The Unruh Institute of Politics is committed to bringing the academy and the public square together. As such, the Institute offers a Research Internship course that allows students to conduct extensive research and analysis on policy issues facing local, state, and federal government.

About the Policy Research Internship

Students will have the opportunity to work directly with partnering organizations. Examples of partnering organizations from previous semesters include the NALEO Education Fund, Green Dot Public Schools, Los Angeles City Council Offices, and California Strategies.

Students take part in a team-based research project where they will work to develop solutions in their respective policy areas by conducting interviews with policy experts, review academic and policy reports, and other primary and secondary sources. At the conclusion of the program, each team presents their final product to the partnering organization.


Fall 2023 Research Projects:

“How a Bill Becomes a Law: Depolarization Legislation” with Convergence, Interfaith America, and Business for America: Three major American nonprofit organizations – Convergence, Interfaith America, and Business for America – seek to leverage federal government programs, diverse faith sectors, and America’s vast business community to advance social cohesion and reduce polarization. In 2021, these organizations and others worked with Representatives Kilmer (D-WA) and 23 bi-partisan cosponsors to introduce a bill called the Building Civic Bridges Act which would create a national Office of Civic Bridge building and funnel $40 million into community organizations across the country to help people build relationships across lines of difference, such as political affiliation, race, ethnicity, and religion. The bill did not get out of committee and was reintroduced into the latest session of Congress, where it remains in committee.

This research project will have students work with Convergence, Interfaith America, and Business for America leaders, plus Congressional staffers, to take a fresh look at the bill and develop new research to analyze its pros and cons and the context for its implementation. Specifically, students will review existing government programs that directly and tangentially support strengthening community connections. Is America already spending millions or even billions on uncoordinated bridging efforts? They will also quantify and qualify the impact of polarization on American companies. How much has polarization hurt the bottom lines of our nation’s businesses and, thus, our economy? And finally, they will examine the Building Civic Bridges Act itself to assess objections to its passage and solutions or alternatives that may achieve similar goals through different means. Can BCBA become a viable bill to attain vital funding for bridging organizations? Or should momentum be directed into new efforts with a more realistic chance of passage?

Students will be on the front lines of this bill’s consideration and get an excellent look into what it takes for a bill to become law.


“Political Reforms: Ranked Choice, Nonpartisan Redistricting, and Open Primaries” with FixUS: Polarization is a major problem in American society, and many of its causes are deeply rooted in our political systems. This course will examine the core question: “Which political reforms have the greatest chance of passage and reducing political polarization in the United States?” We will work with FixUS, an initiative of the national Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, to explore nonpartisan redistricting, partisan primaries, ranked-choice voting, and other lesser-known measures such as “sore loser laws,” aligning state and local election dates to federal election dates, and implementing recommendations from the US House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Students will examine which states have passed which reforms and whether they successfully reduce political polarization and increase civic engagement. They will examine failed reform efforts to understand whether reforms failed on merit or because of poor execution or overwhelming minority opposition. Students will seek proof of tangible outcomes from the reforms or the failure to implement those reforms.

The research will culminate in a written report and a verbal presentation to FixUS leadership. The goal is to have the research influence strategic decisions by organizations in the democracy reform space. The focus area is timely and critically important to the nation’s well-being.

Spots are limited and competitive. We encourage all interested USC students to apply.

See past research projects.

To Apply:

The application for the Fall 2023 POSC 395 Policy Research Internship is now closed. It will reopen in January 2024 for the Spring 2024 semester.

Please send any questions about the Policy Research Internship to