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Public Service Scholars Program


The Public Service Scholars Program (PSSP) supports students’ efforts to complete a senior honors thesis, MA 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 concurrently with the honors or capstone program in their major academic department, interdisciplinary program of study, or MA program.  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 community work 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 for the benefit of the public good. 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, capstone, or MA programs and the efforts of faculty advisors during the thesis-writing process.

Academic Excellence

PSSP offers the support, structure, and accountability necessary for the successful completion of participants’ theses or capstone projects. Program participants enroll in Senior Research in Public Service, a 1-unit seminar that meets biweekly. Participants can choose to enroll for one, two, or all three quarters, depending on the needs of their respective projects.

The bi-weekly seminar is designed to explore research as a form of scholar-activism and to provide students with opportunities to share their writing in small groups, solve problems collaboratively, and critique thesis plans, conceptual frameworks and methodologies. Students are expected to have some foundation in community-based research / scholar-activism prior to participating in the program. Rather than focus on theory and methods, which students are expected to have foundational understanding of through prior coursework and experience, the program will focus more on data analysis, writing, publication, and the actualization of a social action plan - to take students to the finish line in completing a community-engaged thesis.


By request, PSSP students can be matched with a Stanford staff, faculty, graduate student, or community member who serves as a mentor. The mentor relationship is highly individualized, but mentors typically provide advice and support to foster the community-engaged dimension of the thesis research and to pursue larger questions of how this work relates to students’ lives and career goals. Students should also enter the program with a faculty advisor for their thesis. 

Public Scholarship

During the course of the academic year, PSSP students develop plans to identify 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.


Students in the program are also eligible to apply for research and project support funds to cover costs associated with interviews, transcription, transportation, printing, project supplies, etc. 

Thesis Presentations

In May, PSSP students present their thesis research along with its implications for communities and the public. The presentation affords students an opportunity to share and celebrate the results of their year-long 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:

  • intention to complete an honors thesis, capstone project, or MA thesis in a major academic department or interdisciplinary program.  Students may also propose independent capstone projects, subject to approval by the PSSP director
  • prior knowledge of and experience with community-based research, scholar-activism, and/or public scholarship
  • 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
  • bi-weekly seminar attendance and timely completion of all required assignments
  • development of a public scholarship plan
  • presentation of thesis work and its public implications and applications in a public forum at the end of the academic year


To apply, please submit the following materials by June 26, 2020 at 11:59pm. 

  1. Online application; to see the full application prior to submission, see the pdf version here
  2. The online application will also ask you to upload your unofficial transcript, CV or resume, and verification of acceptance into an honors program (if applicable)
  3. The online application will also ask you to confirm that you have discussed your intent to participate in PSSP with your faculty advisor. You will be asked to check a box that reads: I confirm that I have talked to my primary advisor(s) regarding my participation in the Public Service Scholars Program and have their support. (Having this conversation and the approval of your faculty advisor(s) prior to applying for PSSP is extremely important. We want to make sure that faculty advisors are kept in the loop regarding applicants' goals and commitments).

Contact Information

For more information about the Public Service Scholars Program, please contact Joanne Tien.