Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

Program Offerings

Offering type
A.B.

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs offers a multidisciplinary liberal arts major for students who are interested in public service and becoming leaders in the world of public and international affairs. Students will acquire the tools, understanding and habits of mind necessary to pursue policy problems of their choosing. The major is largely self-designed, but provides the structure and guidance needed for an education that is both broad and deep.

Please note: These requirements apply only to SPIA majors in the Classes of 2026 and beyond. Students in the Classes of 2024 and 2025 should consult the appropriate archived Undergraduate Announcement for detailed information about departmental requirements.

Goals for Student Learning

Curricular Learning Goals

  • Prerequisites are meant to provide basic social science literacy and a foundation for studying and analyzing public policy, and domestic and international affairs. Prior to major declaration, students must complete four prerequisites.
  • Core courses introduce the practical art of policymaking, and further emphasize analytical tools and theory that students will need to understand, evaluate, engage with, craft and/or implement public policy and international affairs. The core prepares students for junior and senior independent work through thematic or disciplinary depth.

  • Electives are designed to encourage disciplinary breadth required in public and international affairs; intellectual depth, by discipline or policy area; and a regional focus that recognizes relationships, institutions and effects that cut across national borders.

Independent Work Learning Goals

  1. Junior Independent Work in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs is designed to teach students:
    • To think analytically about a public policy problem.
    • To critically review evidence about a public policy problem and its potential solutions.
    • To present evidence in a clear, logical and well-organized manner.
    • To evaluate solutions that have been tried or proposed, and potentially develop new solutions to deal with a public policy problem.
    • To clearly and concisely summarize the evidence and the alternatives, and to make recommendations to stakeholders on how best to address a public policy problem.
       
  2. Senior Independent Work in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs allows seniors to draw on their core and elective work to produce clearly written, well organized, methodologically sound and substantively defensible senior theses on a current and significant public policy issue. We expect that every thesis will:
    • Identify a knowledge gap or public policy research question.
    • Generate a logical and testable hypothesis.
    • Identify or collect evidence that will allow you to test your hypothesis.
    • Apply appropriate research method(s) to analyze your data.
    • Draw evidence-based conclusions from your analysis that apply to the relevant public policy debate.

Prerequisites

Students must complete four prerequisites from a list of preapproved courses prior to the fall term of their junior year. Students should consult the Undergraduate Program website for the most up-to-date list of approved courses.

All courses taken to meet these prerequisites must be taken on a graded basis. First-year seminars may not be used to fulfill prerequisites. Students must earn a grade of C or higher in all courses counting toward prerequisites. The following courses may be used to satisfy the prerequisites:

One Course in Statistics

  • SPI 200 Statistics for Social Science
  • ECO 202 Statistics and Data Analysis for Economics
  • ORF 245 Fundamentals of Statistics
  • POL 345 Introduction to Quantitative Social Science

Note that students may not fulfill this prerequisite with AP credit.

One Course in Microeconomics

  • ECO 100 Introduction to Microeconomics (or AP score of 5 in Microeconomics, IB Higher Level score of 7 in Economics or GCE A-level grade of A in Economics)

One Course in Sociology or Psychology

Students must choose from an approved list of courses. Please consult the Undergraduate Program website for the most current list of courses that meet this prerequisite.

One Course in Politics or History

Students must choose from an approved list of courses. Please consult the Undergraduate Program website for the most current list of courses that meet this prerequisite.

All courses taken to meet prerequisites must be completed before September of junior year with a grade of C or higher. A summer course or a course taken abroad may count to satisfy a department prerequisite if the course has been approved by the relevant department and by either OIP or the student's residential college dean or assistant dean for transfer credit. All requests to use a transfer course to satisfy a department prerequisite must be approved in advance by the SPIA director of undergraduate studies.

A course taken at Princeton and used as a prerequisite may also be used to meet either a departmental core requirement (if it is on the list of core requirements) or as a departmental elective (if it is on the electives list).

Program of Study

The curriculum consists of a wide range of courses offered through the school and through our partner departments that are relevant to the study of policymaking, policy analysis and policy evaluation. Students take courses in economics, sociology or psychology, and politics or history. An introductory public policy course is required, along with an ethics course and a course on power and identity. Students enroll in policy seminars in their junior year and write a policy thesis in senior year. To aid in students' independent work, a research design workshop is also required.

