For more than a century, public policy institutes at universities have followed a tradition of public and civil engagement through scholarship and training programs that address a wide variety of policy needs in public and private sectors. With current trends in government budget reductions and the expansion of government bureaucracies at state and local levels, public policy institutes must play increasingly significant roles in developing effective partnerships between universities and government agencies. This issue provides an overview of the modern public policy institute, beginning with its inception at the University of Wisconsin, and its historic role in American public life. Using different models, the authors examine innovative approaches to developing the structure of programs in both traditional academic environments and in applied research and training; attracting and rewarding faculty engaged in public service; and determining which policy issues to approach at institutional levels. They also discuss current trends in this field, including a growing commitment to national and international issues, and policymaking as institutional design. This is the 112th issue of the quarterly journal New Directions for Higher Education.