PSSP group pic 2014



Contact Information

The Public Service Scholars Program (PSSP) is a year-round program that supports students’ efforts to write a thesis that is academically rigorous 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 program in their major academic department or interdisciplinary program of study. Students from all majors 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.

PSSP 20th Anniversary Alumni Gathering

Attention all PSSP alumni! Please save this date: Friday, October 10, 2014, 11:30 am–6:00 pm.

This year, all PSSP alumni are invited to a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Haas Center’s Public Service Scholars Program. On Friday, October 10, come meet with fellow PSSPers to celebrate and reflect on two decades of the program and its impact on those who have participated.

Find out more and RSVP here.

This event is brought to you in part through funding from the Stanford Associates.

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 academic research 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 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. 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:

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


PSSP participation requirements:

  • verification of acceptance into honors program in major academic department or interdisciplinary program
  • 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

Note: While not required, participation in the relevant Honors College program is strongly encouraged. Students whose departments do not offer an Honors College program may be able to participate in the one offered through the Program in Urban Studies.


The deadline for the 2014–15 program has passed.

Student online application

Faculty online recommendation

A complete PSSP application includes the following components:

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
  • Verification of acceptance to the honors 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 research that not only meets the requirements of an honors thesis but also manifests the values of research as service?

4) Honors Thesis Research

Please describe the nature of your research project, your preparation for conducting research, and what you deem to be the practical applications of your research. 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 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 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? What challenges to implementation do you anticipate?

5) Application Essay

Please describe a dilemma you faced at some point since entering Stanford that challenged your core beliefs. How did you handle the situation? What did you learn from it? Please limit your essay to 1000 words.

Contact Information

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