ESP 160: Theories of the Policy Process

This course, taught in University of California, Davis's Department of Environmental Science and Policy every Spring quarter, introduces students to leading theories of the policy process used in political science and public administration. Students use these theories to analyze case studies of real environmental policy issues.


How to Succeed in ESP160 (Advice from Students, to Students: 2017)

How to Succeed in ESP160 (Advice from Students, to Students: 2018)

At the end of Spring 2017 and 2018, I asked students to give advice to future students taking this course. Students submitted their responses online, anonymously, so as to avoid any concern about whether their participation or comments would affect their grade. This is a compilation of their advice.


ESP 212A: Theories of the Policy Process

This course, taught in University of California, Davis's Department of Environmental Science and Policy in alternate Spring quarters, is the graduate-level version of ESP 160. 



ESP 1: Environmental Analysis

This course, taught in University of California, Davis's Department of Environmental Science and Policy in the Fall quarter, aims to familiarize students with environmental and natural resources policy and management topics. It explores the scientific basis for policies and the role of science in policymaking. Students gain awareness of contemporary debates and issues in environmental science and policy. Students explore the technical, political, economic, and legal issues associated with making environmental policy at the federal, state, and local levels. 




POL 7001: Public Policy Research and Evaluation Methods

This course, taught in UC's Department of Political Science in the Fall semester, uses a program evaluation lens to examine the theory and practice of policy research. Program evaluation is often characterized as applied social science research. Its principal focus is testing causal hypotheses. Studying the ways in which that testing can occur prompts us to examine carefully many of the challenges of public policy research design and execution. In addition to design issues, questions of measurement, analysis, and research management are relevant to the practice of public policy research and evaluation, and receive attention in this course. The techniques by which researchers can obtain data necessary for public policy research also are discussed. This course does not specifically cover the ins and outs of analyzing that data—those skills can be acquired in any methods course—but rather familiarizes students with the kinds of data policy analysts often use and the issues associated with acquiring and employing these data. The overall course focus is on the design, implementation, and presentation of independent research. Emphasis is on the application of appropriate research methods and techniques and trade-offs among time, cost, and performance of differing approaches.



POL/EVST 2031: Environmental Policy

This course, taught in UC's Department of Political Science and Environmental Studies Program in the Spring semester, analyzes how state and national governments and intergovernmental and global entities make and implement environmental policy. The course analyzes the behavior and activities of these entities, first focusing domestically and then highlighting the similarities and differences in policy phenomena on the global stage. Students will understand rationales for environmental policy interventions and common strategies for such interventions and their strengths and weaknesses. They will analyze how political factors such as interest groups and ideology affect how societies select which environmental problems to address and how. Students will devote substantial attention to the implementation of environmental policies, examining how on-the-ground outcomes are influenced by science, economics, legal systems, cross- and sub-national forces, and stakeholder input. The course will address recent innovations in environmental policy, such as collaborative management, and coming challenges for environmental policy, such as climate change.


Graded assignments

Guided journaling on local environmental policy

Weekly examples of excellent and interesting student journal entries (featured with permission) 


POL/EVST 3031: Sustainable Development

This course, taught in UC's Department of Political Science and Environmental Studies Program in the Spring semester, explores the promises and challenges of sustainable development. Sustainable development, with its promise of growth that equitably meets the economic and environmental needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, has been hailed by some as a desirable alternative to conventional national development strategies argued to emphasize economic growth at the expense of environmental stewardship or income parity. Yet others contend that sustainable development is at best an impossible dream, and at worst an ideology that prevents the poor from improving their quality of life and allows citizens, businesses, and governments to brand themselves as environmentally friendly without fundamentally changing their practices. This course explores these and many other debates surrounding sustainable development by focusing on the three “Es” that the term is generally understood as encompassing: environment, economy, and equity. We will first review the history and main trends associated with the sustainable development concept. Then, much of the course will focus on challenges confronting sustainable development efforts and current state-, national-, and international-level strategies for addressing these challenges, including green national income accounting, government-business partnerships, and global efforts to address climate change.


Graded assignments



E162: Environment and People

In the 2009-2010 academic year, I independently designed the syllabus for and taught three sections of E162: Environment and People. E162 is an introductory environmental studies course in Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). E162 is one of a handful of gateway courses whose successful completion allows undergraduates to pursue a degree in SPEA. Each section had 40-60 students enrolled.


Projects and Activities

1) Article discussions: Each student prepared a roughly 10-minute presentation about a current environmental news article, presented it to the class, and guided at least five minutes of discussion using questions that the student prepared in advance. Class members were given the articles at the start of the week so that they could review them prior to the presentations.

Article discussion guidelines

Article discussion grading rubric

Article discussion environmental news sources

2) Position papers: Students completed three 4-5 page papers during the semester, choosing their topics from a list of instructor-provided options. These research-based, argumentative papers were intended to deepen and extend concepts recently discussed in class. Students submitted their papers online via, a web service that helps instructors screen for plagiarism and can be used to educate students about correct citation practice. I chose Turnitin settings that took advantage of this latter function, allowing students to run theis papers through Turnitin's "plagiarism checker" and then correct their use of paraphrasing and citation as necessary before submitting final versions.

Position paper guidelines and grading rubrics

3) Nature journals: Each student kept an online multimedia nature journal using Blogger, a free blog-hosting platform. Students completed weekly entries, roughly 12 over the course of the semester, in which they described and analyzed the same natural site from different perspectives. I encouraged students to include in their journal entries not only text, but also photos, sketches, hyperlinks, video clips, and other elements uniquely accessible in the online environment.

Overall, students responded quite positively to this activity. In my Spring 2010 10119 section of E162, students completed a short, anonymous, IRB-sanctioned post-project survey evaluating their nature journal experiences. The median survey respondent spent an additional 11–20 minutes outdoors weekly as a result of nature journaling. Seventy-four percent of respondents said that the project increased their awareness of nature, 68% said it changed the way they thought about nature, and 56% said it increased their interest in spending time outdoors.

Nature journal instructions

Nature journal prompts

Nature journal blogging start-up instructions

Nature journal grading rubrics

Nature journal animal identification resources

Nature journal plant identification resources

Examples of high-quality student nature journal entries