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About UNC Public Policy

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 at Carolina guided by a Faculty Advisory Board.

The UNC Curriculum in Public Policy Analysis was initiated as an interdisciplinary undergraduate major in the College of Arts & Sciences in 1979, adding an interdisciplinary doctoral program in 1991. The Department of Public Policy was established in 2001, and the Master of Public Policy (MPP) was approved by the Board of Governors in 2021.

In 1978, the Sloan Foundation sponsored a conference on the public policy and management curriculum at Hilton Head, South Carolina. A proposal was made to create a new professional association of graduate schools of public policy and management. APPAM formally was created at a May 1979 conference at Duke University by representatives of 15 policy schools and research institutes. UNC-Chapel Hill was a charter institutional member of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM). UNC-CH and UNCC hosted an APPAM Institutional Member Forum in 2022.

Professor MacRae articulated core propositions about the field of public policy as it was emerging as a formal field of academic study, which have become distinctive elements of our approach:

  • Public policy should be considered an interdisciplinary field for application of the liberal arts and sciences to important civic issues.
  • Public policy research should be useable – not merely to be published or to achieve disciplinary excellence. It should be designed so that the answers it produces are not only good social science, but also could help to distinguish between better and worse policy choices for improving human well-being.
  • Public policy questions themselves—and the design of research about them—are imbued with value choices and normative issues that should be addressed: 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 be taught and should be addressed in research design. Our undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree requires a course on the normative dimension of public policy.

At the start of the 2022-23 academic year, we have a full-time core teaching faculty of twenty-three. Our interdisciplinary faculty have their doctorates in business, economics, history, law, philosophy, public policy, political science, sociology and sociomedical science. UNC Public Policy’s undergraduate enrollment has grown to approximately 600 majors and 200 minors.

The Old Well