CMC’s New Public Policy Major in a Nutshell

“CMC’s mission … is to support faculty and student scholarship that contribute to intellectual vitality and the understanding of public policy issues.”

Claremont McKenna College’s public policy major has been a long time coming. As part of CMC’s mission, public policy as an academic subject combines CMC’s long-established strength in economics and government. Public policy has been one of CMC’s more popular sequences since it was created two years ago. This year, the college is taking a great leap forward by converting the sequence into a major.

“Anyone who knows CMC’s reputation, like potential employers, will know that CMC has traditional strength in government and economics,” said Professor Shanna Rose, Director of the Public Policy Major and Associate Professor of Government at CMC. “A public policy major is going to build on that strength.”

Why now” would be one of the most asked questions regarding the public policy major. The short answer would be to meet growing demand for the subject. Until this year, Pomona was the only 5C college with a public policy major. However, “due to high demand,” Pomona has been unable to accommodate interest from students at the other colleges and “no longer accepts off-campus majors through the Class of 2024.” 

“CMC is really well-situated to meet the demand for public policy. Not only from students here at CMC, but also at Scripps, Pitzer and even Harvey Mudd,” Professor Rose told the Forum during an interview. “I think this is going to be a really nice addition to the curriculum for the 5Cs as a whole.”

The most distinctive features of a public policy major are its interdisciplinary nature and focus on practical skills. The public policy major consists of an internship or research assistantship in public policy and nine courses: one class in quantitative methods; one in ethics; one in policy process; one in microeconomics; four electives (two for a dual major) from economics, government, history, philosophy, and psychology; and a policy lab (capstone). The major builds on CMC’s existing curriculum and does not establish any new courses.

The capstone for the major, also known as the policy lab, is a one-credit class that puts knowledge into practice. Students work with real-world clients, such as the Brookings Institution and the Bipartisan Policy Center, to conduct research and analysis on a real-world policy question. The work they do includes memos, data analysis, and other professional deliverables. Just the kind of real-world experience a CMC student would crave! 

Not only does a public policy major give students the flexibility to count courses from multiple subjects toward their major, but it also provides more freedom in taking classes outside of their major. A dual major in economics (eight courses) and government (seven courses) requires a total of fifteen academic credits, whereas a public policy major requires only nine courses, seven for a dual major. This, in turn, creates more time for students to study abroad, to dual-major in another subject, or to explore CMC’s liberal arts curriculum more broadly.

Regarding professional development after CMC, a public policy major would be suitable for both the public and private sectors. Students who are dedicated to a career in public service should consider majoring in public policy because the major provides insights from economics and political science, among other disciplines, into what makes a good policy. A public policy major equips its students with hard skills in economics, statistics and policy analysis, and softer skills such as professional writing, communication skills and teamwork“You don’t need to plan a career in public service for this major to make sense,” Professor Rose said in response to concerns about policy’s strong focus on the public sector. “I think there are tons of private-sector options for a public policy major. Corporate social responsibility, lobbying and consulting would all be great examples.”

An ice-cream social with faculty members and students from the public policy major will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 pm on Monday, September 16, outside the Hub. No matter what your post-college plan is or which college you are from, public policy would definitely be an option worth looking into.