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
Public Service Scholars Program
Cardinal Commitment, 
Cardinal Courses
Courses for credit, 
Leadership program, 

Public Service Scholars Program

Multi-quarter part-time
Arts & Media, 
Education & Youth Development, 
Environmental Sustainability, 
Human Rights, 
Law, Policy & Justice, 
Socio-Economic Prosperity, 
Technology & Engineering

Join a community of scholars as you pursue rigorous research that is informed by and useful to community organizations.

The Public Service Scholars Program (PSSP) supports students toward completing a senior honors thesis, MA thesis, or capstone project that is informed by or supports the work of a community organization. Students can participate in PSSP concurrently with an honors or capstone program in your major academic department, interdisciplinary program of study, or MA program. Students may also propose independent capstone projects.

Key Elements of the Program

The Haas Center established the Public Service Scholars Program in 1994 to encourage students to connect community work with their academic work and research interests through an honors thesis.

Community of Scholars

PSSP students, under the mentorship of the program director, form an interdisciplinary community of scholars who provide diverse perspectives and support while sharing the pursuit of outstanding scholarship for the benefit of the public good. PSSP students write theses across all majors. PSSP students in the past have written theses in human biology; peace and conflict studies (an individually designed major); comparative studies in race and ethnicity; feminist studies; history; American studies; political science; urban studies; sociology; psychology; science, technology, and society; among others. The PSSP complements the requirements of students’ honors, capstone, or MA programs and the efforts of faculty advisors during the thesis-writing process.

Academic Excellence

PSSP offers the support, structure, and accountability necessary for the successful completion of participants’ theses or capstone projects. Scholars participate in a fall quarter retreat to learn about the principles of community-based research, build community as a cohort of scholars, and learn about each others' work (this year, whether, or how, the retreat takes place will depend on pending university guidelines with regard to COVID-19 precautions). During the academic year, participants enroll in Senior Research in Public Service, a 1-unit seminar that meets biweekly. Participants can choose to enroll for one, two, or all three quarters, depending on the needs of their respective projects.

The bi-weekly seminar is designed to explore research as a form of scholar-activism and to provide students with opportunities to share their writing in small groups, solve problems collaboratively, and critique thesis plans, conceptual frameworks and methodologies. Students are expected to have some foundation in community-based research / scholar-activism prior to participating in the program. Rather than focus on theory and methods, which students are expected to have foundational understanding of through prior coursework and experience, the program will focus more on data analysis, writing, publication, and the actualization of a social action plan - to take students to the finish line in completing a community-engaged thesis.


By request, PSSP students can be matched with a Stanford staff, faculty, graduate student, or community member who serves as a mentor. The mentor relationship is highly individualized, but mentors typically provide advice and support to foster the community-engaged dimension of the thesis research and to pursue larger questions of how this work relates to students’ lives and career goals. Students should also enter the program with a faculty advisor for their thesis. 

Public Scholarship

During the course of the academic year, PSSP students develop plans to identify audiences who might be interested in or benefit from their thesis research. Through this process, participants are challenged to make the link between scholarly research and the public good. Knowing their research will do more than “sit on a shelf” is a powerful motivation during the thesis-writing process.


Students in the program are also eligible to apply for research and project support funds to cover costs associated with research such as interviews, transcription, transportation, printing, project supplies, etc. 

Thesis Presentations

In May, PSSP students present their thesis research along with its implications for communities and the public. The presentation affords students an opportunity to share and celebrate the results of their year-long work.

Additional Resources:

A Community of Scholars: an essay on the origins of PSSP written by PSSP alumni

If you are interested in theses written from 1995 to the present, please contact Luke Terra.

Nikki Apana

"Community-based research has taught me the value of placing community needs at the forefront of identifying problems and enacting change."

Originally from Concord, California, Nikki Apana, ’20 (Human Biology and Spanish), spent three summers in her hometown working as a Community-Based Research Fellow on issues of bias in the health-care system. Nikki served as the lead Cardinal Service Peer Advisor, president of the Polynesian dance team Kaorihiva, and residential assistant in Branner Hall. Nikki also worked as a SHAR(ED) volunteer throughout her Stanford career, was a Branner Hall Service Scholar and a Cardinal Free Clinics Patient Health Advocate, and was a member of the Public Service Scholars Program.

Nikki Apana, '20

Read this story


Individuals from all majors and programs are welcome to apply for admission to PSSP.


  • intention to complete an honors thesis, capstone project, or MA thesis in a major academic department or interdisciplinary program.  Students may also propose independent capstone projects, subject to approval by the PSSP director
  • prior knowledge of and experience with community-based research, scholar-activism, and/or public scholarship
  • regular contact with faculty thesis advisor to ensure thesis meets all requirements of major academic department or interdisciplinary program
  • commitment to the PSSP community through full participation and support of colleagues
  • bi-weekly seminar attendance and timely completion of all required assignments
  • development of a public scholarship plan
  • presentation of thesis work and its public implications and applications in a public forum at the end of the academic year


To apply, please submit the following materials: 

  1. Online application; to see the full application prior to submission, see the PDF version
  2. The online application will also ask you to upload your unofficial transcript, CV or resume, and verification of acceptance into an honors program (if applicable)
  3. The online application will also ask you to confirm that you have discussed your intent to participate in PSSP with your faculty advisor. You will be asked to check a box that reads: I confirm that I have talked to my primary advisor(s) regarding my participation in the Public Service Scholars Program and have their support. (Having this conversation and the approval of your faculty advisor(s) prior to applying for PSSP is extremely important. We want to make sure that faculty advisors are kept in the loop regarding applicants' goals and commitments).


Spring, Winter

Open To



Make a Commitment

Check with the organization to see if they have remote opportunities available at this time. For alternative suggestions, contact an advisor

Not sure where to start, or need help finding an organization to work with? Contact an advisor

The Haas Center offers all kinds of resources for Cardinal Commitment organizations. Learn more

Back to Top