Spring 2021 - 60653 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Spring 2021 - 60653 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Seminar on Agri-food Systems, Food Security, and Policy-WB

DESCRIPTION:  While some progress has been made, global food insecurity rates remain alarmingly high. At the same time, studies have shown that income growth will not necessarily lead to improved nutritional outcomes.  And, there are numerous questions about how to produce enough affordable, healthy food without exceeding Earth’s planetary boundaries. Thus, food, agriculture, and nutrition policy are wide-ranging topics. They cannot be comprehensively covered within a single course. Instead, I have focused on (1) introducing sets of analytical tools (e.g., rights; systems thinking; missing markets) to help you analyze and respond to challenges within the agri-food system and (2) identifying and responding to cross-cutting challenges (e.g., technology adoption; gender equity; climate change) faced by policymakers and program designers aiming to address food insecurity.  For at least two class meetings, students will lead the class in evaluating either a food related policy or in presenting a pressing issue. We will also have two debates on key challenges within the agri-food system. The objective of this course is to prepare students to understand the debates ongoing within the agri-food system and to have a set of analytical tools with which to unpack these debates. Further, by examining cross-cutting themes, we can better understand what makes some policies, programs, and practices successful and others less so.



  1. Asynchronous materials will be posted TBD before prior to our regularly scheduled meetings. Students should watch the lecture prior to attending class.
  2. Most synchronous classes will occur during our scheduled meeting time: TBD. Some of these meetings will be led by students. Most classes will be less than three hours. However, please do not schedule other meetings during that window.


GRADING AND EXPECTATIONS: Course work will emphasize direct engagement with primary materials and data and will focus on building critical writing, analytical and presentation skills that will demonstrate a broad understanding of the key issues and challenges.


Your course grade will be determined by:

  • Attendance and quality of participation: 10%
    • Attend class on a regular and punctual basis. Please notify me prior to class if you need to miss a class. One unexcused absence over the course of the semester is fine.
    • View asynchronous lectures prior to attending class.
    • Complete the assigned reading for the scheduled class and participate actively and productively in class.
    • I reserve the right to include graded impromptu writing assignments in your participation grade and will do so if our discussions do not adequately reflect the readings.
  • Participating in a debate: 10%
  • There are two debates this semester. You will be assigned at random to participate in one.
  • The debate format may be an official debate. Or, it also be position papers or as short persuasive videos. We will discuss as a class.
  • Participating in 8 discussion boards: 3% x 7 = 21%
    • Prior to each meeting, post an analysis (not a summary) of one or more readings to the discussion board.
    • Posts must be completed by 8pm on YYY on Canvas.
  • Presentation on policy or emerging issue: 20%
    • You will present for 20-30 minutes (depending on class size)
    • See end of syllabus for more details
  • Post to discussion board / peer evaluate student presentations: 10%
    • The week(s) you are not presenting, you will be asked to provide concrete, useful feedback to students on their presentations.
  • Abstract for final assignment: 4%
    • Due March 21. This can be either an abstract or an outline.
  • Final assignment: 25%
    • 15-20 pages.
    • This can be a more developed analysis of the work you did on a policy or emerging issue or be on a new topic.
    • I will consider group projects (3 or fewer folks) but will expect more research from those groups. Quantitative projects are also a possibility.
    • Post to Canvas or email it to me by the last day of class, May 7, 2021

Late policy: I deduct one-third of a letter grade for each 24 hours late. I do not accept reading responses or discussion board postings made after the material is discussed in class

M 9:00AM to 12:00PM
Instruction Mode: