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The Curriculum in Public Policy Analysis was initiated as an interdisciplinary undergraduate major in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) in 1979, adding an interdisciplinary doctoral program in 1991. Under the leadership of Kenan Professor of Political Science and Sociology Duncan MacRae Jr., a grant of $200,000 was received from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to support an undergraduate major guided by a Faculty Advisory Board. In 1984-85, the first state funds were committed to administrative support of the program and Prof.  Duncan MacRae Jr. was appointed Acting Chair of the Curriculum. For more on Professor MacRae, see here.

Professor MacRae articulated propositions about the field of public policy, just as that field was emerging as a formal field of academic study, that were distinctive elements of our philosophy:

  • Public policy as a field should be considered first and foremost an interdisciplinary field for application of the liberal arts and sciences to important civic issues, not simply a professional degree for master’s level “technocrats.” For that reason, he began it as an undergraduate major rather than an MPP program.
  • Public policy research should be designed to be useful, not merely to be published or to achieve disciplinary excellence. That is, it should be designed so that the answers it produces are not only good social science, but also could explicitly help to distinguish between better and worse policy choices for actually improving human well-being.
  • Not only public policy questions themselves, but the design of research about them, are unavoidably imbued with value choices and normative issues that should be addressed explicitly: any research design answers some questions better than others, and may even preclude providing good answers to some questions that are important for economic efficiency, equity, justice, and other values. The normative implications of choices in policy research design, as well as in public policymaking itself, should therefore be explicitly taught and should be addressed in research design.

In 1985, Prof. Gorman Gilbert of the Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) was appointed chair and the Curriculum was moved formally to DCRP. Dr. Gilbert left to serve as Taxi and Limousine Commissioner in New York City, and following the service of several acting chairs, Prof. Michael Luger of DCRP was appointed undergraduate curriculum chair in 1988.

In 1990, under the leadership of Professor Michael Stegman, Chair of DCRP, a proposal for an interdisciplinary doctoral program in Public Policy Analysis was approved by the UNC Board of Governors, and the first doctoral class entered in 1991-92. The doctoral curriculum was chaired by Professor Stegman with a separate Faculty Advisory Board. Professor(s) Stegman and Luger coordinated the activities of both degree programs. In 1994-95, following Prof. Stegman’s departure to serve as Assistant Secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Prof. Luger was appointed Chair of both the undergraduate and doctoral programs. At this time, the Curriculum also was awarded its first tenure line positions with the transfer of Professor David Dill’s line from the UNC School of Education and with the hiring of Assistant Professor John Villani .

As the Curriculum continued to expand, it received additional tenure-line positions from the College. Daniel Gitterman (Political Science) and Carolyn Heinrich (Public Policy) joined the faculty as assistant professors(s) in 2000, and Krista Perreira (Health Policy) in 2001, and Professor Richard Andrews agreed to move his primary tenure line into Public Policy from the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, School of Public Health. In 2001, after its first Graduate School Review, the Curriculum was awarded departmental status (Department of Public Policy) and Professor Stegman, who had returned to assume the Duncan MacRae (‘09) and Rebecca Kyle MacRae Professorship of Public Policy, was appointed the first chair of the newly-formed department. Sudhanshu (Ashu) Handa (Economics) joined the faculty as an associate professor in 2003.

Following achievement of departmental status, UNC Public Policy continued to grow in student enrollments, faculty, staff, and in its research, teaching and service activities. Professor Stegman initiated the Burch Field Research Seminar in Domestic Policy (Washington DC), in cooperation with Honors Carolina, and UNCPublic Policy was awarded a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program for professionals from developing countries which continued until 2008. In 2005, W. Hodding Carter III joined the faculty as University Distinguished Professor of Leadership and Policy. The plan for a Carolina Institute for Public Policy (CIPP; now PLCY@UNC) in association with the Department achieved the approval of the College or Arts and Sciences in 2006, and following the appointment of Professor Richard (Pete) Andrews as department chair, the Institute was formally created and Professor Gary Henry was appointed its first Director.

The beginning of the 2006-07 academic year marked a transition for UNC Public Policy. Professor Dill began his planned phased retirement; Professor Stegman retired to assume a position at the MacArthur Foundation; later that year Professor Luger resigned to become Professor and Director of the Manchester Business School, and Associate Professor Ashu Handa took an 18 month leave to work with UNICEF in Africa.

Beginning in 2006, UNC Public Policy invested great energy, with the support of the College of Arts and Sciences, in rebuilding its faculty. By 2009, it had emerged as a larger and actively growing unit, active in research, teaching and service and in the application of research to important public policy issues, and with a new set of primary clusters of faculty expertise. Douglas Lauen (Sociology) joined as an assistant professor in 2006; in 2007 Gail Corrado joined as a Lecturer (Public Policy), assistant professor Christine Durrance (Economics), and Duncan MacRae (‘09) and Rebecca Kyle MacRae Professor Gary T. Henry; in 2008 assistant professor John C. Scott  and S. K. Heninger Professor Maryann P. Feldman (Public Policy) joined the faculty; and in 2009, Ben Meier (under a collaborative search with UNC Global Health) and Pamela Jagger (Public Policy) with an appointment in the Curriculum on Environment and Ecology joined as assistant professors.

By 2009, UNC Public Policy had grown to a core faculty of 12 and 232 undergraduate majors, 37 undergraduate minors, and 23 doctoral students. It developed clusters of research and teaching expertise in Education and Child Policy; Environmental Policy (Domestic and Global); Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Economic Development, and Science and Technology Policy; Social Policy, Including Social Safety Net Policies and Low-Income Communities; Health Policy (Domestic and Global) and Global Policy Issues.

Public Policy undergraduate majors participated in a unique and highly successful capstone project to provide policy analyses to non-profit and government organizations, which was expanded in 2008 into a Policy Clinic for non-majors; and it sponsors an active undergraduate Public Policy Majors Union as well as UNC’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a student-initiated national network of public policy “think-and-do” tanks of which UNC’s chapter was recognized as the most outstanding nationally. UNC Public Policy hosted the social entrepreneurship track of the Carolina Entrepreneurship Initiative’s Entrepreneurship Minor. The Carolina Institute for Public Policy developed a major program of education policy research, which evolved to become a separate Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC).

With the support of the College and the continued growth of undergraduate enrollment, our faculty has continued to grow. Tricia Sullivan joined as assistant professor with an appointment in the Curriculum Peace, War and Defense in 2011; Jeremy Moulton (Economics) in 2011; Steve Hemelt (Public Policy) and Doug MacKay (Philosophy) in 2013. Three new faculty members joined as assistant professors in 2015: Rebecca Kreitzer (Political Science), Candis Watts Smith (Political Science) with an appointment in African, African American, and Diaspora Studies (AAAD), and Brigitte Seim (Political Science) with an appointment in the Curriculum in Global Studies. Also in 2015, Anna Krome-Lukens (History) joined us as a Teaching Assistant Professor and Director of Experiential Education and Jeff Summerlin-Long (Law; Public Policy) came on as a Teaching Assistant Professor. In 2018, Carmen Gutierrez (Sociology) and Joaquín Rubalcaba (Economics) joined us as Assistant Professors of Public Policy. In 2020, Angel Hsu (Environmental Studies) with an appointment with E3P, Jiay Bao (Business Economics and Public Policy) and Abhi Moulick (Political Science) with an appointment with Shuford Program in Entrepreneurhsip joined us as assistant professors. In January 2021, Fenaba Addo (Policy Analysis and Management) and Mehdi Shadmehr (Economics) joined us as Associate Professors.