Public Policy Research Scholars (PPRS) is a selective three-year certificate program intended for undergraduates with a background in Economics who want to explore the impact of U.S. public policy on the domestic economy. Students must apply for admission at the end of their freshman year and matriculate into the program at the start of their sophomore year. 

The program is administered through the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative; our goal each year is to admit just 15 rising sophomores into the program. Students from all four of Penn’s undergraduate schools are eligible to apply, and the program can be pursued alongside any major. Students that complete the PPRS program will have the designation “Public Policy Research Scholar” noted as an honor on their transcripts and will receive a certificate upon graduation.

The only academic prerequisite for admission is two semesters of Economics.Students are expected to earn credit (or receive waivers) for ECON 001 and 002, or ECON 010/FNCE 103 and BEPP 250, prior to entering the program at the start of their sophomore year. Students who will not have completed the two semesters of Economics by the start of their sophomore year must provide an explanation within their personal statement.

You can learn more about the program by browsing the other pages listed in the side navigation. The PPRS application, including all application instructions, is also available for your review.



In Their Own Words

  • Megha Agarwal

    What unique opportunities has the Public Policy Research Scholars program afforded you?

    “When I made the decision to spend a summer in Washington, D.C., I was apprehensive. An internship at the White House and work in the public sector did not fit into my plan of entering the corporate world. As it turns out, stepping out of my self-imposed comfort zone was one of the best decisions I could have made.”
  • Stephanie Aliaga

    How did your interest in public policy develop?

    I first became interested in the intersection of policy and finance when I worked for a tax accounting firm in high school and discovered the impact that government tax policies had on client’s everyday lives. During my freshman year at Penn, I became involved with the student association to the Wharton Public Policy Initiative where I devoted articles to researching, analyzing, and providing solutions to fiscal and monetary policy issues. My interest in policy grew even more this past summer when I worked at the Department of Commerce and saw how trade policy can increase GDP, augment job growth, and fight poverty worldwide.
    I view every policy issue as multi-dimensional—there are many externalities to every policy decision, as there are many stakeholders to every corporate decision—and I have strived to consolidate various interests, values, and stakes of different parties to advocate for solutions that serve to increase the social and economic utility amongst all participating parties.
    I aspire to utilize my Wharton education to become a pioneer for economic reform, create policies that would maximize employment, battle inflation, and manage long-term growth. While my professional life will likely not begin in government, I am hopeful that I will later serve my country in an advisory role on economic policy to make a positive impact on America and the world.
  • Lauren Anders

    What inspired you to pursue PPRS?

    There are two reasons why I pursued PPRS: personal interest and societal impact. I first became interested in public policy as a delegate to the Missouri Youth in Government Conference for five years and the Conference on National Affairs for three years. At these conferences, I enjoyed writing and debating public policy proposals with 600 delegates of varying political ideologies. I was eager to work with my peers to find creative solutions to the varying problems facing our society. Beyond pure interest, I believe it is important to have a firm understanding of public policy due to its large societal impact. Every policy enacted by our government affects both individuals and corporations. I hope to utilize my Wharton education and my knowledge of public policy to make and advocate for policy decisions that provide the highest utility to all societal actors.
  • Tanner Bowen

    What attracted you to the Public Policy Research Scholars program?

    “At Wharton, I am considering doing concentrations in Business Economics & Public Policy and Legal Studies & Business Ethics. I thought these opportunities were great in themselves, but once I found out about the PPRS program, I knew that this would be an excellent learning opportunity to take my public policy interests to the next level.”
  • Alexa Breyfogle

    What inspired you to apply for to be a Public Policy Research Scholar?

    Throughout high school and my first year here at Penn, I was really involved with social justice work and activism. As I began to invest more and more time into the movement, I realized that in the people I was surrounding myself with, there was no understanding of compromise or baby steps. I also learned change isn’t effected overnight. As I reevaluated my own understanding of the world, I realized that if I really wanted to make a difference, I needed to gain greater knowledge of how policy really works.
  • Christian Butts

    What do you want to do in the future?

    “While my Wharton studies are geared towards understanding how to encourage growth among developing nations, the PPRS program can allow me to work alongside scholars in the fields of international development and trade law that can make my time at Penn even more fruitful and allow me to view my path with more context.”
  • Ryan DelGaudio

    What interests you about public policy?

