Public Policy Challenges of the 21st Century

This course introduces class participants to the political significance and societal consequences of challenges facing U.S. and international policymakers. It is designed to help participants develop skills to analyze policy proposals and advocate for their preferred options for issues on the public policy agenda ahead. The class assumes basic knowledge about governing institutions and democratic processes, while recommending supplemental materials for further study to complement reading links provided. The course focuses on future policy challenges, while examining the broad historical context in which policies are adopted and implemented.

As the course evaluates how issues are advanced by private sector interests, non-governmental organizations, and government policymakers, it examines how groups become effective policy advocates. Particular attention is paid to how winning coalitions are formed and how issue framing shapes the outcome of policy campaigns. The goal is neither to produce partisan talking points, nor to favor one governance philosophy over others. Rather it is to clarify the public policy challenges ahead and to enhance participants’ understanding of how policy options are adopted in the real world arena of contemporary politics.

WEEK 1: Introduction

Professor Warburg and his UVA graduate teaching assistants outline the approach of the course and highlight upcoming topics and speakers.

WEEK 2: Public Policy Challenges in the 21st Century

Professor Warburg outlines global public policy challenges the next generation will face, as classroom participants collaborate in defining the future agenda.

WEEK 3: The Media and Changing Nature of Politics

Clinton White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers explains issue framing, coalition building and how modern media in shapes public policy options.

WEEK 4: Healthcare Systems and Insurance Markets

Professor Eric Patashnik examines healthcare reforms, weighing costs, benefits and the efficacy of alternative approaches, including ‘Obamacare.’

WEEK 5: Federalism and the Power of State Governors

Professor Ray Scheppach examines the powerful role state governors play, examining how states serve as ‘laboratories’ for federal policy options in Washington.

WEEK 6: US-China Relations

Professor Harry Harding details the complex, all-important relationship between the U.S. and China, outlining different scenarios for future competition and cooperation.

WEEK 7: Congress and Politics

Congressman Gerry Connolly and former House Republican leader Tom Davis offer insights into how Congress meets public policy challenges.

WEEK 8: War Powers

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine discusses how American citizens, in an age of drone strikes and asymmetrical warfare, decide to commit the nation to war.

WEEK 9: Wrapping Up – Positive Change and Closing

Professor Warburg reviews key course themes, analytical skills and the importance of civic engagement with the public policy agenda ahead.

University of Virginia
A premier institution of higher education, The University of Virginia offers outstanding academics, world-class faculty, and an inspiring, supportive environment. Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University is guided by his vision of discovery, innovation, and development of the full potential of students from all walks of life. Through these courses, global learners have an opportunity to study with renowned scholars and thought leaders.