PUBPOL 216S : The U.S. Border and its Borderlands

Readers requirements: Experience with State Departmental memos; Experience working with State Departmental or Federal or legislative office ideal (Staffers, etc.). Please note, this course has short drafts but extremely quick turn-around times, so check the dates below and only sign up if you will be free and are certain you can respond in a day’s time!

  1. Course Information
  2. Schedule
  3. Giving Feedback

Course Information

Instructor: Prof. Stephen Kelly

Examines the challenges and opportunities of the U.S. border from a geopolitical perspective. Detailed review of how the current U.S. boundaries were set, and how this shapes current attitudes and conflicts. Assessment of various means of border control, including visa issues, border walls and port of entry screening. Cultural and historical comparison of two borderlands, Seattle-Vancouver and San Diego-Tijuana, and the EU experience. Overall course theme: Can the border effectively and ethically screen noxious elements without blocking legitimate and necessary travel and trade. Specific skills taught: policy memo writing and oral briefing strategies.

Student Writing Assignment

What are students writing? Action memos in US State Department format.
For whom? Legislators, interest groups, other political stakeholders.
Where would such writing typically be found? A policy memo submitted to an interest group concerned about a particular economic constituency.
Why would someone usually read it? Legislators, policy advocates, and other political stakeholders often want hard data to inform their choices. When they need straightforward, reliable information about problems, possible solutions, and obstacles to implementation, they often turn to expert policy memos for guidance.

Examples of readers


Student – Reader Interactions

Writing: Students will write 3 “action memos” in U.S. State Department format.  Students can work with readers on 2nd and 3rd:
  • Introductory meeting: late September
  • 2nd memo: Draft due Oct 6 > revised due Oct 8
    • Loop with reader by Oct 7
  • 3rd memo:  Draft due Nov 19
    • Loop with reader by Nov 17

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More

Instructor’s response questions:

  • Does the student address every aspect of the prompt?
  • Do they cite appropriate evidence?
  • Is the writing clear and graceful?