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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 Clayton Hurd.


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


Applications for the 2018-19 PSSP are currently being accepted.  


Faculty Advisor Form

**Please note that a complete application includes the student application, the faculty advisor form, an unofficial transcript, and verification of acceptance into your honors program** 

1) Applicant Information

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Phone
  • Academic major
  • Program in which thesis will be written (if different from academic major)
  • Faculty thesis advisor
  • Expected date of graduation

2) Supporting Documents

  • Faculty thesis advisor's letter of support
  • Unofficial transcript (email as an attachment to
  • If applicable, verification of acceptance to the honors or capstone program in your major academic department or interdisciplinary program (email to

3) Personal Statement

Please describe both your personal and academic reasons for applying to the program. Please ensure that you are thorough and specific in your responses to the questions. Please respond to each question separately; each response should be approximately one to two paragraphs in length.

  1. What are your previous public service experiences?
  2. How and what will you contribute to the development of a community of scholars and rich learning environment for your PSSP peers?
  3. How will you manage your senior year commitments so that you are able to complete a thesis or capstone project that not only meets the requirements of your honors program or major, but also manifests the values of research as service?

4) Honors Thesis Research or Capstone Project

Please describe the nature of your research or capstone project, your academic preparation for undertaking, and what you deem to be the practical applications of the research or capstone project. Please ensure that you are thorough and specific in your responses to the questions. Please respond to each question separately; each response should be approximately one to two paragraphs in length.

  1. What is the objective of your research or capstone project? Please identify the specific research question you want to explore and explain why it is significant.
  2. What will you do to answer the question you are posing? Please describe your theoretical framework, the methods you will use to generate and analyze data, and the logistical hurdles you may encounter, e.g., securing research clearances/visas for international studies, translating instruments, identifying respondents, and transcribing interviews.
  3. What specific steps have you taken to prepare for your research or capstone project? What methods and data analysis courses have you taken or plan to take? If your project requires the participation of human subjects, have you submitted a Human Subjects Protocol?
  4. What might be some "real world" or practical applications of your research or capstone? What challenges to implementation do you anticipate?

5) Application Essay

Please describe what motivates your interest in, and commitment to, writing a senior honors thesis capstone project and developing a public service component to accompany it? What is your connection to the thesis topic, and what informs your desire to make an impact? What do you hope to learn from the experience? What impact do you hope you may have? Please limit your essay to 1000 words.

Contact Information

For more information about the Public Service Scholars Program, please contact Clayton Hurd.