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Programs & Initiatives

We prioritize collaborative, innovative, and novel approaches to the project of sustaining multi-dimensional public participation and civic leadership.

Faculty, staff, and students engage in the difficult, invigorating, and necessary work of strengthening our local, state, national, and global communities.

Scholars Program

The Public Democracy Scholars Program is a signature initiative of the Ron and Jane Olson Center for Public Democracy—making Drake the school of choice for politically minded high school students. The four-year program prepares students to be civic leaders through dedicated coursework and immersive engagement.

Affiliated Centers

The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center serves as a global resource and premier think tank for applied research and programming in the areas of civility, character development and ethical leadership. The Ray Center transforms lives and strengthens communities by cultivating responsible global citizenship.

The Harkin Institute engages policy makers, community members, and students in the discussion of current events and the impacts of public policy on society.

Drake Law School's Constitutional Law Center is one of just four centers throughout the nation established and funded by Congress to foster study of the U.S. Constitution and its roots, formation, principles, and development.

Drake Law School's Legislative Practice Center combines coursework with legislative internships—providing students the unparalleled opportunity to draft bills, lobby legislators, and attend subcommittee meetings.

Affiliated Programs of Study

As constitutionalism and the rule of law are essential for a well-functioning democracy, the Ron and Jane Olson Institute for Public Democracy is providing new opportunities for collaboration between the Law School and the University. And, our exceptionally strong undergraduate programs in American PoliticsBusiness Law, and Law, Politics, and Society provide the kind of training and intellectual community that enable us to become a center of innovation and excellence in the relationships between legal education, pre-professional training, political activism, and the liberal arts—in line with Drakes mission.

These areas are supported by the Department of Political Science which offers majors in PoliticsAmerican Politics, and International Relations and minors in PoliticsInternational Relations, and Human Rights Studies.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is a leading voice for First Amendment values on campus, in our community, and nationally. With majors such as Multimedia Journalism, the School champions the nation’s historic commitment to free speech and a robust, independent press, and an examination of its evolving roles in our civic life. Additionally, the School offers coursework on navigating within a complex and changing media environment to develop successful advocacy and political campaign communications, led by the School's unique Strategic Political Communications major. 

The College of Business & Public Administration intersects with the Ron and Jane Olson Institute for Public Democracy in the same way that the private sector intersects with the public sector: collaboratively in the pursuit of positive outcomes in the legislative process to protect consumers, employees, communities, and businesses; and as an important aspect of responsible corporate citizenship.


Drake University Archives and Special Collections preserves and provides access to a number of rare and unique collections, including a robust collection of political papers from Senator Tom Harkin, Iowa governors Robert D. Ray and Terry Branstad, Congressman Neal Smith, and State Representative Wayne Ford.

Through collaborative internship experiences, Vote Smart provides an active learning environment for students and young professionals to engage in factual research on politics, providing civic education to all Americans.


Drake University offers students unrivaled opportunities to engage in Iowa’s presidential caucuses. Drake students fill the ranks of campaign volunteer and staff teams and work behind the scenes at campaign events and nationally televised presidential debates, which Drake hosted in 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2020.

This robust access to the political process provides an ideal foundation for expanding Drake’s reputation as a leader in strengthening American democracy.

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