Public Policy

Public policy is the study of what government does, why and what difference it makes. Stated another way, it refers to all of the laws, regulations and programs developed by governments to solve problems.

Majoring in public policy provides students with the critical knowledge and skills needed to make problem solving their specialty. Public policy majors learn to grapple with society’s most urgent issues, ranging from economic policy to environmental protection to national security. Addressing these problems requires in-depth knowledge, analytical skills and a sophisticated understanding of how governments and markets work.

Earlham’s major in public policy meets those objectives with a collection of multidisciplinary courses, primarily from the politics and economics departments—but also including elective courses in history, management, psychology, philosophy and sociology.

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of work seekers who majored in the social sciences between 2018-2022 were employed, pursuing graduate school or volunteering within six months of graduation.
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Public policy majors have the credentials to pursue jobs with government agencies (local, state, national, and international), consulting firms, think tanks, and non-profit organizations.

Earlham has strong relationships with and a regular pipeline of students attending the top fifteen Masters of Public Policy programs, most notably including Indiana University-Bloomington (#1), University of Michigan (#8), Carnegie Mellon University (#13) and George Washington University (#13).

Problem solving on a governmental scale

Public policy majors tend to take many politics and economics courses over the course of their studies, as well as courses from other departments. The interdisciplinary nature of this major means that majors have access to a wide variety of opportunities across the curriculum.

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Real-world preparation

Many politics courses include detailed simulations to help you develop your collaboration and communication skills.

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Student leadership

Student organizations such as Model UN offer public policy majors a chance to engage in real-world issues and develop leadership skills while still on campus.

Our faculty

Our faculty are teacher-scholars focused on finding practical solutions to real-world problems. We bring deep professional experiences to our teaching, based upon diverse backgrounds ranging from working at top-ranked think tanks to helping guide local non-profit organizations.

Program details

As a student in the public policy program, you’re expected to achieve both depth and breadth of knowledge in several fields, with politics acting as an anchor for additional work in economics, statistics and theory. You’ll gain competence at:

  • Thinking analytically and critically
  • Understanding policy contexts and processes
  • Conducting and using research
  • Applying statistical, economic and other quantitative and qualitative tools of analysis
  • Developing written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills
  • Understanding their civic responsibilities and how to make ethical judgments.

These are critical skills for not only gaining meaningful employment post-Earlham, but also to have the largest possible impact on changing the world for the better once you have landed a job.

You’ll have the opportunity to build a foundation by completing several core requirements and the flexibility to find your own path as you choose electives that will help define your undergraduate experience.

You’ll work closely with faculty in and out of the classroom–these collaborative learning opportunities are invaluable in helping you find and meet your potential. Finally, you’ll have a dedicated adviser who is committed to providing the guidance needed to not only succeed as an undergraduate, but to prepare you for life beyond Earlham.

As a liberal arts college, Earlham offers multiple disciplinary and interdisciplinary majors and minors in which students cultivate deep and specific knowledge and experience. Equally important, the College expects every student to develop broad, general skills and proficiencies across the curriculum.

As part of their general education, students complete six credits in each academic division of the College: humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and visual and performing arts. In addition, students meet requirements for first-year courses, analytical reasoning, perspectives on diversity and wellness.

Learn more about general education at Earlham.

To earn a Bachelor of Arts in public policy, you must complete the following courses, in addition to general education requirements:

  • POLS 121 Introduction to American Politics and Policy
  • POLS 242 Intermediate American Public Policy
  • ECON 101 Introduction to Macroeconomics
  • ECON 103 Introduction to Microeconomics
  • ECON 204 Statistics for Economics
  • ECON 305 Econometrics
  • One of the following theory courses:
    • POLS 360  Foundation of Political Theory
    • POLS 362  Modern Political Theory
  • POLS 488 Senior Capstone Experience
  • Completion of a significant (100 hours) public service internship or similar experience, including an on-campus Presentation of Learning
  • Completion of the politics department A.R.T.S. skill themes:
    • “A” for Argument: courses where students learn disciplinary definitions and practice constructing a scholarly argument;
    • “R” for Research: courses where students must demonstrate an ability to conduct case-study research and propose reasonable solutions to real-world problems;
    • “T” for Theory: courses where students practice effectively summarizing and properly citing theoretical material [the Theory requirement fulfills this theme], and;
    • “S” for Simulation: courses where students will work in groups to actively participate in either real-world or simulated debates and activities.
  • Three of the following approved elective courses (no more than three from one department):
    • ECON 205: Mathematical Foundations of Economics
    • ECON 301: Intermediate Macroeconomics
    • ECON 303: Intermediate Microeconomics [ECON 205 prerequisite]
    • ECON 330: Money and Capital Markets
    • ECON 341: Labor Economics
    • ECON 343: Economics of the Environment
    • ECON 344: Economics of the State
    • ECON 345: Urban Political Economy
    • ECON 348: International Trade
    • MATH 180: Calculus A
    • MATH 300: Statistics [MATH 180 prerequisite]
    • MGMT 203: Introduction to Human Behavior in Organizations
    • PHIL 310: Philosophy of Law
    • POLS 322: Climate Policy
    • POLS 324: Energy Policy
    • POLS 341: Political Parties and Elections
    • POLS 343: Legislative Toolkit
    • POLS 345: American Presidency
    • POLS 346: Constitutional Law
    • POLS 360: Foundation of Political Theory
    • POLS 362: Modern Political Theory
    • POLS 372: International Law: Sovereignty, Humanitarian Law and Human Rights
    • POLS 373: International Law: Environment and Development
    • POLS 378: International Political Economy

View a full list of courses and their descriptions.

Yes! To earn a minor in public policy, you must complete the following course requirements (no more than two courses can overlap with a major in politics):

  • POLS 121: Introduction to American Politics and Policy
  • POLS 242: Intermediate American Public Policy
  • ECON 103 Introduction to Microeconomics
  • ECON 204: Statistics for Economics
  • ECON 305: Econometrics
  • One of the following Theory courses:
    • POLS 360: Foundation of Political Theory
    • POLS 362: Modern Political Theory

View a full list of courses and their descriptions.

An Earlham education is already terrific training for either a career in public affairs or graduate policy studies, but the public policy major adds more rigor to this preparation. Given that the field has several well-defined career paths, our majors have the credentials to pursue jobs with government agencies (local, state, national, and international), consulting firms, think tanks, and non-profit organizations.

In addition, our graduates regularly pursue graduate studies in public policy analysis, public administration, urban affairs, and law. In recent years Earlham students have successfully gained admission to top ten schools in each of these fields – most recently this includes Syracuse, Carnegie Mellon, Oxford, the University of North Carolina, Bard, the University of Michigan and Indiana University. Earlham has a growing relationship with Indiana University, which has the second-ranked public affairs program in the nation.

Public policy majors are problem solvers at heart. They seek to address society’s problems in systematic ways, using government and policy as tools to make the world a better place.

Next steps

We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.