Majors are required to take statistics and must be able to use the basics of single-variable calculus in order to take economics courses and some advanced elective options. Students who are concerned about their preparation should consider taking a course that provides instruction in single-variable calculus. In addition, the undergraduate program requires that students engage in some extracurricular cross-cultural experience (which may include study abroad), or policy-relevant field experience (overseas or domestic).

By the end of the fall semester of junior year, students will have to select their area of intellectual depth: disciplinary depth or thematic depth (designated by SPIA). Please consult the Undergraduate Program website for more information.

Independent Work

To satisfy the junior independent work requirement (JP), each student must complete a research paper in connection with a non-credit-bearing fall Research Design Workshop (SPI 299) and a credit-bearing spring Research Seminar (SPI 300).

To aid in the writing and preparation of the junior paper, the non-credit-bearing fall Research Design Workshop will introduce students to research design by discussing the following questions:

  • How does one define an important and researchable question?
  • How does one deploy systematic concepts and evaluate competing hypotheses/arguments?
  • How does one evaluate the plausibility, ethics and relative success of alternative policy solutions?

The course will focus on research design rather than specific methods. 

In the spring research seminar course, a faculty member supervises a small group of students engaged in research on a specific topic in public and international affairs. Faculty will introduce students to the existing state of knowledge and available evidence for research within a well-defined topic that is timely and important in the area of public policy. Supported by the separate coursework required in the research seminar, students will complete their junior paper.

To satisfy the senior independent work, each student must complete a senior thesis that clearly articulates a research question about a significant public policy issue and draws conclusions that contribute to the debate on that issue.

Additional Requirements

Core Course Requirements (seven courses)

Students should review the list of core requirements for their specific class year.

Prior to graduation, students must complete the core course requirements listed below. Students are encouraged to take SPI 298 in sophomore year and must complete the course no later than the fall of junior year. All courses used to meet these requirements must be taken at Princeton on a graded (A–F) basis. Students must earn a grade of C or higher in all courses counting toward core course requirements.

  • SPI 298: Intro to Public Policy (fall only)
  • SPI 299: Research Design Workshop (fall only; non-credit-bearing)
  • SPI 300: Research Seminar (spring only)
  • SPI 301: Policy Task Force (fall or spring)
  • One course on Power and Identity:
  • One ethics course:
    • SPI 370 Ethics and Public Policy
    • POL 307 The Just Society
    • POL 313 Global Justice
    • CHV 310/PHI 385 Practical Ethics
    • PHI 309/CHV 309 Political Philosophy
  • One intermediate economics course (Students who wish to take ECO 300, 301, 310, or 311 are responsible for completing additional prerequisites on their own):
    • SPI 304 Microeconomics for Public Policy (formerly listed as SPI 300)
    • ECO 300 Microeconomic Theory
    • ECO 301 Macroeconomics
    • ECO 310 Microeconomic Theory: A Mathematical Approach
    • ECO 311 Macroeconomics: A Mathematical Approach

Elective Courses (six courses)

Students must complete six (6) elective courses according to the following guidelines. Students must earn a grade of C or higher in all courses counting toward elective requirements.

  1. Disciplinary Breadth (three courses): Take one course from three SPIA-related departments (EEB, HIS, POL, PSY, SOC) not already covered by the intellectual depth requirement noted below. ECO is excluded because it is already a required prerequisite and core course. Prerequisites and core courses may double-count; ECO courses may not.
    By graduation, we strongly encourage students to have taken courses in departments where they have not yet taken a course (for example in a natural science, if they are focusing on the social sciences).
     
  2. Intellectual Depth (three courses): Disciplinary OR Thematic Depth
    • Disciplinary Depth: Take three courses in one SPIA-affiliated department, e.g., ECO, EEB, HIS, POL, PSY, SOC, SPI
      OR
    • Thematic Depth: Take three courses that address a given theme. Courses are drawn from SPIA-affiliated departments or SPIA-approved courses.

