable.

PLCY 496 Independent Study/Reading in Public Policy (1–6). Permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.

PLCY 520 Environment and Development (ENEC 520) (3). 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.

PLCY 527 Applied Public Finance (3). Prerequisite, ECON 310 or 410, or PLCY 410 or 788. 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).

PLCY 530 Educational Problems and Policy Solutions (3). 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.

PLCY 565 Global Health Policy (HPM 565) (3). 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.

PLCY 570 Health and Human Rights (HPM 571) (3). 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.

PLCY 575 Science and Public Policy: The Social, Economic, and Political Context of Science (3). 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.

PLCY 580 Implementing Change: Barriers and Opportunities in Policy, Government, and the Nonprofit Sector (3). An introduction to some of the sectors within which social change work occurs: education, healthcare, local policy, philanthropy and nonprofit direct-service. Students will learn the fundamental systems of governance and accountability that guide them, and the opportunities or barriers that motivate and de-motivate people working within them.

PLCY 581 Research Design for Public Policy (3). Pre- or corequisite, PLCY 460. 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.

PLCY 585 American Environmental Policy (ENEC 585, ENVR 585, PLAN 585) (3). See ENVR 585 for description.

PLCY 590 Special Topics in Public Policy (3). Special topics for undergraduate and graduate students.

PLCY 596 Independent Study/Reading in Public Policy (1–6). Permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.

PLCY 686 Policy Instruments for Environmental Management (ENEC 686, ENVR 686, PLAN 686) (3). Prerequisite, ECON 410 or PLAN 710. 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.

PLCY 690 Special Topics in Public Policy (3). Special topics for graduate or undergraduate students.

PLCY 691H Honors in Public Policy (3). Prerequisites, PLCY 460 and 581. 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.

PLCY 692H Honors in Public Policy (3). Prerequisite, PLCY 691H. 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.

PLCY 696 Independent Study/Reading in Public Policy (1–6). Permission of the instructor. Independent reading in public policy.

PLCY 697 Robertson Scholars Capstone (1). The central focus of the capstone course will be that the scholars will learn from and about each other.

PLCY 698 Senior Capstone in Public Policy (3). Prerequisites, PLCY 460; pre- or corequisite, PLCY 581. Students apply knowledge and skills gained in the major to a real-world policy problem. Students work in small teams to conduct research on an important policy issue and identify policy opportunities on behalf of their client. The capstone allows majors to polish their skills while producing actionable public policy analysis.