While assignments are up to the discretion of each individual instructor, most iterations of the course include some combination of the following:
Contributions to our cross-university blog
En lieu of conventional writing assignments, students write posts for our cross-university blog. Each post analyzes some current event in the US or elsewhere through the lens of materials we’ve read and discussed in class. In weeks students don’t write blog posts of their own, they comment on someone else’s post instead.
Country case studies
In spring of 2018 Jessica Gottlieb taught this course as a “capstone” for second-year master’s students at Texas. A&M’s Bush School. TAMU’s capstone courses work with clients for whom they produce policy-relevant, research-based deliverables. This is like a practicum in lieu of a master’s thesis.
The client for this course was USAID’s Democracy Rights and Governance (DRG) Division, and the deliverable was an event dataset on the causes, symptoms, and consequences of democratic erosion worldwide. Our students wrote country case studies, which were then used to inform and construct the dataset. The format of the case studies was standardized across universities. Cases were distributed across students and universities to maximize geographical coverage, though students were given the opportunity to voice a preference for specific countries. The preliminary results of the dataset were presented to USAID, the US State Department, and a consortium of NGOs working on democracy promotion at the end of spring 2018.
See the beta version of the publicly available dataset here.
We will continue this project over the 2018-19 academic year, covering more countries and more years and further improving the standardized case study format.
Finally, over the course of the semester each student is responsible for attending a political event in the area around their university. The type of event they attend is up to them: it could be a protest, a pro- or anti-Trump rally, a town hall meeting with local or state representatives, an Indivisible meeting, etc. Afterwards they write a blog post reflecting on their experience, drawing on the readings from class to help inform their reflections.