Minor in Public Policy & International Affairs

About the minor

The Tower Scholar Program is a selective, multidisciplinary minor in Public Policy and International Affairs that enables students from a variety of academic backgrounds to combine their academic interests with experience in the real world of public policy.  In four exclusive classes, Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars learn from experienced policy practitioners and full-time faculty about the policy-making process before putting their education into action in a directed research project on a policy issue of their choice.  Outside the classroom, Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars experience policy in practice through on-campus events, private meetings with practitioners, and a fully funded trip to meet with professional policymakers in Washington D.C. At the conclusion of this experiential minor, Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars will graduate prepared to transform ideas into actions and step into leadership roles in the public or private sector.

The application-only minor is open to all majors across the schools, with admission based on a competitive application process. We are now accepting applications for the class of 2022! 

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  • Engage with real-world policy experts including U.S. Department of State officials, Congressional staff, intelligence analysts and more
  • Experience Washington, D.C. your junior year as part of a 3-day class immersion trip
  • Study abroad and carry out a policy summer internship with the help of scholarships
  • Simulate real-world policy crises in "Gateway to Global Policy Making" and take on the roles of the National Security Council
  • Develop your own research project in PPIA 3301 and learn social science research methodology
  • Collaborate with your fellow Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars in PPIA 3302 on a semester-long real-life policy analysis project
  • Cooperate with a local Dallas-Fort Worth organization to complete your policy practicum

To learn more about the SMU Tower Scholars Program, read our information card.

Required Courses

If selected, Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars will be invited to enroll in the 15 credit-hour minor in Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA).

  • Gateway to Global Policymaking* (PPIA 2380)
    Study the interaction of policy problems, policy tools, and organizational structures at the local, national, and international levels
    - Meets UC Proficiencies and Experiences Writing & Information Literacy, Depth Humanities and Fine Arts, and Breadth Individuals, Institutions, and Cultures
    - Taken spring of the second year
  • Junior Year Policy Seminar I: Theoretical Public Policy* (PPIA 3301)
    Students develop critical skills in policy analysis, writing and presentation
    - Meets UC Proficiencies and Experiences Information Literacy and Oral Communication and Depth History, Social and Behavioral Sciences
    - Taken fall of the third year
  • Junior Year Policy Seminar II: Public Policy in Professional Practice* (PPIA 3302)
    Students are tasked with a real world policy problem, work on solving that problem, and finally report back to the client
    - Meets UC Proficiencies and Experiences Oral Communication and Community Engagement, and Foundation Ways of Knowing
    - Taken spring of the third year
  • Directed Research Project* (PPIA 4306)
    Students are placed with a Dallas-based client to carry out research and solidify the practical experience gained in the two-semester junior year policy seminar
    - Students may apply to have this course as an Engaged Learning credit
    - Taken fall of the fourth year
  • Principles of Public Policy (PLSC 3320)
    - Offered through political science and is open to all students
    - Subject to course offering, may be taken at any time during a student’s college career

To see the PPIA course catalog descriptions, click here.

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


A World Class Program

Admission to the Minor in Public Policy and International Affairs may be earned by SMU students who are currently enrolled at SMU via the admissions requirements below. To be eligible to be Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars, students must (1) be a first year undergraduate student at SMU (2) have a GPA of 3.3 and (3) agree to complete the pre/co-requisites set out below. The selection process for choosing the Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars will be based on merit and determined by an application and interview process.

Tower Scholars Program applicants must:

  • Be a current first-year student at SMU
  • 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,
    • an AP Macroeconomics test score of 4 or better; or,
    • an AP Microeconomics 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, STAT 2331 or STAT 4340; or
    • an AP Statistics test score of 4 or better.


Apply Today!


The Tower Scholars Program values the knowledge gained through experiential learning and encourages students to study abroad and pursue summer internship opportunities. To help foster these opportunities, the program offers the Marian Tower Scholarship for study abroad and the Jake L. Hamon Internship Program. In addition to these opportunities, Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars are also invited to apply for the fellowship opportunities offered through the Tower Center.


Marian Tower Scholarships

These scholarships were established to reflect Marian Tower’s experience as a world traveler and a student of languages and cultures. In her memory, this scholarship supports Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars who are undertaking similar endeavors through a summer or semester SMU Abroad program. The scholarships will be awarded to Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars who study abroad for a summer or semester through SMU Abroad programs.

To Apply:

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars should complete the Marian Tower Scholarship Application and submit it to Olisa Dellas (odellas@smu.edu) by the deadline noted below.


Spring Program Deadline: October 1
Fall Program Deadline: March 1
Summer Deadline: February 1


Jake L. Hamon Internship Program

The Jake L. Hamon Internship Program will provide assistance to Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars who want to engage in a summer internship in the field of public policy and international affairs. Beginning fall 2019, sophomores and juniors will be eligible to receive up to $1,000 per year to use towards a public policy & international affairs summer internship. The $1,000 can be used towards housing, travel, or other living expenses.

The Tower Scholars Program does not provide summer internships, but along with the Hegi Career Services has resources available to help students secure their own summer internships.

All Hamon Interns will be required to write a reflection of their summer internship experience that may be published on the Tower Center blog and are required to create a poster describing their experiences to be presented at the Tower Scholars Program Induction Ceremony in the fall.

To Apply:

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars should complete the Hamon Internship Application Form by March 20.

During the fall of their senior year, Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars are placed with organizations in the Dallas area to carry out policy-based work. The projects students work on range from evaluating the effectiveness of a policy and providing policy recommendations to conducting exploratory research on a new initiative and generating a feasibility report from a policy standpoint. This unpaid experience is a requirement of the Public Policy & International Affairs minor and students receive course-credit for their work. 

Organizations that students have been placed with include:

  • AT&T
  • City of Dallas
  • Hunt Mexico
  • Lone Star Policy Institute
  • Lyda Hill Foundation
  • Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute 
  • Pointe Bello
  • Refugee Services of Texas
  • Texas Central Partners
  • Unlocking DOORS

Learn more about opportunities with the Tower Scholars Program:

Olisa Dellas | Manager of Student & Faculty Engagement | odellas@smu.edu | 214-768-4546