Policy Task Forces

Policy Task Forces

As part of the junior independent work requirement, all students must complete one Policy Task Force during their junior year. The task force represents the most distinctive feature of the School’s undergraduate program and is different from a course, seminar or independent work in other departments.

Each Task Force provides students with experience in a range of activities that develop different skills:

  • academic research
  • interviewing and field research
  • oral presentation before a group
  • effective participation in collective discussion and deliberation
  • continuing education in group dynamics

Each part of the Task Force addresses unfinished questions of public policy, often characterized by rapidly changing circumstances.

Topics for Fall 2019 include

  • Improving the Interventions
  • Improving Health Care for Vulnerable Populations in the U.S.
  • Alternatives to the Current USA Social Safety Net
  • Rethinking Criminal Justice: Policy Responses to Mass Incarceration 
  • China, the Rule of Law, and Fundamental Rights: Engagement or Confrontation
  • The Planet is Warming: Can the Paris Agreement Meet the Challenge?
  • The European Refugee Crisis, Four Years On: Domestic and Regional Policy Challenges

Task force work is often modeled on the way research is done by government staff. The group as a whole is charged with tackling a policy issue, while each research paper takes on one aspect of the larger problem.

Because each student's effort has implications for other Task Force members, students must collaborate. After completing their own research, students have the additional task of persuading their colleagues of the soundness of their conclusions.

In the later stages of a Task Force, members debate proposed recommendations. They combine information from their individual research, guest speakers, field visits and group discussions to arrive at a set of recommendations on the policy problem. Students must go beyond dealing with what "is" in a given policy area, to ask what "should be."

The group effort culminates in a final report that may be distributed or presented to public officials, area specialists and others in the public and private sector.