Community-Partnered Policy and Action

Partnering with community for improved and effective policy

Students meet with directors of a local homeless shelter

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND

The Community-Partnered Policy and Action stream prepares students to work on policy problems in diverse community settings and with a variety of stakeholders. Building on Pardee RAND’s strong foundation in policy analysis and its cross-cutting themes of ethics, communication, and social justice and racial equity, students in the Community-Partnered stream combine rigorous research methods and their understanding of localized context as they partner with communities to design, implement, and evaluate policies. Focused on real-time policy implications, the stream trains students to conduct impactful research with community partners and translate research and analysis into effective action-centered approaches that lead to concrete improvements.

Community-Partnered Stream Requirements

In addition to 8 units of core program requirements, Community-Partnered stream students take courses that have applied learning elements.

Required Courses (4.5 units)

Required courses provide students in the Community-Partnered stream an advanced understanding of how to work in partnership with communities to address complex, adaptive problems. All Community-Partnered stream students take these five courses:

Elective Courses (5.5 units)

Students fulfill the remaining 5.5 units toward their 18-unit coursework requirement by choosing among a variety of electives. These may include traditional courses, studios, workshops, or tutorials. Elective offerings vary from year to year depending on student interest and instructor availability.

Applied Learning

Faculty work with students to ensure applied learning and immersion in community. Most courses have at least one applied learning assignment in partnership with a stakeholder agency (e.g., government or non-profit).


The Community-Partnered stream’s dissertation provides a unique opportunity to extend policy analysis into community partnerships. The dissertation includes a focus on implementation and action where the work aligns with community partners, while also critically reflecting on the positionality and role of the student as an academic scholar and policy analyst. Students use their analytic and applied learning skills throughout their dissertation (from design, through implementation, to analysis). To do so, Community-Partnered stream students

  • include a community partner member in their dissertation committee
  • apply social justice and equity concepts
  • adopt action-based approaches to their study of policy research and analysis, and
  • develop a community dissemination and implementation plan to share their results with their community partners for implementation.

Our People

What We Look for in Our Applicants

The Community-Partnered stream desires students with strong community experience, applied research skills, and a commitment to working with community partners to understand policy problems and to implement and evaluate policies and programs aimed at addressing these problems. Students in this stream should be curious about how federal and state policy decisions play out in the daily lives of individuals and communities. They should also be eager to work with others to make real and sustainable change in local communities. Community-Partnered students must be comfortable working with others from diverse backgrounds in diverse settings. Students will also demonstrate empathy and cultural and professional humility and be eager to learn from others.

Future Career Paths

Upon graduation, students will be prepared for positions in community-partnered policy research and action such as

  • Applied researchers who conduct community-partnered and -engaged research as part of academic, research, or community-based organizations
  • Education leaders (state, county, and city)
  • Elected officials or their staff members or advisors
  • Evaluators of community-based policies and programs
  • International development program directors or staff members
  • Policymakers in public and private entities
  • Research, program and executive directors of community-based organizations and government agencies (federal, state, and local)

See the initial job placements of our recent graduates for more information.