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Joint PhD Programs

Evidence-based public policy that relies on scientific analysis to guide policy decision-making is increasingly in demand. Many solutions require a new type of scholarship - one that combines the depth of disciplinary science with the breadth and balance of public policy analysis.

Because of this, the Sanford School now offers the opportunity to earn joint degree with either Sociology or Psychology & Neuroscience  

Why choose a joint degree?

There are important advantages to gaining a deep understanding of public policy along with knowledge of a specific discipline. Most complex social issues have competing policy solutions based on different mechanisms stressed by different disciplines. The costs, benefits, and feasibility of potential policies must be considered when weighing options of how to engineer a comprehensive solution.

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    Sample Interdisciplinary Issue

    Absolute poverty brings stress, and growth in the disparity between rich and poor brings more stress.  There’s no doubt that aspects of this complex issue are rooted in a discipline. Absolute and relative poverty’s effect on brain function is rooted in psychology and neuroscience. Sources of structural inequality have roots in sociology.

    In order to find solutions to complex, intractable problems we require a new type of scholarship - one that combines the depth of disciplinary science with the breadth and balance of public policy analysis.

In addition, focusing too narrowly on a policy can lead to partial success but with unintended consequences.

Policy analysis has a long history of advancing both methods and theories within disciplines. At times this comes from importing ideas from one field to another; at other times this comes from entirely new theories or methods developed to solve a specific applied problem but generating an insight that these novel developments have general implications.

Who is this program for?

These Joint Programs are designed to appeal to students who seek to take advantage of the benefits of studying Public Policy and the Discipline in a coordinated program. A student who enrolls in a Joint Program will be required to meet requirements of both the Sanford School and the Discipline in a five-year or six-year period. A student’s primary research advisor will be a faculty member from either Sanford or the disciplinary department. (Co-advising is possible and encouraged.)

Candidate Requirements

The ideal candidate for a joint program will have the academic background and record to be admitted to the disciplinary department but the interest in using research in the service of society. The candidate will be a question-driven researcher willing to master the cannon of a discipline and to understand its value, but also willing to adapt theory and methods from other disciplines to a specific research context.

Graduates of the joint program are expected to become world class scholars and produce applied research capable of informing public policy and the public debate. They might do this from positions within traditional disciplinary departments or they might conduct such research within policy think-tanks or governmental agencies.

Because of the emphasis on research that has societal impact, the ideal candidate would be able to write clearly to a diversity of audiences and to argue persuasively the scientific basis of policy solutions.

How to Apply

Applicants may apply to either Sanford School's Public Policy PhD program or to the PhD program of the Discipline. Simply respond “yes” to the question “would you like to apply to the joint program?”

The home department will be the department that you apply through first; the joint department is the department you indicate interest in when asked whether you wish to apply to the joint program. Both the home department and the joint department will evaluate the application.  

Note: an extra essay is required to apply to the joint program.