Minor in Public Policy & International Affairs


The Tower Center and Dedman College have created a distinctive, multidisciplinary minor that will enable HCM Tower Scholars to combine their academic major with experience in the real world of public policy and international affairs through the Minor in Public Policy and International Affairs.

This exceptional course of study will bring policy practitioners into the classroom so students have the opportunity to learn both from full-time faculty who study policy and from visiting professors who craft it. Combining strong academic training in policy analysis with practical experience will teach students how to turn their ideas into actions, launching them into leadership roles on campus and in the public and private sectors after graduation.

The invitation-only minor is open to all majors across the schools, with admission based on a competitive application process.

The Minor in Public Policy and International Affairs will be accepting new applications in the Spring of 2017 for the HCM Tower Scholars, with those cohorts starting the course of study in the Fall of 2017.


A World Class Program

HCM Tower Scholar applicants must:

  • Have a 3.3 GPA
  • Have taken, or plan to take prior to their third year at SMU:
  • One Economics Pre-Requisite (or co-requisite)

ECO 1311 or ECO 1312; or,

a Macroeconomics AP test score of 4 or better; or,

a Microeconomics AP test score of 4 or better.


  • One Quantitative Pre-Requisite (or co-requisite)

ITOM 2305; or,

MATH 1309 or MATH 1337; or,

SOCI 3311 or SOCI 3312; or,

STAT 2301 or STAT 2331 or STAT 4340; or,

a Statistics AP Test score of 4 or better


Required Courses

If selected, HCM Tower Scholars will be invited to enroll in the 15 credit-hour minor in Public Policy and International Affairs.

  • Fall of their second year, HCM Tower Scholars will take Principles of Public Policy (currently offered as PLSC 3320, and as such, open to other students as well). Upon successful completion of Principles of Public Policy, and meeting the required GPA, HCM Tower Scholars will continue with the following courses open ONLY to HCM Tower Scholars:
  • Spring of their second year, HCM Tower Scholars will take Gateway to Global Policy Making (PPIA 2380 meets UC Proficiency and Experiences W & IL, and UC Pillars IIC 1 and PRIE 2)
  • In their third year, during the fall semester, students will complete an individual policy research proposal. Junior Year Policy Seminar (Semester 1, PPIA 3301 meets UC Pillar IIC 2 and UC Proficiencies and Experiences IL and OC); In the spring semester, students will meet with actual client(s), be tasked with a real world policy problem, work on solving that problem, and finally report back to the client. Junior Year Policy Seminar (Semester 2, PPIA 3302 meets UC Proficiencies and Experiences OC, CE and KNW).
  • In the fall of their fourth year, HCM Tower Scholars will do a Directed Research Project stemming from their Junior I policy research proposal for a Dallas-based client to further solidify the practical experience gained in the two-semester junior year policy seminar. (Students may apply to have this course, PPIA 4306, as an Engaged Learning credit).

To see the PPIA course catalog descriptions, click here.

To see the Tower Scholars Minor degree plan, click here.

Meet the 2017 and 2018 HCM Tower Scholars

The Political Science Department, the Tower Center, and the Tower Scholars Program are pleased to announce the Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars from the SMU classes of 2017 and 2018. This exceptional group of 17 students will have the opportunity to combine their academic major with experience in the real-world of public policy and international affairs. These Tower Scholars are enrolled in the selective minor in Public Policy and International Affairs which will pair policy practitioners with SMU faculty to generate a curriculum that combines critical thinking and analytical skills within a rigorous academic framework. These students will also learn to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom to internships and other work for clients to ensure that graduates are well-prepared for entry into their careers whether in the public or private sectors. 

Click here to meet the Legacy Class of Tower Scholars

Click here to meet Cohort II of the Tower Scholars

Recruiting the Students


Admission to the Minor in Public Policy and International Affairs may be earned by current SMU students and transfer students who are currently enrolled at SMU via the admissions requirements below. To be eligible to be Tower Scholars, students must (1) have a GPA of 3.3 and (2) agree to complete the pre/co-requisites set out above. The selection process for choosing the Tower Scholars will be based on merit and determined by an application and interview process.

Applicants must submit the following four items:

(1) transcript(s) of all grades;

(2) a form listing contact information, areas of study, awards, interests and activities;

(3) an 800-1000 word essay as described in the application; and

(4) two letters of recommendation, at least one of which should be written by an SMU faculty member. 

The applicant pool will be evaluated using a variety of relevant criteria, including but not limited to: the relevance of public policy to a student’s career goals, a strong academic record, a strong extracurricular record with demonstrated interest in community and/or public service, demonstrated leadership and sense of social responsibility, and excellent written communication skills. The selection committee will be recruiting students from a diversity of majors and schools, as well as considering diversity broadly defined. Once the applicant pool has been evaluated, a select number will move on to the final stage of the application process, which is an interview with the Tower Scholars Selection Committee. In addition to all of the criteria listed above, the selection committee will seek to evaluate the verbal communication skills of each candidate and will expect candidates to be able to express why becoming a Tower Scholar would be meaningful given their specific career goals.



Support the Minor in Public Policy and International Affairs for HCM Tower Scholars

The Minor in Public Policy and International Affairs for a Tower Scholar is a distinctive interdisciplinary program that will enable a select group of students to combine their academic major with experience in the real world of policymaking and international affairs. This exceptional program brings practitioners of public policy into the classroom on a regular basis to give students the opportunity to learn both from full-time faculty who analyze public policy and from visiting professors-of-the practice who currently craft it.

Support the Minor in Public Policy and International Affairs for a Tower Scholar and help us launch our students into their 21st century leadership roles.

Click Here to Make Your SMU Gift

Information Sessions

To learn more about the Tower Scholars Program, please attend an information session. Sessions will be scheduled again in the Fall of 2016.