PBPL 85 combines the study of public policy with an experiential learning opportunity abroad. The course begins in the classroom with Professor Charles Wheelan ’88 during the fall term. The topic studied this year was the U.S. strategy for revitalizing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The class then spent the first two weeks in December traveling to Israel and Jordan where they met with local policy leaders: politicians, academics, journalists, business leaders, U.S. diplomats, and other in-country experts who help inform their study of the topic.
“The importance of travel is twofold,” explains Wheelan, “One is this marriage of learning in the classroom and talking to people on the ground; and two, testing your hypotheses and listening to people who have very conflicting points of view.”
The trip began in Israel where students toured Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Jaffa, with trips to the U.S. Embassy, the Knesset, and the offices of the World Bank. They also spent a day in Moshav Na’ama, an agricultural settlement in the Jordan Valley. The second part of the trip was mostly spent in Amman, Jordan. However, they found time to tour Mount Nebo, the city of Petra, and the Dead Sea.
By the end of the international visit, the participating students are responsible for producing a single collaborative briefing memo with specific policy recommendations. This requirement helps to synthesize the lessons learned from 10 weeks of study on campus and two weeks of travel in the Middle East. Professor Wheelan requires that the recommendations, directed to a hypothetical group of senior government officials, be as specific and actionable as possible.
This is an amazing opportunity for Public Policy minor students to get hands-on experience applying what they learned throughout the course. Study of an issue such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict yields valuable insights for those looking to solve other conflicts, especially those with a sectarian nature.