Among the six (6) electives, a student may take only three electives from one department. For the major as a whole, a student may not take more than five courses from one department.

Regional Focus: Students should also pursue regional focus across their SPIA coursework. Thus, across the SPIA prerequisites, core and electives, students must take at least two courses that focus substantively on a particular continent. The senior thesis can count toward the regional focus requirement.

Up to three elective courses may be taken in semester-long study abroad programs.

Cross-Cultural or Field Experience Requirement

Prior to the second semester of senior year, each student must have completed an approved cross-cultural or field experience. The requirement may be satisfied in a number of ways, including but not limited to semester study abroad, summer study abroad, policy-relevant summer jobs in a domestic or international organization, ROTC training, senior thesis research in the field, extended service in an underserved community, or an internship involving public policy work in a nonprofit, government or international agency such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the US Congress, or a state or federal agency.

Summer study or thesis research must be done for at least four weeks to qualify. Students must engage in an internship, job or community service project for at least six consecutive weeks at a minimum of 40 hours per week or a total of 240 cumulative hours to qualify. Eligible community service work must involve policy work that will enhance one's learning and understanding of public service.

Cross-cultural or field experience gained during the first or sophomore year or as a participant in the Bridge Year Program may count toward this requirement. To meet this requirement, all past or proposed work must be approved by the undergraduate program.

Senior Departmental Examination

The school's senior comprehensive examination is an oral defense of the senior thesis that assesses the student's expertise related to their thesis.

Study Abroad

Any major may study abroad in one of the department's overseas programs in the first or second semester of junior year. Recent international programs include Pembroke College at Cambridge University and the University of Cape Town in South Africa. At each site, students enroll in coursework at the host university and take a Policy Task Force directed by a faculty member at the host institution. 

Additional Information

The program provides funding during summer, fall and winter breaks for travel and living expenses related to senior thesis research in public policy. The school also provides funding to students in the department who participate in public policy internships over the summer. For additional information, consult the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs Undergraduate Program website.

Faculty

  • Dean

    • Amaney A. Jamal
  • Vice Dean

    • David S. Wilcove (acting)
  • Chair

    • Amaney A. Jamal
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies

    • Susan L. Marquis
  • Director of Graduate Studies

    • Denise L. Mauzerall
  • Professor

    • Gary J. Bass
    • Roland J. Benabou
    • Alan S. Blinder
    • Carles Boix
    • Charles M. Cameron
    • Miguel A. Centeno
    • Christopher F. Chyba
    • Janet M. Currie
    • Rafaela M. Dancygier
    • Pascaline Dupas
    • Kathryn J. Edin
    • Christopher L. Eisgruber
    • Aaron L. Friedberg
    • Filiz Garip
    • Noreen Goldman
    • Bryan T. Grenfell
    • Gene M. Grossman
    • G. John Ikenberry
    • Harold James
    • Seema Jayachandran
    • Jennifer L. Jennings
    • Henrik J. Kleven
    • Atul Kohli
    • David S. Lee
    • Frances E. Lee
    • John B. Londregan
    • Denise L. Mauzerall
    • Nolan McCarty
    • Atif R. Mian
    • Helen V. Milner
    • Sanyu A. Mojola
    • Eduardo Morales
    • Andrew Moravcsik
    • Layna Mosley
    • Michael Oppenheimer
    • Pietro Ortoleva
    • Elizabeth L. Paluck
    • Grigore Pop-Eleches
    • Deborah A. Prentice
    • Markus Prior
    • Emily Pronin
    • Stephen J. Redding
    • Richard Rogerson
    • Cecilia E. Rouse
    • Kim Lane Scheppele
    • Eldar Shafir
    • Jacob N. Shapiro
    • Patrick T. Sharkey
    • Stacey A. Sinclair
    • Paul E. Starr
    • Eric Tate
    • Zeynep Tufekci
    • James Raymond Vreeland
    • Keith A. Wailoo
    • Leonard Wantchekon
    • Mark W. Watson
    • Elke U. Weber
    • Ismail K. White
    • Jennifer A. Widner
    • David S. Wilcove
    • Deborah J. Yashar
    • Julian E. Zelizer
    • Owen M. Zidar
  • Associate Professor

