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The Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) is the capstone experience of the MPP curriculum. The PAE is an analytic and consultative professional product, usually around 40 pages in length, in which MPP students examine an existing public or nonprofit sector policy or management issue presented by a client organization. Many MPP graduates point to the PAE as one of the true highlights of their Harvard Kennedy School education.
The PAE provides MPP students the opportunity to integrate the technical skills and specialized knowledge they have gained from the MPP curriculum. This includes a core set of skills centered around economics, statistics, strategic management, political advocacy and leadership, professional ethics, professional management, and policy analysis, as well a specific Policy Area of Concentration (PAC) or Concentration.
In the fall semester of the second year, MPP students enroll in a year-long seminar in their Policy Area of Concentration (PAC)/Concentration. The PAC Seminars serve to familiarize students with key issues and policy debates in their particular area. Once students declare their PAE topics, they are each assigned a faculty advisor whose expertise aligns with their topic.
To complete their PAEs, students essentially serve as unpaid consultants to client organizations. They work with their client organizations to define specific issues, design research strategies, gather data, formulate and evaluate options, and finally, make actionable recommendations. It is not unusual for client organizations to implement the recommendations made by students in their PAE.
To see some of the work former students have completed, please refer to the sample PAEs.