Welcome to PA 5012

Overview of the Course

What is desirable from the perspective of policy analysis and policy expertise is not always what is legislatively feasible in the face of established institutions and multiple and competing interests and values. Although the impetus for pursuing apolitical approaches to making public policy is understandable, it often rests on decision-making models that circumvent or diminish democratic processes and side step critical issues related to political power. The purpose of this course is to illuminate the obstacles and opportunities that shape the development of public policy in the United States.


At the completion of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Comprehend and apply critical aspects of the politics of public affairs.
  2. Understand the principal components of American politics and institutions and analyze their role in policy formation.
  3. Apply political feasibility analysis to current and historical policies.
  4. Communicate ideas and concepts orally and in writing.
  5. Collaborate productively in teams.


  • Please come to class having completed the assigned reading and prepared to participate in class discussions. Class discussion will involve (1) description, (2) interpretation, and (3) the application of frameworks of political analysis to contemporary American politics and policy.
  • In addition to intellectual engagement and careful analysis of assigned readings, tolerance for differing opinions is expected.
  • Complete all assignments on time. There will be no incomplete grades given except for standard University policy reasons (for example, illness with a note from a doctor). You are responsible for getting the assignments in on time and for following instructions.

Contact Information

Instructor: Melanie Burns
E-Mail: mburns@umn.edu
Office Hours: Tuesday, 11am-12pm
(in 125 Humphrey School, by request)

Section Information

Section 002: T 8:15-9:30
CarlSMgmt 2-233
TA Name: Courtney Blankenheim
TA Email: blan0217@umn.edu

Section 004: T 9:45-11:00
CarlSMgmt 2-233
TA Name: Dom Rolando
TA Email: rolan059@umn.edu


Required Book to Purchase: Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd ed. By John Kingdon. Both 2002 & 2010 versions are fine. (Available through the university bookstore and commercial book outlets.)

Additional readings will be made available on the course blog.

Weekly Plan

Wednesday - Begin readings and videos
Saturday - Reaction Posts due by 11:59pm
Sunday - Online Activity due by 11:59pm
Monday - Finish reading online posts
Tuesday - In class discussion

Key Dates

March 12: Rough draft of political feasibility memo due in class
May 7: Final draft of political feasibility memo due in class

Recent Entries

Finding success ppt
Final PPT - Matt and Shen.ppt…
Factors of Policy Reform
The Patashnik (2008) reading, "Reforms at Risk: What Happens After Major Policy Reforms are Enacted," discusses the process of how…
The Game Doesn't End After Enactment?
This week's readings pertained to the topics of success and failures of policy after it has been implemented. In particular,…