Close < BACK

Public Policy & Economics


The comprehensive nature of ICPES gives you the academic background necessary to develop into an influential policymaker and global leader of tomorrow.

Apply Now

The academic courses are designed to complement your DC internship experience by offering a thorough examination of public policy and free market economics.

ICPES includes one required three credit course in economics. You can also earn up to an additional 6 credits by enrolling in your choice of elective courses.

The recommended elective class for ICPES students is American Political Thought, but students are encouraged to select the elective(s) that best fit their career interests and course load at their home university. An internship seminar is offered to give students the chance to earn credit for their internship.

Students may earn credit for all courses through George Mason University and the classes held in their state-of-the-art-facilities, conveniently located a few metro stops away from student housing in nearby Arlington, Virginia.  GMU was recently named one of the top 100 research universities in the U.S. by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

Students should consult with their academic advisor to determine how the courses can be transferred back to their home university.

“ICPES opened me up to a whole new world of politics. Before this summer I knew what I was interested in, but now I can better articulate my thoughts and opinions. I was constantly challenged and forced to step out of my comfort zone. Now I can appreciate all that ICPES does and see the rewards that come from it: inspiration, open-eyes, and a strong, drive for a successful and rewarding future.”

McKenzie Hyde, Eastern Connecticut State University
Intern, Office of U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman


Course Descriptions



Economic Problems and Public Policies
ECON 309 (3 credits)
Meets 2 times a week for 2.5 hours

This course introduces students to the role of economics in the context of policy-making.  Students will learn how to apply economic thinking and analysis to a variety of public policy issues.  Examples will be drawn from current Administration policy initiatives, government economic policy, and ongoing legislative battles in Congress.  Students will examine basic economic concepts and the market economy. They will be introduced to public choice theory and analyze various policy issues through the lens of economics. Last summer's syllabus may be found by clicking here.

If you have not previously taken micro or macro economics and are interested in enrolling in a lower level course, or if you have already taken ECON 385 and would like to choose an alternative economics course, please click here to review descriptions of all economics courses offered. Please email Mary Stankus at to discuss your interest in enrolling in an alternative economics course.


Students may enroll in up to 2 elective courses, but please note that some elective courses run concurrently, so be sure to review the course schedule before making your selections.  Click here for the Elective Course Schedule. 

American Political Thought
GOVT 420 (3 credits)
Meets 2 times a week for 2.5 hours
Recommended for ICPES Students

This course is the perfect complement to any internship in the nation’s capital - where politics and the federal government are front page news every day. This interactive course will explore the development of the American political tradition from the New England Puritan settlement to the Founding Era and the conclusion of the Civil War. The class will also examine how the role of government has changed, how people’s relationship to the government has evolved, and what this means for the future.  Students will discuss the many ways in which Enlightenment liberalism developed alongside alternatives such as classical republicanism and Christianity. Students will explore these contradictory impulses in American political culture and discuss ways that they can be reconciled. Please click here for last summer's syllabus.

American Foreign Policy
GOVT 344 (3 credits)
Meets 2 times a week for 2.5 hours

This course is a must for any student wanting to closely examine U.S. foreign policy while they are living and working in the seat of our nation’s government. The discussion-based class provides historical and present-day perspectives on American foreign policy.  It will examine how these views will influence the future of American diplomacy and global perception of the Unites States. During the course, students will be engaged in a series of “great episodes” in American foreign policy, aiming at relating them to current problems.  The course will also examine national security policy since 9/11.  The class will conclude with a “think-tank” exercise where students will consider major schools of thought about American “grand strategy” and relate them to a major policy problem which any new American administration is likely to face.  This course is open to all students with an interest in foreign policy or international affairs. Please click here for last summer's syllabus.

Ethics and Leadership
INTS 375-3 (3 credits)
Meets 2 times a week for 2 hours; includes a 2 day leadership workshop

Identified by some alumni as "the best college course they ever took,” this course is team-taught by professionals who specialize in the relationship between business and personal ethics. The course involves a hands-on learning process, including group activities, to demonstrate how power is defined in the professional world and how individual beliefs apply. Students work on creative team projects to analyze their moral beliefs and how they apply in the workplace. The course includes a two-day workshop designed to help students make the coursework personally meaningful and discover sources of their own empowerment through games and power exercises. Please click here for last summer's syllabus.

