Public Policy Studies

President Ronald Reagan famously said: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”  Do you agree with this skeptical view of government, or perhaps do you prefer the perspective of Barack Obama, when he stated: “Our predecessors understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited.”

If you are someone fascinated by the process of government decision-making and searching for tools with which to gauge the results, you should consider studying public policy. Training in public policy, one of the most dynamic areas within the social sciences today, can lead to career opportunities in government, education, law, and the nonprofit sector, as well as other occupational fields requiring sophisticated understanding of public affairs and leadership.

The Department of Political Science is a vital hub of public policy studies at Northeastern University. Building on our research, teaching, and public service activities, the faculty has a multitude of resources to share with you.

Approximately one-third of full-time members of the department have specializations in domestic or foreign policy. Other faculty have also used their work to address important policy issues. Among the topics covered in recent scholarship by the department are:

A major area of theoretical work in the field of policy studies is agenda setting and problem-definition, and several of our authors have made key contributions to this line of inquiry. All in all, it is an encompassing body of work that has gained broad recognition across the discipline and beyond as indicated by awards from the Policy Studies Organization, American Political Science Association, and other groups.

Reflecting its size and the diverse research undertakings of its faculty, the Department of Political Science is able to offer a large collection of policy-related courses on the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some offerings are general (e.g., Public Policy and Administration, U.S. Foreign Policy, Techniques of Policy Analysis); others delve into specialized issues (e.g., Science, Technology, and Public Policy, Health Politics and Policy, Social Welfare Policy, Urban Policies and Politics, Business and Government).  In this way, the department meets the needs of students who are first being introduced to public policy studies as well as those more advanced and with well-defined interests.

The Department of Political Science’s involvement with public policy matters goes beyond academics. Many members of the faculty have contributed to critical public policy debates through report writing, legislative testimony, participation in public forums, consulting, and other means. Our faculty have captured public office and held appointive positions, including Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate, and Stephen Flynn, former staff member of the National Security Council. Recently, a graduate seminar in Education Policy was taught by adjunct professor Tom Birmingham, who played a pivotal role as president of the Massachusetts Senate in the state’s wide-ranging education reform law of 1993. Instructors of this caliber bring an unparalleled wealth of practical experience into the classroom enabling them to help students appreciate the real-world context in which public policy decisions are made and executed.