    • Elizabeth M. Armstrong
    • Alin I. Coman
    • Thomas Fujiwara
    • Alexander Glaser
    • Adam M. Goldstein
    • C. Jessica E. Metcalf
    • Jonathan F. Mummolo
    • Rory Truex
    • Hye Young You
  • Assistant Professor

    • Benjamin H. Bradlow
    • Tanushree Goyal
    • Naima N. Green-Riley
    • John R. Grigsby
    • Andy Guess
    • Saad A. Gulzar
    • Arun Hendi
    • Allan Hsiao
    • Adam Kapor
    • Patricia A. Kirkland
    • Aleksandra Korolova
    • Jonathan Mayer
    • Wei Peng
    • Rebecca L. Perlman
    • Karthik A. Sastry
    • Maria Micaela Sviatschi
    • Guadalupe Tuñón
    • Andreas B. Wiedemann
    • Xu Xu
  • Associated Faculty

    • Alison E. Isenberg, History
    • Guy J.P. Nordenson, Architecture
  • Lecturer with Rank of Professor

    • Robert L. Hutchings
    • Ethan Kapstein
    • Stanley N. Katz
    • W Bentley MacLeod
  • Professor of the Practice

    • Heather H. Howard
  • Lecturer

    • Alicia Adsera
    • Frederick D. Barton
    • Barbara C. Buckinx
    • Andrew Buher
    • Selene Campion
    • Wendy Castillo
    • Alan R. Chernoff
    • Ramon J. Cruz Diaz
    • Lauren Davis
    • Lynda G. Dodd
    • Kathleen Donnelly
    • Darcie Draudt-Véjares
    • Edward P. Freeland
    • Varun Gauri
    • Arbel Griner
    • Jean B. Grossman
    • William G. Guthe
    • Razia Iqbal
    • Meg Jacobs
    • Gregory B. Jaczko
    • Tessie Krishna
    • Daniel C. Kurtzer
    • John A. Maldonado
    • Elliot J. Mamet
    • Anastasia Mann
    • Babak Manouchehrifar
    • Susan L. Marquis
    • Carol L Martin
    • Daniel J. Meuse
    • Ashoka Mody
    • Amal Mudallali
    • Timothy J. Nelson
    • Udi Ofer
    • Deborah N. Pearlstein
    • Minh-Thu D. Pham
    • Juan C. Pinzon
    • Dafna H. Rand
    • Etienne Rosas
    • Kenneth Roth
    • Timothy D. Searchinger
    • Thomas A. Shannon
    • Arian M. Sharifi
    • Alyssa B. Sharkey
    • Tsering Wangyal Shawa
    • Sam van Noort
  • Visiting Professor

    • Martin S. Flaherty
  • Visiting Associate Professor

    • Alisa C. Lewin
  • Visiting Assistant Professor

    • Melissa M. Valle
  • Visiting Lecturer

    • Eduardo Bhatia
    • Martha B. Coven
    • Mickey Edwards
    • David Ehrenberg
    • Brian Kelly
    • Robert Malley
    • Steven Strauss
    • Leonor Tomero

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Courses

SPI 200 - Statistics for Social Science Spring QCR

An introduction to probability theory and statistical methods especially as they relate to public policy. The course will consist of a brief introduction to probability theory as well as various topics in statistics and how they can be used in the public policy realm. Subject areas will include random variables, sampling, descriptive statistics, distributions, estimation, hypothesis testing, and introduction to the regression model. The data sources will be actual examples taken from the public policy realm. Stata, a general purpose statistical programming package will be used to perform the statistical analysis. S. Gulzar

SPI 201 - Introduction to Urban Studies (also ARC 207/SOC 203/URB 201) Spring SA

SPI 211 - Introduction to Quantitative Social Science (also POL 345/SOC 305) Fall QCR

SPI 301 - Policy Task Force Spring

Open only to students enrolled in the school. See 'Program Information' for description. Juniors who are concentrators in the school must register for the policy task force as "Junior Independent Work.'' Seniors should register for SPI 401 or 402 as a course rather than junior independent work. Staff

