Skip to main content

In keeping with Carolina’s Making Connections Curriculum, UNC Public Policy’s experiential education programs offer students structured, active learning opportunities that invite them to integrate and apply their academic knowledge and skills in a real-world policy environment.

Opportunities include:

Students are encouraged to secure an internship as part of the General Education experiential education requirement. Students who wish to complete a public policy internship can enroll in PLCY 293. Students may receive academic credit for an approved internship if it provides an academically relevant policy research-related experience, but PLCY 293 does not count as elective credit toward the public policy major. For PLCY 293, interested students should review the PLCY 293 application and PLCY 293 syllabus and contact Dr. Anna Krome-Lukens prior to the start of the internship. The Duncan MacRae Jr. Public Policy Internship Grant aims to support internship opportunities for public policy majors and to defer some of the costs associated with engaging in unpaid summer internships.

The Clinic (PLCY 393) offers an opportunity for students to identify and solve a public policy problem for a non-profit organization. Enrollment requires instructor permission but is open to undergraduates from all majors and minors in the College of Arts and Sciences. Working in small consulting teams with faculty assistance, students engage with non-profit organizations and learn how to use their knowledge and skills to propose solutions to complex problems. The Clinic provides an excellent preparation for the senior Capstone or a valuable stand-alone experience. The course is an APPLES Service-Learning Course. Questions about the program should be directed to Elizabeth Sasser, Interim Director of Experiential Education.


The Capstone course (PLCY 698) is the culminating experience of the UNC Public Policy undergraduate major and is required for all seniors except those who complete an honors thesis. Students should register for the course in the fall or spring of their senior year. The course provides a bridge between policy analysis as it is studied in an academic setting and policy analysis as it is practiced in the workplace. Students work in small teams to produce actionable, client-centered, public policy research for a non-profit organization or government agency. Over the course of a semester, student teams meet with their client, develop a work plan, research relevant policy issues, collect relevant data, identify and analyze policy options, and produce a final professional-level report that includes specific recommendations for action. Students also develop skills in team work, leadership, communication, professional etiquette, and time management. Questions about the program should be directed to Elizabeth Sasser.


The world is an increasingly unpredictable and complex place with many challenges that demand new, impactful solutions. Social entrepreneurs, driven by their passion to affect change, apply the mindset, processes, tools and techniques of entrepreneurship as a force for good in addressing seemingly intractable social problems. The most successful social entrepreneurs blend optimism and compassion with dogged determination in the relentless pursuit of creating sustainable results.

Designing for Impact (PLCY435) gives students the opportunity to apply the entrepreneurial process – the process of opportunity recognition, understanding needs, curating resources and building teams – to solve social or environmental issues. This course is a highly interactive and experiential one where novel insights and truly creative models are sure to emerge by combining multiple approaches and disciplines. It is designed for you to go from ideas to venture by getting out of the building – not by staying in the classroom! Questions about the course should be directed to Melissa Carrier, Adjunct Professor of the Practice.



Community Partnerships

Click the photo to read more about how Public Policy students are making a difference.

The UNC Public Policy Capstone and Clinic Programs offer students the opportunity to integrate and apply their academic knowledge and skills in a ‘real-world’ policy environment. In these courses, student teams take on consulting projects from non-profit organizations and government entities that seek policy-related research or analysis.

Potential clients or community partners interested in collaborating should review this call for project proposals and contact Elizabeth Sasser, Interim Director of Experiential Education, with any questions.

The Capstone

In the Capstone course, senior public policy majors apply their knowledge and skills to produce actionable, client-centered, public policy research or analysis for a government agency or non-profit organization.

Detailed descriptions of recent projects: 




More info on PLCY 395 Applied Qualitative Research Methods


The Clinic

In the Clinic, students from a range of majors and minors in the College of Arts and Sciences partner with community organizations in order to identify and propose solutions to policy problems.

For a detailed description of 2016-2017 projects, click here.

Campus Partnerships

Campus Y and CUBE + Innovate Carolina

CUBE, UNC’s social innovation accelerator, is powered by a partnership between the Campus Y, UNC’s hub for social justice and innovation, Innovate Carolina, and UNC Public Policy. CUBE accepts 10-14 teams a year and provides them with the resources and support they need to turn their best ideas for social, environmental, or economic improvement into realities.

CUBE offers the unique opportunity for students to grow entrepreneurial mindsets inside and outside of the classroom. Teams are required to take part in a 3-credit Public Policy course and independent study; additionally, they receive individualized co-curricular support through capacity building workshops, cross-campus connections, coaching and mentorship meetings, a dedicated co-working space, and seed funding.

*Note: In order to be a part of the class (PLCY 435), you need to be accepted into the CUBE program. Applications open annually in March. If you are not a part of CUBE 5.0, you are invited to attend “Wednesdays at the Y,” a public social innovation series that will help you start, tweak, or grow your big idea, which meets 5-6:30 PM at the Campus Y every week during the semester.

Innovate Carolina is the University-wide initiative for innovation and entrepreneurship. It helps faculty, students and staff at UNC-Chapel Hill move more ideas into the world faster to solve the world’s problems and strengthen the economy, believing that only through rigorously applying the tools of innovation can we solve society’s most complex challenges.

Campus Y and Bonner Leaders Program

The Bonner Leader Program at UNC offers leadership development and intensive community work/service experiences for students, who serve over 250 hours per year in a nonprofit organization with progressively greater responsibility during their four years in the program.  The Bonner program works with thirteen community partners, continuously helping the organization and the student shape the future of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro community.

Public Policy has partnered with the Bonner Program through the Public Policy Clinic (PLCY 393):

  • Bonner students have enrolled in the Clinic, further helping the nonprofit in which they have been firmly planted in during their time at UNC while also expanding their knowledge of Public Policy and earning academic credit. Bonner students are well positioned to lead their student consulting team, as they bring hands-on service experience and a deep understanding of organizational mission and culture.
  • The Clinic course has taken on Bonner community partners as clients, offering teams of students the opportunity to research their organization’s particular issues or policy concerns. During Spring 2017, the Clinic partnered with the Bonner Program and evaluated the direct impact of the services and grants that the Bonner Program provides to the community partners.  A partnership between the Bonner Leaders Program and UNC Public Policy enables students, faculty, and the community to create plans to move forward in a sustainable and mutually beneficial way.

Carolina Center for Public Service and Bryan Fellows

The Bryan Fellows program at UNC offers student teams the opportunity to create, launch, and operate their own venture to alleviate and issue, problem, or concern in a particular area. Bryan Fellows are provided the seed money needed to launch their venture as well as leadership training, business mentorship, and access to community partners to ensure the venture’s sustainability. UNC Public Policy partners with the Bryan Fellows by offering guidance in the student’s team leadership and growth.

  • As the first part of the Bryan Fellows program, students are enrolled in PLCY 130, a course in which students learn leadership tools, smart business practices, critical thinking, and engagement techniques with community partners. This class connects Bryan Fellows directly with a mentor to work with during the first semester of their new venture launch.