Internship Seminar – Public Policy and International Affairs
ECON 496 (3 credits)
Meets 1 time a week for 2 hours; includes internship hours

Students will meet once a  week for an interactive seminar that will examine the practical side of the workplace.  Led by a former Congressional Chief of Staff and senior advisor at the Department of Labor, this course will  explore current policy  issues affecting professionals working in your field.  High level guest speakers will cover pressing issues such as national security, Supreme court cases and pending federal legislation.  Students have priority access to professional development trainings that are designed to give you the tools to succeed in today’s workplace.  Students also participate in one service project that addresses a pressing issue in order to see first hand the needs of an urban community and to discuss the policy implications and possible solutions.  The seminar is a graded course that incorporates required readings, written assignments, tests/quizzes, and group projects. All students are eligible to enroll in this optional course; enrollment is not required to participate in the Institute or an internship. Please click here for last summer's syllabus.

Internship Seminar – Politics and the Press
ECON 496 (3 credits)
Meets 1 time a week for 2 hours; includes internship hours

Students will meet once a  week for an interactive seminar that will examine the media’s relationship to politics in the nation’s capital.  Led by the founding White House correspondent for USA Today, this course will analyze current legal and ethical issues facing journalists and the people they report on. Students will discuss coverage of election campaigns and government institutions, primarily the presidency and Congress.  Students have priority access to professional development trainings that are designed to give you the tools to succeed in today’s workplace.  Topics include networking, resume building, public speaking, graduate school admissions and much more. Students also  participate in one service project that addresses a pressing issue in order to see first hand the needs of an urban community and to discuss the policy implications.  The seminar is a graded course that incorporates required readings, written assignments, tests/quizzes, and group projects. All students are eligible to enroll in this optional course; enrollment is not required to participate in the Institute or an internship. Please click here for last summer's syllabus. 

“ICPES is an unsurpassed academic experience in the heart of DC. This has definitely been the best summer of my life.”

Esther Njuguna, Averett University
Intern, U.S. Travel Association



Chris Coyne, George Mason University
Professor, Economic Problems and Public Policies

Christopher Coyne serves as the Director of Graduate Studies of the Department of Economics.  He is an Associate Professor of Economics and F.A. Harper Professor of Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.  He is also the North American Editor of The Review of Austrian Economics.  In 2008, he was named the Hayek Fellow at the London School of Economics, and in 2010 he was a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy & Policy Center at Bowling Green State University.

In 2016 Professor Coyne was recognized by George Mason University as the recipient of the University Teaching Excellence Award. The Teaching Excellence Awards are an acknowledgement of the significant work that faculty members devote to course planning and preparation; curriculum development; and innovative teaching, advising, and undergraduate and graduate mentoring. Colleagues and associates of Professor Coyne nominated him for this award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to teaching economics at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well as the mentoring he has provided many students.

Professor Coyne is the author of After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy(2007, Stanford University Press), Media, Development and Institutional Change (co-authored with Peter Leeson, 2009, Edward Elgar Publishing), and the editor (with Rachel Mathers) ofThe Handbook on the Political Economy of War (2011, Edward Elgar Publishing).

Richard Boyd, Georgetown University
Professor, American Political Thought

Richard Boyd is an associate professor of government at Georgetown University. His research interests include the intellectual history of liberalism, civil society and pluralism, economic and sociological theory, post-colonialism, and the theory and practice of immigration and citizenship policies in the United States. Before coming to Georgetown in 2007, Boyd taught at the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Deep Springs College.

Boyd is author of Uncivil Society: The Perils of Pluralism and the Making of Modern Liberalism. His articles have appeared in Review of Politics, Journal of PoliticsPolitical Theory, History of Political Thought, Polity, European Journal of Political Theory, Urban Studies, Social Philosophy & Policy, and other journals. He is currently completing a book-length manuscript titled “Membership and Belonging: On the Boundaries of Liberal Political Theory."

Gary T. Armstrong, William Jewell College
Professor, American Foreign Policy

Gary T. Armstrong is Professor of Political Science at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.  He graduated summa cum laude with at BA from the University of Oklahoma and with a Ph.D. from Georgetown University.  He has served as Research Assistant to Francis Fukuyama and Teaching Assistant to former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  At William Jewell College, Armstrong served as the Chair of the Political Science Department from 1997-2001 and 2004-2007and will be resuming his post in the fall of 2010. He has been voted Professor of the Year by the student body four times during his tenure at William Jewell and is also an alumnus of the ICPES program.

