Practicum students work in small teams (3-6 students) to analyze a policy issue requested by their client organization. During their project each team receives guidance from their client, practicum course instructor, and other Stanford faculty. Clients are expected to meet at least once with the students at the beginning, middle, and end of the project. Instructors meet with each team regularly and review drafts of the client deliverables. The projects culminate in two client deliverables: a final report and formal presentation of the main findings. Having a practicum team is roughly the equivalent of having one full-time employee working on the project for the length of the practicum.
Before each practicum course, the proposed projects are screened by the practicum directors and then given to the students to rank their preferences among them. Typically a few proposed projects do not get selected each year. The two-quarter graduate practicum is offered during the fall and winter terms, and the one-quarter undergraduate practicum is offered each quarter.
The students are expected to produce high quality work and act in a professional manner. The Public Policy Program is a rigorous, interdisciplinary program that combines economics, statistics, political science, organizational behavior, social psychology, and moral philosophy. Students are taught applied research methods from the social sciences in the context of public policy issues. They learn skills for evaluating the effectiveness of existing policies and assessing alternative policy options within the constraints faced by policy makers. The program prepares students for policy analyst positions in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors.
Being a client involves working with the instructor before the course to determine an appropriate policy problem or issue that you would like addressed by a student team. During the practicum, clients meet with their student team multiple times to discuss the project and provide feedback on their work to help ensure that it meets the clients' needs. In addition to the meetings, clients should provide relevant documents, contacts, and other information they have that would aid in carrying out the project. All clients must sign an MOU before the practicum begins. Note that all final reports are made public and posted on our website.
The most common types of practicum projects are those in which students:
- Assess the shape of a policy issue/problem (e.g., pension funding shortfall, climate change effects on wine industry)
- Evaluate a policy/program (e.g., merit pay for teachers, childcare subsidy pilot programs)
- Develop a new program initiative (e.g., environmental sustainability plan, microfinance programming)
Regardless of project type, many projects contain the following components and subcomponents: a) background research: describe the policy context, synthesize previous research, b) information gathering: interview or survey stakeholders/experts, collect quantitative/qualitative data, identify best practices, and c) analysis: establish evaluative criteria and decision-making framework, construct policy options, use analytical methods to forecast policy outcomes, make recommendations.
Ideal projects for the practicum are sufficiently narrow and well-defined such that in one or two quarters students can delve deep into the issue, gaining the specialized knowledge necessary to conduct a rigorous analysis of the issue and make useful recommendations about it. At the same time, the project is complex enough to be academically challenging and to enable students to apply skills they have learned in the curriculum. The project should also be on an issue that is important to the client organization and that the students are likely to impact.
The practicum program has worked with the following client organizations.
- California Air Resources Board
- California Assembly's Select Committee on Wine
- California Commission on Judicial Performance
- California Department of Finance
- California Environmental Protection Agency
- California Governor’s Office
- California Public Utilities Commission
- California State Board of Education
- Cupertino City Manager's Office
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- Mountain View City Manager's Office
- Mountain View Whisman School District
- Palo Alto City Council
- Palo Alto Fire Department
- Palo Alto Police Department
- Palo Alto Public Works Department
- San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board
- San Jose Housing Department
- San Jose Unified School District
- Santa Clara County Executive's Office
- U.S. Government Accountability Office
- The World Bank
- The Advisory Council on Child Trafficking
- Americans for Cures
- The Asia Foundation
- The Breakthrough Institute
- California Clean Energy Fund
- California Competes
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- The Climate Group
- Comeback America Initiative
- Education Trust-West
- The Empirical Studies of Conflict Project
- Foundation for Excellence in Education
- Grand Boulevard Initiative
- Hewlett Foundation
- Hoover Institution
- Joint Venture Silicon Valley
- National Center for State Courts
- National Resources Defense Council
- The Prison University Project
- The Volcker Alliance
- ReSurge International
- Silicon Valley Education Foundation
- San Jose State University's Record Clearance Project
- Santa Clara Valley Water District
- United Way Bay Area