    “I have always had an extremely strong interest in public policy and international affairs. Looking back upon my experiences throughout high school, I realize my motivation for each of my activities stems from an insatiable desire to learn and better understand the world around me, oftentimes through the context of public policy, economics, and history.”
  • Jordan Dewar

    What inspired you to apply to be a Public Policy Research Scholar

    “One of the major reasons I applied to Penn was the multidisciplinary potential of the Penn curriculum. Ever since I was young, I’ve had a passion for government and politics, but all the majors in government, international relations, or political science tended to oversimplify the economic aspect of policymaking. PPRS combines the areas of policymaking and quantitative analysis in a way that will allow me to better understand the intersection of economics and governmental affairs.”
  • Sean Egan

    Why are you interested in public policy?

    “One of my proudest accomplishments was founding Hearing Our Heroes, a nonprofit that aims to assist veterans… Through my experience with Hearing Our Heroes, I have realized that many veterans do not get the benefits they deserve, and even more have difficulty obtaining those benefits. Those are both issues that I hope to address one day through public policy.” 
  • Miku Fujita

    What do you hope to gain from the PPRS experience?

    “Through the Public Policy Research Scholars program, I hope to gain an in-depth knowledge of the policy-making process and the economic analysis of public policy while I pursue my systems engineering major. I see strong complementarity between my engineering education and the PPRS healthcare policy education. Education toward my systems engineering degree will equip me with advanced quantitative and analytical skills that are highly pertinent to the analysis of healthcare, such as when considering large patient- or hospital-level datasets. At the same time, the policy education through the PPRS program will provide me with an essential basis for effective research; only with deep institutional knowledge of the U.S. healthcare system and understanding of the economics of healthcare delivery would I be able to conduct comprehensive research on healthcare policy. In addition to the curriculum itself, PPRS would also allow me to gain the hands-on skills needed to be successful in public policy research, such as experience through a D.C. internship and specialized practical training in statistical research software. After I graduate from the program, I hope to be at an organization such as the National Institute of Health or Mathematica Policy Research, working as a healthcare policy analyst.”
  • Jeffery Gao

    What do you hope to gain from the PPRS experience?

    “I am studying international relations with a focus on international political economy and trade. An international relations degree gives a strong cultural and theoretical basis for understanding government actions, but it lacks the quantitative training that allows for measuring the economic impact of laws and regulations – a skill the PPRS program emphasizes. By taking part in the PPRS curriculum, I hope to be able to interpret numbers and connect them to regulations, policy, and government action.”
  • Frank Geng

    What interests you about public policy?

    “My interest in public policy is rooted in research. For the past year, I’ve done research on infrastructure policy—first at Penn as part of the Global Infrastructure Project Research Network, and then this past summer at the University College London, though the Global Research Internship Program. Many aspects of research aren’t so glamorous, but it is exciting to apply my interest in economics in a way that is socially meaningful!”
  • Natasha Gupta

    What do you want to do in the future?

    “In the future, I hope to use Public Policy Research Scholars to strengthen my new foundations in public policy and gain a formal education on this subject. By receiving a certificate in this topic and combining it with my finance major from Wharton, I hope to enact political change in the financial world. People often assume public policy refers only to social issues when it truly covers everything from cybersecurity to taxes to budgeting to civilian rights. As someone extremely focused on finance and business, I hope to use this to my advantage and take the education I gain from my Treasury internship, business education, and Public Policy Research Scholars Program to learn how I can use my knowledge and passions to enact fiscal change.”
  • Radhika Gupta

    What inspired you to apply to be a Public Policy Research Scholar?

    “Living in England during the Brexit vote was extremely influential in my decision to apply to the PPRS program. It opened my eyes to the direct impact that politics has on the local and global economy, and through PPRS, I can begin to learn about the impact that domestic U.S. policies have on the economy.”
  • Max Hammer

    What interests you about public policy?

    “Since my arrival at Penn I have built upon my previous experience in and persistent passion for public policy. The public policy process, as a subject of study, has always interested me because it represents the mechanism through which ideas are translated into real, tangible change. My passion for public policy began when I watched a U.S. tank roll across the desert during the televised 2003 invasion of Iraq. That image stuck with me. Such moments define who I am academically, and seeing that event would ultimately lead to me asking important questions such as “Why?” “How?” and “Who?” I wanted to know about the politics — the decision making — behind real-life events. This, unbeknownst to me at the time, was the “gateway” for my interest in politics and public policy.”



  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
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  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>