Richard Benedetto, American University 
Professor, Internship Seminar - Politics and the Press

Richard Benedetto was the White House and national political correspondent for USA TODAY as well as a political columnist for Gannett News Service. He has reported on government and politics on the local, state and national levels for the past 34 years.

As a native of Utica, N.Y., Benedetto began his journalism career with the Buffalo, (N.Y.) Evening News, and held government reporting positions with the Utica Daily Press and Observer-Dispatch.

He also worked in the Albany bureau of Gannett News Service, covering state and government politics during the Governor Hugh Carey administration. He is a founding member of USA TODAY, joining the newspaper in Washington, D.C. in 1982, prior to its debut. He wrote the paper’s first front-page cover story on its initial day of publication. USA TODAY is now the nation’s largest newspaper. In addition to reporting on the White House and national politics, he writes a weekly political column for the Gannett News Service which serves the Gannett Company Inc.’s 102 daily newspapers. The column also appears on the website.

He has covered the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He also has covered the presidential campaigns of 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Benedetto received his B.A. from Utica College of Syracuse University and holds an M.A. in Journalism from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication. Syracuse University awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1992.

Benedetto has lectured at colleges and universities across the country and has received numerous journalism awards. In 2005, he served as a visiting professor at the University of Colorado and St. Bonaventure University. He also taught news writing and reporting as an adjunct professor at Utica College. He was honored in 1998 with the National Italian-American Foundation Media Award for his projection of a positive image for Italian-Americans. Benedetto wrote a memoir of his long reporting career, “Politicians Are People, Too,” that was published in 2005 by University Press of America.

Michael J. Collins, Georgetown University
Professor, Ethics and Leadership

Dr. Collins began his tenure at Georgetown University in August 1981 as Dean of the School for Summer and Continuing Education. As Dean, Dr. Collins was responsible for administering the graduate and undergraduate courses offered each summer at Georgetown and locations abroad. He was also responsible for the various academic and residential programs at Villa Le Balze, Georgetown's study center in Fiesole, Italy, and, for several years, the Office of International Programs.

In 2003, Dr. Collins was appointed Distinguished Professor in the Department of English and Dean Emeritus. He teaches courses on such subjects such as Shakespeare, the American Idea, and Modern British Theater in Georgetown College and the Liberal Studies Program. He also continues his responsibilities for the Villa Le Balze. He lectures frequently in American studies and on Shakespeare in performance, and he co-directs the annual alumni study tour to Florence and Assisi. He has published many articles on Shakespeare, modern poetry, and teaching and has edited two collections of essays: Text and Teaching (with Francis J. Ambrosio) and Shakespeare’s Sweet Thunder: Essays on the Early Comedies. Collins earned a Ph.D. (1973) and M.A. (1964) from New York University and a B.S. degree from Fordham College (1963). He served as a Captain in the United States Army from 1965 to 1968.

Karen M. Czarnecki, George Mason School of Law
Professor, Internship Seminar - Public Policy and International Affairs

Karen M. Czarnecki currently serves as the director of education at the Law and Economics Center at George Mason School of Law. Previously she served as the Chief of Staff to Rep. Mike Kelly and as a senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. She joined the Labor Department in June of 2001, and in June 2003 she was appointed Director of the Office of the 21st Century Workforce. In addition, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Intergovernmental Affairs, giving her responsibility for outreach to state and locally-elected officials. Czarnecki received her BA and juris doctorate degrees from Catholic University of America and is also an alumna of the ICPES program.

Lecture Series

As part of our comprehensive program, weekly guest lectures give you a chance to learn, question, and more often than not, exchange business cards with some of the best public policy experts and political minds in DC.

These lectures are designed to complement what you are learning in your classes and internship. Covering a wide variety of topics, the events are lively, interactive, and challenging.

“The most rewarding part of ICPES was being exposed so thoroughly to so many new perspectives and ideas.  The ICPES experience – its students, staff, professors, lecturers, and professional development opportunities – is invaluable.”


Taylor Dickinson, Vanderbilt University
Intern, U.S. Small Business Administration

See below for a list of the type of top Washington, DC policy makers and industry experts you’ll hear from as part of the weekly lecture series.

  • Dr. W. Michael Cox, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
  • Dr. George Ayittey, President of the Free Africa Foundation
  • Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, Distinguished National Security Chair at the U.S. Naval Academy
  • Ms. Eliza Reock, Director of Programs, Shared Hope International
  • Ambassador Terry Miller, Director of the Center for International Trade and Economics, The Heritage Foundation
  • Hana Abdalla, Program Manager, American Islamic Congress