Engaging locally to improve policy

Community-Partnered Policy and Action

Students meet with directors of a local homeless shelter

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Community-Partnered Policy and Action prepares students to work on policy problems in diverse community settings and with a variety of stakeholders.

Building on the program’s strong foundation in policy analysis, students focusing on Community-Partnered Policy and Action combine rigorous research methods and their understanding of localized context as they design, implement, and evaluate policies for positive change in partnership with communities. Students marry their quantitative and qualitative skills with extensive field experience through community externships and work on research projects at the RAND Corporation.

Place-based learning and problem solving enable students to understand how to translate research and analysis into effective action that leads to concrete improvements in communities.

Community-Partnered Policy and Action Stream Requirements

In addition to the program requirements, students in the Community-Partnered Policy and Action stream must also complete the following requirements:

Required Courses (4.5 units)

Required courses provide students in the Community-Partnered stream an advanced understanding of how to work in partnership with communities to address complex, adaptive problems. All Community-Partnered stream students take these four courses, which total 3.5 of the 4.5 units:

To complete their required 4.5 units, students in this stream also choose from among the following three courses for an additional 1 unit:

Elective Courses (3.5 units)

Students fulfill the remaining 3.5 units toward their 19.5-unit coursework requirement by choosing among a variety of electives. These may include traditional courses, workshops, or tutorials. Elective offerings vary from year to year depending on student interest and instructor availability.

Community Externships

Students in the Community-Partnered stream participate in at least two 4-6 week community externships during the summers following their Year 1 qualifying exams and their Year 2 coursework. They receive on-the-job training (OJT) support for this activity.

Community-Partnered Learning and Dissertation

After completing their coursework, students continue to have community externships available to them, as well as work on RAND research projects. Pardee RAND faculty and staff work with students and community partners to arrange the externships. Students use their analytical and other skills to support the development and implementation of local and regional policies of importance to the community; that work becomes the basis for their dissertations. Pardee RAND faculty and community partners mentor the students throughout the dissertation process.

The Ideal Community-Partnered Stream Candidate

The Community-Partnered stream desires students with strong community experience, applied research skills, and a commitment to working with community partners to understand policy problems and to implement and evaluate policies and programs aimed at addressing these problems. Students in this stream should be curious about how federal and state policy decisions play out in the daily lives of individuals and communities. They should also be eager to work with others to make real and sustainable change in local communities. Community-Partnered students must be comfortable working with others from diverse backgrounds in diverse settings. Students will also demonstrate empathy and cultural and professional humility and be eager to learn from others.

Future Career Paths

Upon graduation, students will be prepared for positions in community-partnered policy research and action such as

  • Applied researchers who conduct community-partnered and -engaged research as part of academic, research, or community-based organizations
  • Education leaders (state, county, and city)
  • Elected officials or their staff members or advisors
  • Evaluators of community-based policies and programs
  • International development program directors or staff members
  • Policymakers in public and private entities
  • Research, program and executive directors of community-based organizations and government agencies (federal, state, and local)

See the initial job placements of our recent graduates for more information.