The Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) is the culmination of your Harvard Kennedy School experience. Many of our MPP graduates consider it to be one of the highlights of their HKS education.

During the PAE, you examine and develop solutions for a public or nonprofit sector policy or management issue presented by a client organization. The final analysis—usually around 40 pages or 10,000 words—gives you the opportunity to integrate the technical skills and specialized knowledge you have gained from the MPP curriculum while also helping a client organization tackle an existing concern.

Moving toward energy efficiency

Andreas Westgaard MPP 2017 and Shauna Theel MPP 2017—both students in the Business and Government Policy (BGP) concentration—used their Policy Analysis Exercise to work with Opower, a part of Oracle Utilities, to analyze state energy efficiency policies.

Andreas Westgaard MPP 2017 and Shauna Theel MPP 2017

Your Analysis, Your Recommendations

In your second-year fall semester, you enroll in a year-long seminar in your Policy Area of Concentration (PAC)/Concentration. The PAC Seminars serve to familiarize you with key issues and policy debates in your particular area and guide you through the PAE writing process. Once you declare your PAE topic, you will be assigned a faculty advisor whose expertise aligns with that topic.

In completing your PAE, you essentially serve as an unpaid consultant to a client organization. You and your client work together 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 PAE recommendations made by students.

Reinventing the Wheel

Running a large bike-sharing system is harder than running an urban transit system, contends Jay Walder MPP 1983. He ought to know. He's done both. And it started with his PAE on the New York City public transportation system.

Award-Winning Policy Analysis Exercises

Read the PAEs of some of our MPP graduates