This Area of Concentration gives you an opportunity to study with practitioners in the field: reporters, political operatives, journalists, and campaign and news and media professionals.

Area of Concentration Courses

A minimum of four courses are required to earn this Area of Concentration within the MA in Government program.

This course will investigate the impact that digital technology has had on the institution of the American presidency. The adoption of the internet in the 21st century, both as a tool and as an information distribution mechanism, has had an astonishing impact on the Office of the Presidency. This course is designed to have students operationalize theoretical concepts and apply them to real world situations. Students will engage with scholarly research, analytical arguments, and real-time case studies on the effective use of social media in all aspects of the presidency: campaigning, public debate, electoral processes, and democracy more broadly. In that spirit, we will examine how the first president of the social media age, Taught by a member of the first White House Office of Digital Strategy, the primary objective of this course is to provide students will the tools and skills to be informed consumers of political social media, as well as to equip them to participate in the political digital conversation.

This course will assist leaders in identifying their personal approach to leadership; provide tips on motivating staff by building trusting relationships and shoring up their credibility; suggest influence and persuasion strategies that leaders need to employ when working with bosses, colleagues, direct reports, and critical stakeholders, including funding agencies; develop strategies to build effective work teams; and consider approaches to monitor organizational performance in an ongoing fashion.

The theory and practice of speechwriting are the focus of our study of the great political speeches of all time and especially those of the American political tradition. We will examine the content, structure, and purpose of high rhetoric ranging from Pericles to Solzhenitsyn, from Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to contemporary politicians. Based on their knowledge of the best models, students will draft and deliver their own speeches.

It is easy, in this age of reactive 24-hour news, to believe that ideas no longer matter in politics. But ideas are the currency of politics, and are central to both campaigning and governing. What candidates stand for matters, and the best policy is the best politics. This class will discuss the critical role ideas play in our American political system. It will examine how ideas define candidates and governments, shape political strategies, and form campaign communications. But, most importantly, it will discuss how campaigning on ideas leads to successful governing. While compromise and negotiation are often derided as weaknesses in today’s political system, we will examine how these techniques have been used to implement policy ideas and further political strategy. From the practical perspective of the instructor’s own legislative and political experience, the class will take up case studies involving the interplay between politics and ideas in recent history in areas such as budget reform, national security, tax reform, crime prevention, trade, and poverty. Through these case studies, we will look at how and why policy ideas succeeded or failed through the lens of elections, political communications, and their positive impact on the public.

This course considers the historical and contemporary relationship between money and government. In what ways do moneyed interests have distinctive influences on American politics? Does this threaten the vibrancy of our representative democracy? Are recent controversies over campaign finance reform and lobbying reform signs that American government is in trouble? This course is reading, writing, and discussion intensive, and we consider the large academic literature on this subject, as well as the reflections of journalists and political practitioners. Election law and regulations on money in politics are always changing, and so part of the course is designed to give students tools at tracking these developments. The overall goal of the course is to foster an understanding of the money/politics relationship in ways that facilitate the evaluation of American democracy.

Conflict is part of organizational life. People in public sector agencies and nonprofit and for-profit organizations disagree over the meaning of regulations, the use of financial resources, office space, leave time, and many other issues. Managers must have the ability to diagnose disputes and to negotiate effectively to resolve conflicts. This course provides the theoretical background and conceptual framework needed for successful negotiation and mediation. Through presentations and discussions students become familiar with the tools necessary for conflict resolution in their agencies and organizations. Analysis of a party's interests, identification of the necessary style, awareness of communication skills, and planning and feedback are part of the process of becoming an accomplished negotiator.

Lobbying is a Constitutional right guaranteed under the First Amendment. It's also big business in Washington, DC, as more than $4 billion was spent on these efforts in 2015. In fact, for many, the term “lobbying” conjures up an image of a shady character passing a cash-filled envelope to an elected official.

The stereotype of lobbyists as greedy predators of the political system detracts from the efforts made by the tens of thousands of people, from lobbyists and concerned citizens alike, who come to Washington every year to exercise their “Right to Petition” the government to make it more responsive and accountable to the people.

This applied course provides students with a practical understanding of how to lobby Congress and the Executive Branch. The course also teaches students about “advocacy” efforts where unregistered public affairs firms employ campaign-styled tactics to persuade decision-makers to support their client’s positions.

In a democracy, the views of citizens are intended to guide lawmakers as they shape public policy. This makes public opinion a central component in the study of democratic politics. In this course, we will investigate the psychological and sociological origins, structure, measurement, and consequences of public opinion. We will investigate the content of what people think on a variety of salient topics from immigration, income inequality, taxes, to the 2020 elections. However, the main purpose of this class is to move beyond the what and examine the why. Why do Americans think what they do about politics? The course will draw from theories in political science and political psychology to examine the organizing structures of political beliefs including identity, self-interest, socialization, personality, values and morality. In turn, the course will examine how these various sources of public opinion impact voting behavior and policy preferences.

