Learning Community

sondheim_students2Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars gain an interdisciplinary understanding of human behavior and of social, economic, and political institutions through courses, speakers, and research. Students earn at least one major in the their desired discipline, and many have double majors. They learn about American and world societies, develop a deep understanding of public policy, and acquire analytical and expressive skills.

Scholar Cohorts

Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars enjoy active friendships with like-minded, involved students. Each Scholar enters the program as part of a small cohort of peers, about 15 other new Scholars. They bond with their cohort members through participation in first year classes (English Composition and the Public Affairs Seminar) and social activities. New scholars are mentored by upperclassmen, which incorporates freshmen into the UMBC community for both academics and extracurriculars.

As serious scholars, they do more than earn good grades–they search for knowledge because doing so fascinates them.  But as members of an exceptionally diverse university that is supported by the state’s citizens, they also help lead an institution which makes major contributions to Baltimore, Maryland and beyond.


The Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars participate in activities together throughout the academic year. The year kicks off with a picnic for the scholars where incoming scholars get to know the other cohorts of scholars. Each semester we attend artistic performances in Baltimore or on campus, usually plays with themes relevant to our work in improving society. At the end of the academic year we recognize our graduating seniors.

Connect with Experts

The Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program creates unique opportunities for Scholars to have access to experts in the fields of public policy and the social sciences. Scholars attend UMBC’s Social Sciences Forum, which sponsors public lecturers on issues of vital importance. See the lists of experts who have visited UMBC under the Social Sciences Forum in previous semesters and the most recent semester.

Scholars have the added benefit of exclusive events with some of these speakers, often at dinners or lunches. There the students ask questions about policies, people, and career options. And each semester, the Program also invites a professor or graduate student from the social sciences to a dinner and talk with the Scholars, providing additional access to the intellectual capital housed at UMBC. Recently two very special guests shared their public service career experiences with Sondheim Scholars: Olivia Golden, Urban Institute Fellow, discussed how she reformed child welfare as the director of Child and Family Services in Washington, DC, and Rebecca M. Blank, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs with the U.S. Department of Commerce discussed implementing the 2010 Census. Sondheim Scholars also had a special lecture and dinner with Dr. Robert Carpenter, economics professor, to discuss the economic crisis and financial regulation.


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Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars receive intensive advising and mentoring. Each student is treated as an individual who has unique strengths and needs, and the Director and Associate Director are always available for advising Scholars.

With faculty and staff assistance, Scholars are accepted at high-quality, professional graduate and law schools, compete successfully for prestigious awards, such as the Truman Scholarship, and are linked to excellent first jobs.