Policy Research Fellows Program

Fellows from Santa Clara University Law School gathered for an orientation luncheon with Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, Institute professors and visitors from Santa Clara University .

The Fellows Program was created in the spring of 2006 in collaboration with the Santa Clara University School of Law.  Since then, 104 law students have completed the program. The course of study was formulated by Secretary Leon Panetta and focuses on how public policy issues can be addressed by parties of competing interests and ultimately develop into consensus solutions acceptable to both parties.

“Essentially, we are teaching the fellows the art of governing,” says Secretary Panetta. “They do research on both the Republican and the Democratic positions on major national issues and then develop a consensus on what compromise would look like.”

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the Fellows Program changed my life. The program was tough yet exhilarating, especially in light of the present volatile political climate. Honest policy discussions are critical to our democracy.”

       — Marinna Radloff, Policy Research Fellow, 2017

The dean of the school of law selects highly qualified second, third and fourth-year law school students to serve as fellows at the Panetta Institute. Students participating in the program earn three units of academic credit and three units of experiential credit.   These units are accredited through Santa Clara University School of Law.  Additionally, the Fellows Programhas obtained and retains approval by the American Bar Association (“ABA”)as a qualified externship by complying with the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure Governing Approval for Law Schools Externships.  (ABA Standard 304, 2016).


“Dr. Kezirian’s and Dr. Banks’s lectures were some of the best lectures I ever had the privilege of attending. I also  appreciated the practical advice from Mr. Keeley and the opportunity to practice real-world presentation challenges with Mr. Daniels.”

— Mallory Barr, Policy Research Fellow, 2017 

Fellows work under the direction of Secretary Panetta and Panetta Institute senior staff, including lecturers and professors Sonia Banks, William Daniels, Fred Keeley, and Richard Kezirian.

The overall pedagogical approach of the program is to offer law school students a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of public policy and the opportunity to promote their understanding of policy making and policy analysis, advance their training and reflection in reaching consensus and develop workable policy prescriptions to the most pressing issues facing our nation while gauging political realities and constraints.  Throughout the academic semester, the law students explore the diverse political, social, and economic contexts within which public policy is developed.  In addition to exploring the study of public policy, the Fellows Program focuses students on developing strategies and tactics for these law students to deploy in the assessment of specific advocacy issues with consideration of certain constituencies that include political and policy players, press and media, public opinion and influence, and political and ideological conflicts surrounding a specific policy or legal issue.  Fellows produce six written deliverables, present three oral advocacy positions and finally propose a policy recommendation.

In addition, on Fridays, fellows attend a reading seminar and discussion led by the Institute’s policy professors, other Panetta Institute lecturers and Secretary Panetta.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty discusses the law and politics with Institute fellows

Santa Cruz County Supervisor Ryan Coonerty discusses the law and politics with Institute fellows

During the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 terms, the Fellows Program was re-designed to comply with the COVID-19 regulations.  The Institute transitioned the program to a remote online learning platform. Classes were conducted via online video conferencing to provide synchronous online learning on Fridays where the fellows attended classes online with live instruction.  On the assigned individual work day for each fellow, the program was redesigned for asynchronous learning where fellows were provided assignments and materials to work independently. The Program has accepted as many as twelve students in the past to participate in this unique educational opportunity.

Currently, the Fall 2023 semester began on August 18, 2023 and will end November 17, 2023.

Please contact us for more information.