Quickly accelerating changes in the ways we get our news are compelling newsmakers and journalists alike to rethink their craft, and their relationships with their audiences, with repercussions for policy, politics and public discourse. This course will examine how innovations – like social networking, mobile platforms, behavioral targeting, etc --are providing journalists and political leaders with new ways to interact with citizens. It will look at how the rapid migration of consumers to the web is leading news organizations of all types to rethink how they organize, pay for and think about themselves. Students in this course will use real time news developments in the nation’s capital as a laboratory for observing the evolving ways news sources and reporters and the public interact. Questions to be considered include whether this digitized and networked environment has implications for the pace and character of changes in public policy. The course will invite practitioners in journalism and politics who are dealing with these developments daily to share their sense of where all this is leading. This course counts towards the Political Communication Concentration.

This course introduces current theories and controversies concerning political campaigns and elections in the United States. We take advantage of the fact that the class meets during the "invisible primary" of the 2016 presidential campaign, and students are expected to follow journalistic accounts closely. The course is split into two major parts. First, we consider the style and structure of American campaigns. For example, we ask how campaigns have changed in the last fifty years, especially concerning the role of parties, the presence of incumbency advantage, and the role of money. In addition, we consider why candidates decide to run, how they position themselves on important issues, and how they design their campaign messages. We also cover the importance of campaign polling, and the tricky task of forecasting election outcomes. Second, we explore the impact of campaigns on voters. For example, we ask whether campaigns ever convince voters to change their opinion, or whether demographic and socioeconomic factors explain most political behavior. The goal of the course is to review the importance of elections in American politics, and to provide the tools to make normative judgments about the health of American democracy.

This course examines the “fusion” of information gathering and sharing between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the 79 fusion centers in a Post-9/11 World. We will address federal, state, and international law enforcement jurisdictional issues, the balancing of privacy/civil liberties with information collection/dissemination, and overall assistance to state/local authorities during critical incidents. Students will address broad public policy and perception implications inherent in law enforcement activities. Students will also analyze and discuss case studies such as the Las Vegas Concert, the Orlando Night Club, and the San Bernardino shootings to illustrate the need for timely fusion of information between federal and state law enforcement. The readings and videos will include a variety of diverse and opposing viewpoints relative to law enforcement with practicums and simulations to allow debate in “real-world” situations. An important objective is to determine ways to improve upon the current law enforcement landscape and generate possible solutions to ensure seamless and timely information sharing while safeguarding individual rights.

You can see yourself now – taking the oath of office, giving speeches, and making critical decisions impacting thousands or millions of people. But how do you get there? This class provides a practical guide for students who are interested in exploring a run for elected office. Students will learn how to assess if and when they are ready to run, which office to run for, and most importantly, develop the critical skills needed as a candidate to wage and win a contested campaign. These skills include writing a campaign plan and budget, hiring staff and consultants, learning how to fundraise, and working with the media. This class dispels the myth that only those independently wealthy can serve in office by giving students a real understanding of what it takes to run and win.

Analytics inform the decision-making process, strategizing, and forecasting of modern American campaigns. This course focuses on the role that analytics play in campaigns and elections in America. Campaign strategists, policy analysts, and social scientists leverage data from voter rolls, consumption and public opinion polls to make better choices. This course surveys the theoretical and empirical literature in American electoral politics to examine how campaigns and political organizations are using field experiments, microtargeting, and public opinion polling to tackle the challenges of getting out the vote and increasing registration and voting rates. Other topics covered include voting behavior, public opinion, partisanship, and campaign finance. Students will gain a rich understanding of how analytics has become a key component of the electoral process. Students will also gain experience analyzing data through simulations and data analysis exercises. Prerequisites: none required (470.681 Probability and Statistics recommended)

This course will introduce students to today’s most pressing public policy issues, with an emphasis on writing to achieve impact. Public policy professionals must be familiar with a variety of key issues and be able to effectively make a case for a position. This course will examine such topic areas as health care, energy/environment, fiscal policy, international trade, and education and identify core issues and the politics that characterize each of these policy areas. As part of our study, students will learn the art of writing policy memos, issue briefs, op-eds and speeches. When you complete the course successfully, you will be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of five public policy issues through various forms of writing. You will be able to effectively and succinctly write policy memos, issue briefs, op-eds, blogs and speeches, addressing a specified audience, clearly identifying the problem, and making a case for a position or solution.

Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.

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