Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Students: Looking for advising?

We’re here to help you find opportunities that are a good fit for you! Schedule an appointment with an advisor—virtual or in person.

Email us
Cardinal Courses
Courses for credit

Policy Practicum: Creating an Impact Framework for Stanford's School of Climate and Sustainability

Quarter-long course
Law, Policy & Justice
Policy Practicum: Creating an Impact Framework for Stanford's School of Climate and Sustainability
Clients: Stanford Dean Kathryn "Kam" Moler and Vice Dean Stephan Graham, respectively transition dean and vice dean of the new School. The mission of Stanford University's new School of Climate and Sustainability is to "create a future where humans and nature thrive in concert and in perpetuity." The School intends to pursue this mission through three pathways: 1. Advancing knowledge critical to sustaining life on Earth and to ensuring the benefits of a healthy planet extend to all people. 2. Preparing students as future sustainability leaders through rigorous, engaged education and research. 3. Engaging with partners to generate and scale local, national, and global solutions to the defining challenge for humanity. This Policy Lab practicum will examine how the School can marshal its resources most effectively to advance knowledge through research, prepare students for leadership roles, and engage with partners to scale these core functions. With respect to the advancement of knowledge, we will seek to understand how research aimed at improving sustainability in several areas (e.g., climate change, agriculture) can be supported and disseminated to educate and influence decisions and behaviors of policy makers, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and citizens, while remaining impartial and balanced throughout the process. Without limiting ourselves to these areas, we will look at examples where research has and has not influenced decision making, with an eye to understanding conducive pathways and barriers. To use a recent example, suppose that a researcher wishes to influence policy makers', builders', or homeowners' decisions to install residential gas stoves because of the climate and health problems caused by their methane emissions: What are the roles of publication in peer-reviewed journals, publication in popular media, public lectures, and legislative testimony on the pathway from research to decision making? In addition to online research, we will interview faculty at Stanford and elsewhere. With respect to education, we will ask what mixture of theoretical knowledge and practical skills will best prepare graduates for positions where they will lead sustainability efforts in government, business, and the nonprofit sector. We have much to learn from Stanford's Sustainability Science and Practice (SUST) program and similar programs at other universities. At the same time as we identify pathways, or "theories of change," for achieving the new School's objectives, we will identify indicators of progress along the way. Referring to the example of methane emissions from residential stoves, if reaching an intended audience requires publicizing the findings in popular media, relevant indicators would be the size and influence of the audience being reached. Given the multitude and fluidity of variables that contribute to outcomes, we will use what's been termed "contribution analysis" rather than statistical evaluation techniques to assess the impact of particular efforts. Based on our proposed frameworks for the School's research and teaching, we will ask how engagement with external partners can contribute to its mission. The Policy Lab's deliverable with respect to research will be a generalized framework that will enable researchers to chart a path from developing and testing hypotheses to disseminating their findings and influencing decision makers to act on them. The framework will also enable researchers to assess their progress along the path. The deliverable with respect to teaching will be the identification of analogies in the preparation and certification of professionals in medicine, law, and other fields, with the aim of assisting the new School in improving its preparation of students as sustainability leaders. The course is limited to 12 students from across the University. While there are no prerequisites, we hope to include students with backgrounds in sustainability and social metrics. Elements used in grading: Attendance, Performance, Class Participation, Written Assignments. CONSENT APPLICATION: To apply for this course, students must complete and submit a Consent Application Form available at See Consent Application Form for instructions and submission deadline.





March 28, 2022 | 12:00 AM
* This Application Deadline has passed

Cardinal Service Notation
Students who complete three Cardinal Courses are eligible for the Cardinal Service transcript notation. Learn more

Back to Top