Students who wish to complete an original research thesis, driven by student-defined interests and independent work, may apply to the Public Affairs Departmental Honors Program in the spring of junior year. The Departmental Honors Program is an optional research experience that is distinct from the Public Affairs Experiential Learning Capstone Series requirement (PUB AFF 187 A, B, C).

Theses must involve answering a research question using original analyses of data/sources. Students who are admitted to the program begin background research for their project over the summer and enroll in three contract research courses (PA 198A, B, C) with their Luskin thesis advisor during their senior year. The sequence must be completed over three consecutive quarters, starting in the fall. Students must earn at least a B in PA 198A to continue with the sequence. Students may count one honors contract course toward their Public Affairs major elective requirement (with the understanding that no more than one contract course in total may count toward the Public Affairs elective requirement).


Students must meet the following eligibility requirements to apply to the Public Affairs Departmental Honors Program:

  • Senior standing by the beginning of the fall quarter in which PA 198A is taken.
  • Overall minimum Public Affairs Major GPA of 3.60, as of the end of winter quarter in the year prior to beginning the thesis.
  • Completion of PA 115 (quantitative methods) by the end of spring quarter in the year prior to beginning the thesis, with at least an A- (strongly recommended but waived as an eligibility requirement for the class of ’21)
  • Completion of PA 116 (qualitative methods) by the end of spring quarter in the year prior to beginning the thesis, with at least an A- (strongly recommended but waived as an eligibility requirement for the class of ’21).
  • Agreement from faculty member to serve as thesis advisor.

The Public Affairs Honors Committee will select applicants based on the promise of their proposed research project, its match with faculty interests, research-related coursework, and research experience. The selection process is very competitive, with the number of selected applicants varying each year. We anticipate that no more than 10% of rising seniors will be selected to complete honors thesis projects each year.

The Public Affairs Honors Committee, with input from thesis advisors, will determine whether students’ theses merit honors or highest honors. Students who earn honors or highest honors for their theses may note this honor on their resumes. Students who also meet the minimum major GPA requirement will receive Departmental Honors on their UCLA transcript.

Application Process

To apply, students must submit an application containing a short research proposal, information on academic and research preparation, and confirmation that a Luskin School faculty member has agreed to advise their honors thesis during the fall, winter, and spring of the subsequent year.

The application will be available on this page once the admission cycle opens in May 2021.

Important Dates

The 2020-2021 academic year application has closed. Please check back in Winter 2021 for the 2021-2022 application deadlines. The timeline below should be used as a general guide for the upcoming application cycle until the exact deadlines are published.

Questions? Contact the Public Affairs Undergraduate Advising Office via MyUCLA Message Center or at 310-794-4080.

  • Early May 2021

  • Late May 2021

    Deadline to get potential faculty advisor signature on application form.

    Late May 2021

  • Early June 2021

    Deadline to submit Honors Thesis Application.

  • End of Spring Quarter

    Public Affairs Honors Committee selects Honors Thesis Cohort and notifies both student and advisor.

    End of Spring Quarter

  • Summer

    Selected students and faculty advisors meet to discuss project and summer expectations.

  • Fall Quarter

    Students enroll in PUB AFF 198A if faculty advisor is satisfied with student’s summer work.

    Fall Quarter