Policy Task Force

In their senior year, all students in the Bachelor of Science in Public Policy program enroll in a fall/spring capstone project sequence. In Policy Task Force, they apply the knowledge and skills from their core and elective courses, internships, and other experiences to address a current policy problem faced by a government agency, not-for-profit organization, or business firm. These organizations need real-time and expert analysis.

Under the guidance of two faculty facilitators and occasional client input, and with advice as needed from the Public Policy faculty and others at Georgia Tech and beyond, the students prepare a detailed analysis of the client's problem; formulate alternative solutions; analyze their benefits, costs, and effectiveness; identify the most useful and practical approach; and prepare a professional written report and team presentation to the client. Projects such as this occasionally are conducted in graduate policy programs. The undergraduate program at Georgia Tech is unique in its approach to preparing students for professional jobs and graduate study with a senior-level project that, in many cases, has an actual impact in the policy arena.

What projects have recent Task Force teams pursued?

Recent Projects

Atlanta Emerging Markets Inc.

"We had an amazing experience with the Georgia Tech Public Policy Task Force! The students were so impressive, not only with their subject matter expertise, but with the passion and enthusiasm they displayed when tackling our project. They clearly heard our pain points and delivered a professional-level report with concrete and realistic recommendations that we look forward to implementing in the future." — Atlanta Emerging Markets Inc.

  • Innovative programming ideas for Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc. to support non-profits, social entrepreneurs, and high-impact businesses in Atlanta’s underserved neighborhoods
    • What business and community development needs are unmet in low-income areas of Atlanta?
      • Interviews with small socially oriented businesses and non-profits in low income areas of the city
    • What best practices in the successful financing of nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and high-impact businesses result in positive economic development outcomes in underserved neighborhoods?
      • Case study comparison of 8 programs around the country

Georgia Audubon 

  • Bird safe building policy in Atlanta
    • What steps have policy entrepreneurs taken in other municipalities to pass bird-safe legislation, and how can their strategies inform Georgia Audubon’s advocacy process?
      • Case study comparison of the process of passing bird safe building laws in 6 municipalities across the country

Piedmont Park Conservancy

  • What would it take to develop and gain support for a policy that would provide a sustainable funding model to support not only Piedmont Park, but all other public parks in the City of Atlanta?
    • Overview of park funding options, concluding no new options out there
    • What is the additional monetary value added to residential properties in the Midtown area of Atlanta, Georgia, due to proximity to Piedmont Park?
      • Hedonic pricing analysis of residential property in neighborhoods around Piedmont Park.
      • Structured, literature based comparison of 29 youth programs around the world

Piedmont Park Conservancy

  • How can a public park of almost 200 acres address increasing e-scooter traffic? What are the best practices and recommendations that are most appropriate for Piedmont Park, given the fact that the Beltline comes through the Park?
    • How have comparable organizations regulated e-scooters, and why were policies chosen over their alternatives?
      • Interview based case studies of Georgia Tech and the Beltline
    • What policies do Piedmont Park users, including e-scooter riders, cyclists, and pedestrians, prefer?
      • Interviews/survey of park users

Invest Atlanta

  • attract out-of-area scale-up companies to choose Atlanta?
    • Structured comparison of tools used by thirteen economic development authorities in the United States
      • Case study based on documents and interviews
    • Needs assessment of local technology firms.
      • Qualtrics survey of start-ups and scale-ups in Atlanta and interviews with a selection of our survey respondents.

Northwest Georgia High Demand Career Initiative

  • As part of the HDCI grant, the region is working to launch a high demand career pathway website portal for students, educators, and employers in the region. Have sites like this helped students navigate the pipeline to reach a high demand career in their field of interest?
    • How effective are career websites in overcoming information asymmetries and matching employers and employees?
      • Case study of seven websites. Websites features were compared and their managers interviewed.

Task Force 2015

Public Policy seniors in Task Force 2015 are working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, America's public health agency.  While our clients are rotating in and out of Africa working to get the Ebola epidemic under control, SPP undergraduate students are focused on domestic issues of interest to the CDC - healthy homes and reduction of salmonella infections caused by contaminated chicken. One team of students is analyzing the history of changes to building codes to identify factors associated with successful building code changes so they can advise the CDC how to protect lower income families from dangers such as mold, pests, and radon by strengthening regulations and guidelines to make homes safer. Another group is undertaking a cost benefit analysis of adding probiotics and essential oils to poultry feed to provide the CDC with the tools needed to convince industry to remove antibiotics from chicken feed and substitute alternatives that have been proven effective without creating antibiotic resistant salmonella strains.  The third group is analyzing efforts for health education for minority communities to identify strategies that CDC can use to enhance the effectiveness of its educational materials on safe handling of chicken in home kitchens in minority households.

The 2015 Capstone Design Expo winners of the Public Policy Award are Brittany Dodson, Sam Lancaster, Jason Lupuloff, and Aaron Peek. These students partnered with the CDC for Farmaceuticals to identify what percent of poultry feed supplemented with probiotics and essential oils is necessary to reduce salmonella incidence in humans, to determine the necessary poultry market penetration for this new approach to have an impact on public health, and to calculate the economic impact on the introduction of antimicrobials on society and industry.

Task Force 2014

In 2014 Public Policy participated in the Georgia Tech’s Capstone Design Expo, which featured more than 900 students and 170 teams from eight schools and three colleges tackling real-world problems.  The annual Expo showcases projects from the undergraduate senior design courses in which students work together to design products or tackle real-world problems, sometimes at the behest of sponsors.

More than 5,000 visitors roamed McCamish Pavilion checking out projects that ranged from life-saving medical devices to tools to make life easier. Independent judges assessed the projects and awarded a cash prize to the best project from each School.  The Public Policy prize was won by team UrbanAgSwag who looked at the urban agriculture initiatives in other cities to help the Atlanta Local Food Initiative boost urban agriculture, taking into account zoning ordinances and other factors.

The award-winning Policy Task Force project on the Atlanta Local Food Initiative and urban agriculture was conducted by Sahra Jabbehdari, Ryan Hedrich, Jonathan Vallecillo, and Tim Lin.

Another Policy Task Force team – Jim Woodson, Meagan Ryan, Joseph Santoro, and Aaron Morgan – analyzed E-Cigarette policies for the Centers for Disease Control. Great timing: the FDA released its proposed regulations the same day as the Expo!

Amanda Scott and Brandon Williams worked for the Marcus Autism Center to identify the best approach by which Georgia could use Medicaid funds to reimburse care management for autism via telemedicine.

Mary Shoemaker, Paige Clayton and Derek Jett worked for the Fulton County health department to recommend a method for engaging the cities of Fulton County in working to enhance the health of their residents.

Task Force 2013

Nineteen students from the undergraduate Public Policy program at Georgia Tech presented their recommendations on Tobacco End Game strategies to the American Legacy Foundation on April 5, 2013. The project, part of the year long culminating experience in the policy curriculum, provided recommendations about the best strategies to reduce preventable tobacco deaths from over 300,000 per year to less than 10,000 in a decade. The students performed policy analyses on three proposed "end game" strategies proposed by international tobacco control experts. The event included principals from the Foundation as well as dozens of tobacco control stakeholders from the Greater Atlanta area, as well as approximately two dozen remote participants from across the globe. Following the April presentation, students were invited to the campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office of Smoking and Health to reprise their presentation for OSH's policy staff. Bryan Thomas, a tobacco researcher based at the University of Maryland commented, "I think I've read all of the published literature on endgames and the presentation today is really at the cutting edge--some of the most detailed and thoughtful work on the topic."