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Graduate Academics & Curriculum

At W&M Public Policy, our goal is to prepare you to become a public policy leader and to provide you with the tools you need to thrive in our complex, changing world while making a difference in your communities, states, and nations. We give you a tool kit of transferable skills in data analysis, economics, political science, and law through the required core curriculum, while enabling many opportunities for further specialization through elective coursework and practical learning experiences. We intentionally provide this flexibility so you can tailor the program to work best for your unique interests and career goals.

In this program, you'll receive an engaged, personalized education focused on the intersection of knowledge and action. You'll be exposed to core public policy concepts through inquiry, research, and application and our classes will challenge you to debate ideas while developing fundamental analytical and communication skills. Embedded throughout the program, you'll participate in collaborative, real-world projects and actively engage with the broader policy community to refine professional skills and prepare you for the transition from graduate school to the next step in your career.

All MPP students follow the same core curriculum, which includes foundations in Political Environment, a year long Economics sequence, a year long Quantitative Methods sequence, and - unique among Public Policy programs - a year long Law sequence that includes a specialized Law and Public Policy course designed just for MPP students, plus at least one law elective (though many students opt to take more) taken with faculty at W&M's Law School.

Core Requirements
First Year Fall:
  • PUBP500: Mathematics for Public Policy
  • PUBP602: Quantitative Methods I
  • PUBP604: Microeconomics for Public Policy
  • PUBP601: The Political Environment
  • PUBP607: Law and Public Policy (designed specifically for first-year MPPs)
First Year Spring:

Summer Internship 

Second Year Fall
  • PUBP610: Policy Research Seminar (capstone team consulting project for real client)
  • PUBP612: Public Management and Organizational Behavior
  • Electives
Second Year Spring
  • PUBP590: Policy in Practice (synthesizes your practical experiences throughout the program)
  • PUBP609: Ethics and Public Policy
  • Electives
Specializations & Electives

With specializations and elective coursework, you have the power to make your classes work for you. You will certainly study a variety of policy issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, however the only requirement is that one of your electives must be a Law course to fulfill the second part of the year long Law sequence. We recognize that everyone comes to our program with a unique set of skills, values, and strengths, and our goal is to support you as you advance your education and professional life in the way that will be most helpful to you rather than burden you with a long list of requirements to fulfill.

Given the diverse experiences we've had with students over the years, we know there are many possible specializations where you may want to focus your studies and we are here to help you figure it out! Several possible options are listed below for your information, though these are only suggestions and this is not an exhaustive list. We take a very personalized approach to your academic and professional development and our Graduate Program Director will work with you to explore your interests and refine your individual curricular plan. This is one of the greatest benefits of being part of a smaller program! 

Some students enter the program with a solid interest in either U.S. domestic policy or international policy, though these are just two of many options. As a starting point for students to consider, we offer suggested courses for a more U.S. domestic Public Policy Analysis focus and a more Comparative & International Policy & Development focus.

In addition, there are many other avenues within and across which you might choose to focus your studies. Here are some suggestions based on our experiences over the past 25 years of helping students find their path in both academic and professional development:

  • Some students select one or two specific policy issues they are very passionate about to study in-depth, such as education, health and healthcare, the environment, economics, international development, social policy, etc.
  • Others take a more generalist approach and want to learn a bit about many different policy topics to get a broad sense of the field or study the intersection of several issues.
  • Still others focus on a particular level of policy (local, state, federal, international), tools and skills development (Program Evaluation, Budgeting, GIS, R, etc.), or advanced data analysis (high level Econometrics and data courses, which could include courses in the Operations Research graduate program).
  • If you are deeply interested in a specific topic, you could even pursue independent research as part of your elective coursework - this may be helpful if you're planning to advance to a Ph.D. program after finishing your Masters or if you'd like to write a more traditional Masters thesis (and you could even consider pursuing publication of your work).
  • Or, you could consider applying to one of our five Joint Degree Programs with our partners at W&M's other graduate programs - Law, Education, Business, Marine Science, and Computational & Operations Research.

All of these options and more are open to you! 


Contact us at [[w|publicpolicy]].