Major Requirements

Public Policy and Law

The public policy and law major—The public policy and law major is an interdisciplinary program in which students learn and practice methods and modes of thinking required to understand and become actively engaged in the analysis of legal and public policy issues. Grounded in the liberal arts, the program provides students with the tools of analysis in social science, law, and the humanities needed to understand the substance of public policy concerns. Trinity College is a particularly appropriate place to study public policy and law because students have ready access to state, regional, and local governments, as well as to lobbyists and numerous nonprofit and advocacy organizations involved in the making of law and policy.

For more details on the program's faculty, requirements, and sources, visit its Web site at

Requirements for the public policy and law major:

The public policy and law major requires 14 courses consisting of:

  • three foundation courses

  • four core courses

  • three courses and a one-credit academic internship in a chosen concentration

  • two electives chosen from an approved list

  • one senior seminar.

Students considering the public policy major are strongly urged to take ECON 101. Introduction to Economics, PBPL 123 Fundamentals of American Law, and POLS 102. American National Government prior to declaring the major. These two courses are important for understanding the basic elements of public policy debate and are a prerequisite for certain upper-level courses students may wish to elect later in the program. Only courses passed with a grade of C- or better will count toward the major.

Foundation courses (three courses)—All students must take the following courses. They are not sequential, but it is recommended that students take PBPL 201 first.

  • PBPL 201. Introduction to American Public Policy
  • PBPL 202. Law, Argument, and Public Policy
  • ECON 247. Introduction to Policy Analysis or PBL 220. Research Methods

Core courses (four courses)—All students must take a course in each of four core areas.

  • Ethics (PBPL 343, PHIL 215, PHIL 355, or another appropriate course approved in advance by the program director)
  • Statistics (MATH 107, MATH 207 or another appropriate course approved in advance by the program director)
  • Legal history (POLS 316, PBPL 302, PBPL 377, or another appropriate course approved in advance by the program director)
  • Institutions of American government (PBPL 251, PBPL 264, PBPL 303, POLS 355, POLS 309, or another appropriate course approved in advance by the program director)

Concentrations (three courses and a one-credit academic internship )—All students must select one of the concentrations specified below and take three courses from an approved list that are chosen in consultation with their adviser. Students must also complete an integrated internship in their area of concentration. One senior thesis credit may count as a concentration course.

  • Arts policy

  • Educational policy

  • Environmental policy

  • Health policy

  • Human rights and international policy

  • Law and society

  • Policy analysis

  • Policy and politics

Alternatively, students may, with the approval of their adviser and the director of the program, pursue a self-designed concentration.

The Writing Intensive Part II requirement is fulfilled by one of the following courses: PBPL 201, PBPL 202, PBPL 355, PBPL 401, PBPL 498, or PBPL 499.

Electives (two courses)—One quantitative elective and one cross-cultural elective must be selected from a list of courses made available to students each term.

Senior seminar—All students will take the 400-level current issues senior seminar, which serves as the senior exercise. The specific topics for the seminar will vary from year to year.

Thesis option: Students may elect to write a one-semester, one-course-credit senior thesis in their area of concentration. Only students who write a thesis will be considered for honors in the major.

Honors—An average of at least A- in courses counted toward the major, and a grade of A- or higher on a senior thesis. Students who fall just below the A- average may petition the program director on the basis of exceptional circumstances.

Study away—While there are many general programs of foreign study available to Trinity students, public policy majors interested in foreign study should be aware of The Swedish Program at Stockholm University, which was specially created “to develop an understanding of how organizations and public policy in Sweden address economic, political, and social issues relevant to all Western industrial societies.” The Center for European Studies at Maastricht, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, and Washington Semester at American University also offer programs that are particularly well suited to Public Policy and Law majors. For additional information students should refer to the updated study aborad listings available at the Office of Study Away.