Fall 2021 - 60960 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy
THIS IS PART OF A THREE SECTION COURSE WITH PROFESSORS EATON, DEITCH, AND DORN
Communications for Public Affairs
Course Number: PA 388K
Master of Public Affairs
Instructors: Michele Deitch, J.D.; Edwin Dorn, Ph.D.; and David Eaton, Ph.D.
Phones: 512-296-7212 (Deitch), 512-657-5509 (Dorn), and 512-338-0814 (Eaton)
Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words!
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene II
And, yes, words matter. They may reflect reality, but they also have the power to change reality - the power to uplift and to abase.
~ William Raspberry, 1994. Downloaded from AZ Quotes.com. 1/1/20.
Good English, well spoken and well written will open more doors than a college degree... Bad English will slam doors you don't even know exist.
~ William Raspberry, 1991. Downloaded from AZ Quotes.com, 1/1/20
Clarity of thought and clarity of expression are inseparable.
This course is about how to use words effectively to inform, convince, and negotiate in the public policy arena. As an aspiring public policy professional, you must master the craft of assembling words into a variety of formats: briefings, reports, information memoranda, decision memoranda, op-ed articles, public testimony, and twenty-second sound bites.
Communication is a two-way process; receiving information is just as important as presenting it. As public servants, you will be engaged in negotiating requests and resolving disagreements. You must listen carefully in order to distinguish substantive content from heated rhetoric and unrealistic demands.
The course will be organized into three modules: writing, oral communications, and negotiating – but not necessarily in that order. Each module will last four to five weeks and each will be taught by a different instructor: Deitch will focus on oral communications, Dorn on writing, and Eaton on negotiating. Students will be divided into three groups that will each circulate through the modules over the course of the semester.
Oral Communications Component
The four- to five-week oral communications module will prepare students to present their research and positions verbally and effectively in various settings. Effective oral communication requires substantive knowledge of a particular subject, an understanding of who the audience is and what they need to know, appreciation of the unique angle you bring to the presentation, recognition of the purpose of the communication, some performance skills, and a lot of practice. You will build confidence in your ability to speak with public officials and influence public policy if you learn these skills early in your career and practice them often.
In this segment of the Communications course, students will learn about the elements of effective oral communications; will observe and critique examples of oral presentations such as public testimony and TED talks; and will learn and practice at least three different forms of oral communications, including: legislative testimony, briefings, and media interviews.
All the assignments and activities in this module of the course will involve a specific criminal justice policy issue. You will be provided with a substantial packet of materials about this topic prior to the start of the semester and will be expected to be familiar with these issues once our work gets underway. This will give you the expertise you need to present effectively about this topic, and you will see how the same base of information can be channeled into different styles of communication. You will also learn the difference between oral communications that are intended to be persuasive and advocacy-focused and those designed to be informative and objective. For various assignments, students will be assigned different roles, which will allow them to see this material—and present it—from different perspectives.
Students will also be expected to prepare written documents to complement their oral presentations, including a one-pager to accompany legislative testimony and a Powerpoint presentation to support a briefing.
Our class time will involve a combination of skills training, in-class exercises and workshops, peer critiques, and formal presentations. There will be at least one oral presentation assignment each week, which may involve students recording themselves giving a presentation. Students will also work on and revise their one-pagers and Powerpoints continuously during this module. Out-of-class assignments will also involve watching video recordings of public presentations, and students will need to provide critical responses to these examples.
This four- to five-week module will enable you to practice writing the short form – 600- to 1,000-word papers that convey essential information, elicit decisions, and convince the general public. You will be placed in a scenario in which you are a junior staff member for a new Member of Congress who wants to make a quick impression by becoming associated with a “hot” issue. Your job is to convince your Member which issue to focus on, then provide the information he/she needs to move the process along.
The first step will be a “pitch,” a two-minute oral presentation (supported by a one-page paper) that says, “Here’s an important issue that you can ride to prominence.” You will then write an information memo that provides the new MC with enough background to get up to speed on the issue. Next, you will write a decision memo that gets the MC to choose how he/she wants to pursue the issue, e.g. by taking a distinctive approach to the policy or by finding an attention-getting way to support it. The last written product will be a draft of an op-ed article that the MC can use to reach the general public. Classmates will offer constructive criticism about each piece of writing.
You will choose the MC and the issue. Given the shortness of time, the issue you select should be one with which you already are familiar, is within the purview of the US House of Representatives, and (preferably) falls within the jurisdiction of one of the MC’s committee assignments. You also may recommend that your MC support a bill that already has been introduced. Your work will be judged according to its factual soundness, clarity, concision, and timeliness.
You will need to buy one book for the writing block: William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, any edition. Other reading materials will be posted on Canvas.
The negotiation module is intended to enable each student to deal with conflict in their lives and gain experience in negotiation using a variety of techniques. Two-thirds of the time in class will be devoted to in-class negotiations, as active negotiation is more useful than talking about it.
All class lectures will be pre-recorded to be viewed asynchronously (at any time) on Canvas. Power-points for all lectures will be available on Canvas. Most reading materials will be available on Canvas, although one book is for purchase. Pre-recorded videos of negotiation will be available on Canvas to provide a view of the practice of negotiation. Classes are for discussion of difficult topics and negotiation practice.
There are two written assignments each week, one assignment about the readings per se, and a second assignment asking students to respond to questions. Thus, this ‘Negotiation’ portion of the Communication course includes sections both on oral presentations and written statements.