Fall 2015 - 59810 - PA383C - Policy Development

Addressing Public Policy in the 21st Century

The purpose of this course is to help you become skilled, discriminating analysts in public policy: You will learn how to undertake analysis as well as critique the analysis of others. The course is designed to improve your critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills so that you will successfully engage in the development and implementation of policies and become sought after for your abilities to inform policy deliberations at the highest level of government.

In today’s policy world, public policy problems are more complex, solutions more difficult to create and assess, and the players more pervasive and more partisan. At the same time the consequences of policies have grown more serious and immediate. As students of public policy, understanding how policy is development, how policy changes are deliberated, and how policy choices are made will better position you to successfully engage in the policy arena. While the course focuses on national level policy deliberations, the knowledge of public policy development and the analytic skills you will acquire are applicable across governmental levels and in the non-profit and private sector arenas.

During our time together we will focus on the nature of public policy problems, examining the unique roles the Congress, the President, the Executive Branch, the courts, and outside actors play in the creation and oversight of public policy. We will examine selected, contemporary public policy problems by:

Identifying the nature of these problems.
Examining and evaluating data and research used to support the existence of problems.
Analyzing the attendant challenges these problems create for the future well being of our Nation.
Exploring ways the problems have been addressed.
Analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of the solutions offered.
Developing new options for addressing these problems in the future; and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of these options.

We also will explore how policy options are tested in the political arena. The specific policy challenges we will explore may include: global climate change adaptations, access to education, immigration policy, the aging of the U.S. population, and government regulation (gun control, same sex marriage, marijuana). Before we determine the policy issues on which we will work, the class, as a whole, will consider various options. 

The course is designed to integrate knowledge generated through sound policy analysis with political and organizational realities. You will develop an appreciation for the complexity of public policy problems and an understanding of key players who tackle these problems, environments in which they act, and processes they use to assess the feasibility of options presented them.

While the course focuses on national level policy making, the knowledge gained and skills developed throughout this semester are applicable across all levels of government and policy settings.

The course requires extensive reading to prepare for class, numerous writing activities, team collaborations, and a high level of participation in class. Student assessment will be based upon: several 3 page memoranda; a team project; an individual policy analysis, an individual policy briefing, and class participation. There is no final examination.