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Innovating for the Public Interest

Innovating for the Public Interest was developed as part of the Public Interest Technology University Network, a partnership of colleges and universities convened by New America, the Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. 

As powerful new technologies advance and become more ubiquitous, it is critical that these systems operate for the benefit of humankind. Consequently, it is incumbent on higher education to develop a public interest perspective that creates a robust pipeline of well-trained and educated students interested in pursuing careers in the field of public interest technology and public service. This course is a partnership between UVA Law, Engineering, and Policy to create and assess a graduate-level course that provides students an experiential learning experience that instills a deep understanding and appreciation of the complex ethical, legal, policy and societal implications of new technologies.


Jack Davidson (Department of Computer Science)
Tom Nachbar (School of Law)
Philip Potter (Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy)
John Robinson (Department of Politics)

Course Syllabus

In this course, students will work on real problems of societal importance. For most projects, this will involve a combination of technology, policy, and law. Multifunctional student teams made up of students from each of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Batten School, the School of Law, and the College of Arts and Sciences will work together through the semester. As part of the course, student teams will prepare a series of project updates along with a draft and final project presentation.


  • Week 1: Introduction
  • Weeks 2-3: Understanding the DoD and the National Security System
  • Week 3: Defense Innovation
  • Week 4: Methods of Problem Solving
  • Week 5: Methods of Problem Solving
  • Week 6: Theories of Organizational Change and Adoption
  • Week 7: MIDTERM and Group Meetings
  • Week 8: Team Workshops
  • Weeks 9-11: Team Presentations
  • Week 12: Murder Boards
  • Week 13: Report to DoD sponsors

Sample Project

  • Courts Data Project

See also