SPI 304 - Microeconomics for Public Policy Spring SA

Microeconomics is the study of how people and societies confront scarcity. This course, taught at the intermediate level, focuses on markets as a mechanism for dealing with scarcity, and uses examples that cast light on public policy issues. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisite: ECO 100. S. Moroni

SPI 306 - Environmental Economics (also ECO 329/ENV 319) Fall SA

An introduction to the use of economics in thinking about and dealing with environmental issues. Stress on economic externalities and the problem of dealing with them as instances of organizing gains from trade. Applications to a wide variety of problems, among them air pollution (including, importantly, global climate change), water pollution, solid waste and hazardous substances management, species preservation, and population policy. S. Brunnermeier

SPI 309 - International Trade (also ECO 352) Spring SA

Examination of the causes and economic consequences of international trade in goods and services, investment and migration. Stress on the possibility of aggregate national gains from trade, and the distributional conflicts generated by trade. Analysis of policies regarding these issues from the perspective of economics and political economy. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Prerequisites: WWS 100 or ECO 300 or ECO 310. L. Bilir

SPI 310 - American Politics (also POL 220) Fall SA

SPI 311 - The Politics of Development (also LAS 371/POL 351) Spring SA

SPI 312 - International Relations (also POL 240) Spring SA

SPI 315 - Grand Strategy (also POL 393) Not offered this year SA

Military strategy was defined by Clauswitz as the use of battle to achieve the objectives of war. Grand strategy is broader, encompassing the attempted use by political leaders of financial economic, and diplomatic, as well as military, power to achieve their objectives in peacetime and in war. This seminar will examine the theory and practice of grand strategy both to illuminate how relations among city-states, empires, kingdoms and nation states have evolved over the centuries and also to identify some common challenges that have confronted all who seek to make and execute grand strategy, from Pericles to Barack Obama. A. Friedberg, G. Ikenberry

SPI 319 - Human Rights (also POL 380) Spring SA

SPI 323 - Chinese Politics (also EAS 362/POL 362) Not offered this year SA

SPI 325 - Introduction to Comparative Politics (also POL 230) Fall SA

SPI 330 - Population, Society and Public Policy (also SOC 328) Not offered this year SA

This course focuses on the causes and consequences of population change and the policy levers used to regulate demographic behavior and outcomes. In addition to basic demographic concepts, measures and data, we will address questions such as: What is the carrying capacity of the planet? Why has fertility declined in some countries but not others? How does population growth influence the environment? What does population aging portend for social security solvency? Can countries regulate international migration? Why does China have so many male births? Is marriage obsolete? Is urban life good or bad for your health? A. Hendi

SPI 331 - Race and Public Policy (also AAS 317/POL 343/SOC 312) Not offered this year SA

Analyzes the historical construction of race as a concept in American society, how and why this concept was institutionalized publicly and privately in various arenas of U.S. public life at different historical junctures, and the progress that has been made in dismantling racialized institutions since the civil rights era. Staff

SPI 334 - Media and Public Policy (also SOC 319) Not offered this year SA

Introduction to communications policy and law, covering such topics as freedom of the press and the development of journalism; intellectual property; regulation of telecommunications, broadcasting, and cable; and policy challenges raised by the Internet and the globalization of the media. P. Starr

SPI 339 - American Society and Politics (also SOC 201) Not offered this year SA

SPI 340 - The Psychology of Decision Making and Judgment (also PSY 321) Spring EC

An introduction to the logic of decision making and reasoning under uncertainty. Focus on psychological mechanisms that govern choice and judgment and on characteristic errors found in intuitive judgment and choice. Discussion of divergence from the model of rational agent often assumed in social science theory and economics. Rules governing pleasure, pain, and well-being provide background for analysis of the rationality of some individual choices and for the evaluation of general policies that affect human welfare. Prerequisite: introductory statistics for social science or instructor's permission. V. Gauri

SPI 350 - The Environment: Science and Policy (also ENV 350) Not offered this year SEN

This course examines a set of critical environmental issues including population growth, ozone layer depletion, climate change, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and depletion of global fisheries. It provides an overview of the scientific basis for these problems and examines past, present and possible future policy responses. Staff

SPI 351 - Information Technology and Public Policy (also COS 351/SOC 353) Not offered this year SA

