PPIA Junior Summer Institute

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs Junior Summer Institute (JSI) is a rigorous seven-week academic and experiential learning program that prepares undergraduate students to thrive in graduate programs and launch careers in public service.

Open to students who are entering their senior year of undergraduate study, the JSI is part of the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Fellowship Program, which is committed to promoting the inclusion of underrepresented groups in master’s degree programs and careers in public service.

Program Overview

Emerging leaders who participate in the Humphrey School JSI will leave the program equipped for graduate studies that focus on addressing the grand challenges of our time, including such issues as global affairs, human rights, diversity and equity, educational and environmental justice, social welfare innovation, climate change, accessible transit and housing, public safety, and racial justice. Understanding that JSI participants are interested in a wide range of grand challenges, we work with each participant to develop field-based research and community engagement projects that allow you to apply what you learn during the summer to the specific issues that most inspire you. 

Humphrey School Junior Summer Institute participants will be introduced to the knowledge and skills necessary to:

  • Lead and manage in programs that span across sectors, institutions, diverse populations, and cultures
  • Participate in problem-solving, policy-making, and institutional and societal change in dynamic, uncertain environments
  • Analyze, synthesize, think critically, and make decisions informed by quantitative, qualitative, economic, and other analytic methods
  • Understand conceptions of the common good, acknowledge normative and ethical viewpoints, and promote social justice and equity
  • Communicate and interact productively with individuals in diverse and changing cultures and communities
  • Understand global interdependence and its implications for governance, policy-making, and policy implementation

What are Grand Challenges?

Grand challenges are multi-faceted problems that have significant consequences for the well-being of those involved. They are novel, emergent, highly complex, and beyond the resources or knowledge of a single discipline, organization, or sector to address. Grand challenges often “morph” or evolve over time so they do not lend themselves to simple or one-time fixes. Single-sector actions to address these grand challenges often lead to unanticipated and unintended consequences, which is why they must be approached in an interdisciplinary and cross-sector manner. Grand challenges include such things as global climate change and environmental justice; race equity and public safety; global security and human rights; diversity and educational access. 


Humphrey School JSI participants spend seven weeks in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area actively engaged in four integrated and inter-related learning environments, each of which will allow students to apply new knowledge and skills to policy issues or grand challenges of their choosing.

1. Academic Skills Workshop Series, designed to prepare participants to thrive in graduate school, which includes:

  • GRE preparation
  • Graduate program fair
  • Graduate school application preparation and action plan development
  • Career development preparation: resume writing, strategies for building a public service career, job shadowing
  • Professional and grad school-level writing
  • Library and media resources for policy research 

2. Policy Leaders’ Toolkit Series that allows students to learn, apply, and practice the tools used by effective public policy leaders including:

  • Forming and working in high functioning interdisciplinary teams
  • Facilitating productive and courageous conversations (about race, politics, culture, gender)
  • Public communication design and delivery (spoken, written, and multimedia)
  • Civic engagement tools for policy leaders

3. Academic Coursework focused on the foundational knowledge and strategies necessary to succeed in public affairs careers (the following courses are structured around grand challenges identified by participants): 

  • Introduction to Policy Analysis
  • Applied Economics for Planners and Policymakers (options for intro and intermediate instruction)
  • Applied Statistics for Policy Analysis and Evaluation (options for intro and intermediate instruction)
  • Introduction to Qualitative Methods for Policy Analysis and Evaluation (including data collection in the field, data coding and analysis techniques)
  • Policy Research Symposium (presentations from scholars, public officials and leading practitioners addressing grand challenges related to issues such as national security , human rights, equity and social justice)

4. Research and Engagement in the Field allows students to apply newly learned skills in real-world settings and conduct real time research and observations.  Participants will:

  • Engage individually with community-based mentors from diverse backgrounds who are exceptional leaders in fields related to your own interests
  • Visit community organizations or settings to observe, learn and gather qualitative or quantitative data for research projects focused on a grand challenge of your choosing
  • Work as a team to present research based policy analyses and strategies to address grand challenges of particular interest to each participant 
  • In addition to written and spoken communication strategies, JSI participants will work in teams with multi-media experts to develop communication tools like podcasts, video briefs, or narrated photo essays. These “products” will be the intellectual property of the participant and can be used as scholarship samples when preparing graduate school applications.

Important Dates

  • September 1, 2018: Application Open
  • November 1, 2018: Application Deadline
  • First week of February, 2019: Admissions Notification
  • June 9, 2019: Program Begins
  • July 27, 2019: Program Ends

Benefits and Financial Aid

Each student enrolled in the Humphrey School JSI receives a $1000 stipend, full tuition, reimbursement for travel to and from the program, and living expenses via an additional meal allotment. 

The Humphrey School typically awards a minimum $5,000 scholarship (each year, for two years) to all students who successfully complete a PPIA Junior Summer Institute, apply to one of our master's degree programs and are successfully admitted to a full-time master's degree program at the Humphrey School. In addition, PPIA participants typically receive financial aid awards over and above this $5,000. Students must apply to the Humphrey School by January 15 and are eligible to have their application fee waived. Students who apply by December 15 are considered for additional University-wide fellowship opportunities.

Twin Cities Life and Campus Resources

Humphrey School JSI participants enjoy the many benefits of studying in a vibrant metropolitan region, which is the economic center of the upper Midwest and home to the state capitol. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul form the 16th-largest metropolitan area in the United States, with more than 3 million residents. Learn more about student life in the Twin Cities

In addition, participants have access to a wide range of student resources provided by the University of Minnesota. View a complete summary on the University's One Stop Student Services website

PPIA Junior Summer Institute

Humphrey School of Public Affairs
130 Humphrey School
301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Head shot of Kathryn Threatt
My JSI experience gave me a toolbox of valuable skills, such as learning how to network and understanding the importance of race and economics in the implementation of policy.
Kathryn Threatt, Humphrey JSI 2017 (Georgetown University)