There are two different tracks to graduating with distinction in public policy: the honors seminar and the independent study route.
The choice will depend on a number of factors. The seminar provides students with the additional support of feedback from seminar participants, trains students in the presentation of research results, offers the opportunity for research funding, and can generate additional recognition (i.e., designation as a PPS Honors Program Scholar).
The independent study route may be chosen by students who realize after they have produced significant seminar/independent study papers that they are interested in pursuing topics in even more depth than they did in their class papers. The same standards will be used in judging papers whether they come from the honors seminar or through the independent study track.
The Honors Seminar Route
Students must begin thinking about a topic and a potential adviser during the fall semester of their junior year.
In the spring of junior year interested students will enroll in a one-credit honors class focusing on research methodology. A student who completes the class successfully will be designated a PPS Honors Program Scholar and be eligible for a research stipend of up to $200 to be used over the summer or during the senior year.
To enter the honors seminar, a student should have at least a 3.40 average in a subset of core courses taken to date (i.e., PPS 155(55), 301(114), 302(116), and 303(128)/substitute). The student would enroll in a one-credit course in the fall of senior year to complete the honors thesis, with the thesis to be submitted in December. The thesis will be read by the advisor and the honors seminar director, who may also ask for an additional reader. The honors seminar director makes the final determination of the thesis grade.
A student who earns an A- on the thesis, has completed the subset of core courses (i.e., PPS 155(55), 301(114), 302(116), and 303(128)/substitute) and has maintained at least a 3.40 average in these classes will graduate with distinction in PPS. Those who meet the grade cutoff and earn an A or A+ on the thesis will graduate with highest distinction in public policy.
Note that because the honors seminar is completed by the fall of senior year students may be able to know by December if they will graduate with distinction, which they can report in their graduate school or employment applications.
Independent study route
Students in their junior or senior year who write an extensive paper in a seminar (or independent study) are encouraged to think about transforming it into an honors project if they earn an A- or higher on the paper.
A student can write a proposal on how the work would be transformed into an honors project and submit this proposal, with the support of a faculty advisor, to the honors committee.
The honors project faculty advisor does not have to be the same individual who taught the class that led to the proposal. The committee (i.e., the honors seminar director and another professor) will provide feedback on the proposal. This feedback will not be a yes/no assessment; rather it will provide advice and an indication of the likelihood of success for the project. The student can then undertake an independent study, with the goal of producing a project to be read for honors consideration.
In order to submit the original class paper for initial evaluation of the research proposal, a student must have a 3.40 in the subset of cores (i.e., PPS 155(55), 301(114), 302(116), 303(128)/substitute) taken to date. The final paper for honors consideration can be submitted in December or April of senior year. It will be read by the advisor and honors director, who will apply the same standards of assessment to these papers as to those emerging from the honors seminar. The honors seminar director might also ask for input from an additional reader. The honors seminar director makes the final determination of the grade quality of the paper (though the advisor in the independent study has the freedom to assign whatever grade she/he deems appropriate for that exercise).
A student who earns an A- rating on the thesis, has completed the subset of core courses (i.e., PPS 155(55), 301(114), 302(116), and 303(128)/substitute) and maintained at least a 3.40 average in these classes will graduate with distinction in PPS. Those who meet the grade cutoff and earn an A or A+ on the thesis will graduate with highest distinction in public policy.