SPI 353 - Science and Global Security: From Nuclear Weapons to Cyberwarfare and Artificial Intelligence (also MAE 353) Not offered this year SEN

This course will provide students with a basic technical understanding of some of the critical technologies that are relevant to national and global security and will equip students with the skills to better assess the challenge of developing effective policies to manage such technologies. Case studies will inter alia include nuclear weapons and their proliferation, nuclear and radiological terrorism, space weapons, biosecurity and cyberware. Two lectures. A. Glaser

SPI 355 - Infection: Biology, Burden, Policy (also GHP 425/MOL 425) Not offered this year SEN

SPI 367 - Latin American Politics (also LAS 367/POL 367) Not offered this year SA

SPI 370 - Ethics and Public Policy (also CHV 301/POL 308) Fall EM

This course examines basic ethical controversies in public life. What rights do persons have at the beginning and end of life? Do people have moral claims to unequal economic rewards or is economic distribution properly subject to political design for the sake of social justice? Do we have significant moral obligations to distant others? Other possible topics include toleration (including the rights of religious and cultural minorities), racial and gender equity, and just war. S. Macedo

SPI 380 - Critical Perspectives in Global Health Policy (also GHP 350) Fall SA

SPI 381 - Epidemiology: Unpacking Health with Classic Tools, Ecology and Evolution (also EEB 351/GHP 351) Spring

SPI 388 - Causes of War (also POL 388) Fall SA

SPI 389 - Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America (also AAS 393/AMS 423/HIS 393) Spring HA

SPI 401 - Policy Seminars Fall

Open only to students enrolled in the school. See 'Program Information' for description. Juniors who are concentrators in the school must register for the policy task force as "Junior Independent Work.'' Seniors should register for SPI 401 or 402 as a course rather than junior independent work. Staff

SPI 406 - Issues in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (also ECO 429) Not offered this year SA

Course introduces use of economics in understanding both the sources of and the remedies to environmental and resource allocation problems. It emphasizes the reoccurrence of economic phenomenon like public goods, externalities, market failure and imperfect information. Students learn about the design and evaluation of environmental policy instruments, the political economy of environmental policy, and the valuation of environmental and natural resource services. These concepts are illustrated in a variety of applications from domestic pollution of air, water and land to international issues such as global warming and sustainable development. S. Brunnermeier

SPI 421 - Comparative Constitutional Law (also CHV 470/POL 479) Spring SA

This course will introduce students to the variety of forms of constitutional government and the way that human rights are understood and enforced by courts around the world. We will trace the emergence of a global constitutional culture and focus more directly on the constitutions of South Africa, India, Germany, France, Hungary, Israel and Canada. We will give primary emphasis to the rights provisions in national constitutions, but will also take transnational constitutional regimes through examining decisions of the European Courts of Human Rights. Two ninety-minute seminars. Staff

SPI 424 - Seminar in Comparative Politics (also POL 430) Fall SA

SPI 425 - Seminar in Comparative Politics (also LAS 390/POL 431) Spring SA

SPI 426 - Seminar in Comparative Politics (also POL 432) Spring SA

SPI 451 - Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation, Policy (also ENE 366/ENV 339/GEO 366) Spring SEN

SPI 452 - Global Environmental Issues (also CEE 334/ENE 334/ENV 334) Spring SEN

SPI 455 - Disease Ecology, Economics, and Policy (also ECO 328/EEB 304/ENV 304) Fall SEN

SPI 466 - Financial History (also HIS 467) Not offered this year HA

The course examines the history of financial innovation and its consequences. It examines the evolution of trading practices, bills of exchange, government bonds, equities, banking activity, derivatives markets, and securitization. How do these evolve in particular state or national settings, how are the practices regulated, how do they relate to broader development? What happens as financial instruments are traded across state boundaries, and how does an international financial order evolve? What are the effects of international capital mobility? How is resulting conflict and instability managed, on both a national and international level? H. James

SPI 481 - Special Topics in Institutions and Networks (also SOC 481/URB 481) Spring SA

Special Topics in Institutions and Networks will house courses related to communications, media influence and information networks, international organizations and global governance, law and legal systems, political systems and social networks. B. Bradlow