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IPS Students: Tackling Real-World Policy Problems

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IPS students with Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoglu

The Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies (IPS), a joint undertaking of the Freeman Spogli Institute and the School of Humanities & Sciences, is training the next generation of policy experts and leaders. In their second year of the two–year master’s program, students take a two-quarter practicum course, working in teams to conduct policy analyses for real-world client organizations. Read about their demanding projects and findings.


Judicial Performance (California Commission on Judicial Performance)
This report analyzed judicial discipline cases in California between 1990 and 2009 using data collected by the California Commission on Judicial Performance. The purpose of the report was to inform the public about the incidence of misconduct and help the public understand the disciplinary process. The report concluded that the number of disciplinary actions per judge has fallen in the last decade, as compared with the previous ten years.  

Policies to Improve Industrial Competitiveness (World Bank)
This report researched how countries can select Policies to Increase Industrial Competitiveness (PIIC) using case studies and the development of an analytic process for government use in selecting specific industries to support. The analytic process showed that cooperation between the public and private sectors is crucial in policymakers’ ability to select the most beneficial competitiveness policy measures.

Sunni Militancy In India (U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency)
This report analyzed Sunni militancy in India by identifying major Sunni groups, their ideologies, root causes and recent trends.  Utilizing a quantitative overview of Sunni terrorism incidents and deaths, profiles of militant groups, and social network analysis of connections between groups, the report found that the most active and violent Sunni militant groups are related to Pakistan or to the long-running conflict between Pakistan and India in Kashmir.

“The chance to tackle complex, real world policy problems and propose solutions to clients is invaluable for our students as they prepare for their careers” says Kathryn Stoner, Director of IPS and FSI senior fellow.  “It’s one more way that our program bridges theory and practice.”
Rare Earth (Breakthrough Institute and Bay Area Council)
This report examined concerns about domestic shortages of rare earth elements, critical in the production of many clean-tech products.  The report confirmed that China controls a large share of rare earth deposits and production, but found that market forces should increase U.S. production levels in the long run.  The report recommends that the United States accelerate permitting for domestic production and pursue agreements with other rare earth suppliers to mitigate the impact of China's current dominance.

Going Forward: Gas Tax and VMTs (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
This report considered the under-funding of the U.S. transportation system, focusing on two ways to generate revenue—the federal gas tax and a prospective vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) fee. In the long term, introducing fees-per-mile would generate more revenue than increasing fees-per-gallon. Under both proposals, lower income consumers would pay proportionately more, although the difference in distributional impact is minimal for most policy options under consideration.

Fiscal Responsibility Index (Comeback America Initiative/Peterson Foundation)
This project developed a simple, comprehensive analytic tool and framework, called the Fiscal Responsibility Index, to assess sovereign fiscal responsibility and sustainability. The index was designed to illustrate where the United States is, where it is headed, and how it compares with other nations in the area of fiscal responsibility and sustainability. The U.S. ranks near the bottom when compared with 33 OECD and BRIC nations.