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Public Service Scholars Program


The Public Service Scholars Program (PSSP) is a year-round program that supports students’ efforts to complete a senior honors thesis or capstone project that is rigorously developed as well as informed by and useful to specific community organizations or public interest constituencies. Students participate in the PSSP during their senior or co-term year, concurrently with the honors or capstone program in their major academic department or interdisciplinary program of study.  Students may also propose independent capstone projects. Individuals from all majors and programs are welcome to apply for admission to PSSP.

The Haas Center established the Public Service Scholars Program in 1994 to encourage students to connect public service with their academic work and research interests through an honors thesis.

Key Elements of the Program

Community of Scholars

PSSP students, under the mentorship of the program director, form an interdisciplinary community of scholars who provide diverse perspectives and support while sharing the pursuit of outstanding scholarship as a form of public service. PSSP students write theses in human biology; peace and conflict studies (an individually designed major); feminist studies; history; American studies; political science; urban studies; sociology; and science, technology, and society. The PSSP complements the requirements of students’ honors or capstone programs and the efforts of faculty advisors during the thesis-writing process. Early in autumn quarter, an overnight retreat provides the foundational community-building experience for the group. 

Academic Excellence

PSSP offers the support, structure, and accountability necessary for the successful completion of participants’ theses or capstone projects. All program participants are required to enroll in Urban Studies 198: Senior Research in Public Service during the Autumn (3 units), Winter (3 units), and Spring (1 unit) Quarters of their senior year. The director of public service research and students co-facilitate the weekly seminar, which is designed to explore the theory and practice of research as a form of service and to provide students with opportunities to share their writing in small groups, solve problems collaboratively, and critique thesis plans, conceptual frameworks and methodologies.


By request, PSSP students can be matched with a Stanford staff, faculty or community member who serves as a mentor. The mentor relationship is highly individualized, but mentors typically provide advice and support to foster the public service dimension of the thesis research and to pursue larger questions of how this work relates to students’ lives and career goals.

Public Service Plan

During the course of the academic year, PSSP students develop public service plans by identifying audiences who might be interested in or benefit from their thesis research. Through this process, participants are challenged to make the link between scholarly research and the public good. Knowing their research will do more than “sit on a shelf” is a powerful motivation during the thesis-writing process.

Thesis Presentations

In May, PSSP students present their thesis research along with its public service implications and applications during a mini-conference entitled “Research With a Public Purpose.” The presentation affords students an opportunity to share and celebrate the results of their yearlong work.

Additional Resources:

A Community of Scholars: an essay on the origins of PSSP written by PSSP alumni

If you are interested in theses written from 1995 to the present, please contact Luke Terra.


PSSP participation requirements:

  • verification of acceptance into honors  or capstone program in major academic department or interdisciplinary program.  Students may also propose independent capstone projects, subjec to approval by the PSSP director
  • regular contact with faculty thesis advisor to ensure thesis meets all requirements of major academic department or interdisciplinary program
  • commitment to the PSSP community through full participation and support of colleagues
  • weekly seminar attendance and timely completion of all required assignments
  • full attendance and participation in the fall retreat (mid-October)
  • development of a public service plan
  • presentation of thesis work and its public service implications and applications in a public forum at the end of the academic year


Please check back later for application information.

Contact Information

For more information about the Public Service Scholars Program, please contact Luke Terra.