Practicum

Tackle real-world policy problems
The chance to tackle complex, real-world policy problems and propose workable solutions is invaluable for our students as they prepare for their careers. It's one more way that our program bridges theory and practice.
Dr. Kathryn Stoner
Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies

What is the Practicum?

A key element of the MIP experience is the practicum program entitled “Engineering Policy Change”. Led by Professors Frank Fukuyama and Jeremy Weinstein, the practicum will center around an innovative policy framework that will be a centerpiece of the MIP program. Students will engage with the framework through hands-on exercises, using each step to work towards the resolution of real-world policy problems. The practicum takes place over two quarters, for a total of 9 units.

Highlights

Redesigned Policymaking Framework

Too often, decision-making is approached with a solution in mind already, leading to suboptimal outcomes. The policymaking framework teaches students to put problems first, only working towards a solution after understanding the nature of the problem. After arriving at a solution, students must also navigate the many challenges of implementation that are too often overlooked.

Drawing from the best of cross-disciplinary problem-solving frameworks as well as the expertise and experience of Professors Fukuyama and Weinstein, this innovative framework is organized along three main stages – problem identification, solutions development, and implementation. The framework will guide the structure of the practicum, with each step entailing a set of in-class materials and out-of-class exercises that will be applied towards the students’ projects.

 

Extended Teaching Network

The new practicum will benefit from an extended teaching network that will provide students with multiple layers of support. The network consists of:

  • Practicum Partners: Each student group will work with an outside organization on their practicum project. Practicum partners will commit to providing students with the access and support needed to provide a meaningful learning experience.
  • Faculty Mentors: Each student team will be assigned a faculty mentor who has expertise in the project topic.
  • Outside Advisors: Students will additionally be provided with outside advisors who will provide a fresh perspective on their projects.
  • Faculty Chairs: Professors Fukuyama and Weinstein will spearhead the development of the curriculum, lead class sessions, and provide overall leadership of the practicum program.
  • Practicum Manager: Kimberly Renk will support the general management of the practicum program.

 

Travel

Travel is an indispensable part of the practicum experience. Through travel, students are able to form in-person relationships with practicum partners, collect primary data, and develop an understanding of realities on the ground. Each practicum team will be expected to travel to relevant sites in order to gain a more holistic understanding of their practicum topics.

 

Practicum Spotlight

Countering Online Hate Speech

Facebook has millions of posts by users each day, some of which include hateful speech. Though Facebook prohibits hate speech, attempting to identify and remove hateful content is a big challenge. Through the MIP practicum, our students worked with Facebook to determine whether counterspeech - or responses to hate speech that support positive views - could be an effective strategy to combat online hate speech. The students developed an online experiment, exposing participants to hate speech and counterspeech on the Facebook platform. Preliminary results suggest that exposure to increased levels of counterspeech increased participants’ agreement with more positive views about marginalized groups. However, participants were also less willing to engage with those holding opposing views following the experiment. The results provide Facebook with important insights as it navigates its regulation of online expression.

Call for Practicum Partners

We invite potential partners to contact us to discuss the possibility of turning a policy problem they face into a MIP practicum project. Each year, we select approximately six to eight practicum projects for our second-year students.

For more information, please contact Kimberly Renk.