Spring 2024 - 59418 - PA 388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy


Instructor:  Dr. Becky Lentz

Course location:  SRH 3.312

Class Schedule: Thursdays, 9–noon

Office Hours/Questions: as needed. Please schedule via email becky.lentz@utexas.edu

Class Limit: 15

Prerequisites: None, but some academic and/or practitioner background in the social sector is helpful

Open To: Graduate students (all disciplines)

Teaching modality: in-person

Course Description 

Philanthropic Studies has become a vibrant area of interdisciplinary and international research, teaching, and professional practice with relevance to many academic disciplines and fields that include political science, sociology, third sector studies, history, and public affairs, among others. Yet even though “philanthropy is everywhere” as experts have noted, its role in setting and advancing agendas for social and policy change is often invisible to many.


The goal of this course is to make the roles that philanthropic actors play in social and policy change visible to students with an interest in public affairs topics that may need philanthropic support. These might include issues like environmental protection or justice, discrimination in education/housing/healthcare/financial services, etc, migration/immigration, peace and security, public education, public health, disaster responses, racial and gender justice, voting rights, reproductive rights, and digital rights/equity/inclusion, Internet freedom, among many others. The course features, in particular, the role program officers play in influencing and shaping philanthropic investments that seek to address these concerns. 


The course is divided into three segments, each with its own assessment of student work. Assigned reading, writing, and discussion assignments in addition to conversations with guest speakers will provide necessary knowledge in all three segments of the course. 


The first segment will provide several weeks of introductory instruction where students will learn about the roles funders have played in social and policy change across several issue areas. Students will be provided with conceptual frameworks to help guide their understanding of these roles as preparation for two projects in the remaining two course segments. The first project will be completed in the second segment of the course, which will focus on engaging in the types of research that program officers need for their work. Students will choose a public affairs issue that interests them and then receive detailed guidance on how to find and analyze case studies that demonstrate the role funding has played in that issue area, but which also may need amplification, a change in direction, or some other way to address a gap that needs philanthropic support. Students will then summarize that knowledge in an annotated bibliography. In the third segment of the course, students will draw from their annotated bibliographies as the evidentiary basis for developing a funding strategy memo in a particular policy issue area. 


The teaching philosophy and instructional method for this course is active/student-centered and inquiry-based learning. In a student-centered course, sometimes referred to as a flipped classroom, students do most of the talking in class while the instructor plays a facilitative role in supporting their critical, inquiry-based, participatory, and collaborate/peer learning. The goal is to create opportunities for a form of legitimate peripheral participation that approximates the types of work and interactions that one encounters when working as a program officer in funding institutions. 

Instruction Mode