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Public Policy

Available as a major or minor

Public policy influences every part of our lives from what our schools teach to what our grocery stores sell to what time is shown on our clocks. Creating effective policy requires people with diverse backgrounds and expertise who are passionate about change-making.

Our program will help you understand the intricacies and impact of policymaking — and show you how you can use your skills to become leaders in the policy process.

Curriculum & Courses

POLI-250: American Policymaking
IR-351: Environmental Public Policy
ECON-227: Health Economics
CJUS-240: Inequality in Criminal Justice

Students discussing in a classroom

Student Experiences

  • Roanoke College's Washington Semester program offers students a life-changing opportunity to live and work in the nation's capital. Students get invaluable experience interning for Capitol Hill, national museums, think tanks and nonprofits.

    “None of the other schools I was looking at had a program like this at all,” said Sophia Contini ’24, who interned with the U.S. Marshals Service’s Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force. “It seemed like such a good way to get more experience while also learning how to live in a new city and be more independent.” 

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The intersection of public policy and prickly politics was the focus of a semester-long partnership between Roanoke College's Environmental Public Policy 351 course and Roanoke Parks and Recreation. The city department asked the students to design, from the ground up, a public awareness campaign to help people understand the strategy behind No Mow and counter the skepticism of it. 

To create an effective plan, the class had to look at the issue from all angles, anticipate arguments and craft attention-grabbing messages to respond to them. Their efforts combined research, field work and real-world strategizing.

“They came away with a better understanding of the Roanoke area and of policy-making, especially in relation to the environment,” Associate Professor Andreea Mihalache-O'Keef said. “They got to directly experience the global-local connection in terms of environmental causes and outcomes, and hopefully developed a better appreciation of the importance of local governments in those issues.” 

Students walk down a park path on a field research day

Careers & Outcomes

Casey Wilson portrait on the Back Quad of Roanoke College campus

As Casey Wilson '21 did research and writing for U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., she realized that public policy was her calling. She was in the nation’s capital as part of Roanoke College’s Washington Semester program, which connects dozens of Maroons to exciting internships in the heart of Washington, D.C. 

“I interned in the U.S. Senate, which was amazing. I got to see it firsthand, and that really sold it for me,” Wilson said. 

Wilson, who majored in political science at Roanoke, took that interest and has carried it on to the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, where she pursued a master’s in public policy. Through her real-world experiences — both in the U.S. Senate and during her studies at Aberystwyth University in Wales as part of the Fulbright Summer Institute — and the public policy classes she took at Roanoke, Wilson feels armed with the expertise she needs to succeed at the next level. 

“Roanoke College overall is always able to prepare you for anything,” Wilson said. “I’m very confident that I have a really good background going into grad school.” 




Our innovative program blends policy analysis, research and internship opportunities, and courses from diverse fields to equip our students to tackle real-world problems.

In addition to a strong foundation in policy and political science, students pick courses from an array of other programs (STEM, business, social sciences and more) to better understand the complexities of public policy and learn to evaluate proposals with an expert eye. The major is an excellent complement to studies in different fields and has been designed to make double-majoring easy and rewarding for students interested in that track. 

The skills acquired in our program prepare students for careers in government, advocacy, research, regulatory affairs and communications, to name just a few paths. The wide-reaching impact and importance of policymaking has made policy work relevant across every industry.

Roanoke prepares students to be leaders in those fields with the skills needed to shape ethical, strategic policies that further the public good.

We offer a major and minor in public policy.