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.


The public policy and law programs’ learning goals can be found HERE.


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.

Only courses passed with a grade of C- or better will count toward the major.

Students considering the public policy major are strongly urged to take ECON 101. Basic Economic Principles and PBPL 123. Fundamentals of American Law prior to declaring the major. These 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.

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
  • PBPL 220. Research Methods and Evaluation

Core courses (four courses): All students must take a course in each of four core areas. An official list of courses that count for each requirement is distributed each term prior to pre-registration.

  • Ethics
  • Statistics
  • Legal history
  • Institutions of American government

Concentrations (three courses and a one-credit academic internship and seminar): 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.

  • Educational policy
  • Environmental policy
  • Health policy
  • Human rights and international policy
  • Law and society
  • Policy analysis
  • Urban policy

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

Electives (two courses): One empirically-focused, policy-oriented elective and one cross-cultural, policy-oriented elective must be selected from a list of courses made available to students each term.

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


Thesis work and Honors: Students who maintain an average of at least A- in courses counted toward the major and an overall 3.0 GPA will be invited to write a proposal for a senior thesis in the spring of their junior year. Program faculty will review proposals and determine whether students can pursue thesis work. Students must earn an A- or higher on the thesis in order to graduate with honors. Only students who write a thesis are eligible for honors in the major. Students who fall just below the A- average may petition the program director by March of their junior year to write a thesis on the basis of exceptional circumstances.

Study away: The Trinity program in Rome offers several courses that count toward the PBPL major. In addition, PBPL majors interested in foreign study should be aware of the Swedish Program at the Stockholm School of Economics, 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.” For additional information students should refer to the updated study-away listings available at the Office of Study Away and then consult with their major advisor.