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The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of MichiganThe Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan
Undergraduate program
Undergraduate program
The BA in public policy
Major in making a difference

Policy problems seldom fit neatly into academic disciplines. Rather than focusing on the mastery of a discipline, the BA in Public Policy is policy-focused, drawing on a variety of disciplines in order to understand a policy challenge and to develop appropriate solutions.

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Leading the way

We face unprecedented policy challenges. Years in the making, these challenges won’t vanish overnight. They will require the efforts of an energetic and committed generation, prepared to lead the way toward creative solutions.

Overview

The Ford School BA in Public Policy is a liberal arts degree, based in the social sciences, that gives students the knowledge and skills needed to analyze policy problems, understand the stakes, and create viable solutions. Our undergraduate program builds on two traditional strengths of the University of Michigan: our strong, interdisciplinary social sciences and our students’ focus on issues involving politics and public affairs.

Public policy degree candidates benefit from the Ford School's small-school connectedness and flexibility while taking advantage of the University of Michigan's world-class resources. Working in small groups with distinguished faculty, students from around the U-M bring diverse talents to bear on real-world policy issues, and lay the groundwork for equally diverse professions. They champion their interests with intelligence and passion. Then they share them with the world.

Coursework combines classes in economics, political science, and other social sciences disciplines with integrative policy seminars that provide opportunities for students to work together in teams to apply their skills in the analysis of contemporary policy problems. This experience, grounded in the liberal arts, provides an excellent foundation for later professional training in a broad range of professions.

The faculty at the Ford School come from a broad range of disciplines (economics, political science, sociology, psychology, mathematics, history) and other professional schools (business, social work, education, information, urban planning, natural resources and environment, medicine).  Additionally, the Ford School BA program is connected to a broad set of programs and activities, such as the School’s research centers, visiting professors and speakers, and student organizations.

Degree requirements

  • PUBPOL 320: Politics, political institutions, and public policy (4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 330: Microeconomics for public policy (4 credits)
  • STATS 250: Introduction to statistics and data analysis (4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 495: Policy seminar (junior year, 4 credits)
  • PUBPOL 495: Policy seminar (senior year, 4 credits)
  • 6 additional credit hours in PUBPOL at the 300 or 400 level
  • 12 additional credits in student-declared focus area

Focus areas 

The field of public policy touches many academic disciplines and a broad range of policy arenas. Students design focus areas that allow them to develop a deeper understanding of a policy area that interests them.

Focus areas can address an area of public policy, a perspective on public policy, or the policy issues concerning a specific geographic region. Students will take four upper-level classes (12 credits) from any school or college at U-M or during a study abroad/study away program.

Examples of past student focus areas include: Energy Policy, Health Care Policy & Infectious Disease Control/Prevention, Economic Perspectives on Public Policy, Historical Perspectives on Foreign Policy, Development Policy in Southeast Asia, and Middle Eastern Policy. 

Policy seminars

Policy seminars are small, interdisciplinary courses that focus on specific policy issues—domestic and international. During policy seminars, students have the opportunity to interact with policymakers and other experts on the issue being studied. Students work in groups to produce an extensive policy analysis, written for an audience of public officials. Students will take one policy seminar during both junior and senior year; these seminars fulfill the upper-division writing requirement. Policy seminars are only open to Ford School undergraduates and are limited to 25 students.

Recent policy seminar topics include:

  • U.S. social welfare policy
  • Ethics and international affairs
  • Climate change governance
  • Political advocacy
  • K-12 education policy
  • Human rights
  • Health care reform
  • Apology, reconciliation, reparations, and public policy

Elective courses

Students work with their advisors to define their focus areas and identify a set of electives (18 credit hours) that provide appropriate disciplinary depth and policy knowledge. The Ford School offers a variety of elective courses each year, and students may select from these or other electives from across the university to meet their elective course requirements.