The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Derek Epp


Assistant ProfessorPh.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Contact

Interests


Policy agendas, information processing, racial justice, economic inequality

Biography


Derek Epp is an assistant professor in the Department of Government. He joined the faculty in 2017 from Dartmouth College where he was a postdoc within the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. In May 2015, he received his Ph.D. in American Politics with a minor in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dissertation is titled Information Processing and the Instability of Political Outcomes and he currently has a book expanding on themes from his dissertation forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press. He graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2008 with a bachelor's in Political Science.

His research agenda focuses on policy change, asking why some policies persist - remaining the status quo for decades - while others undergo frequent adjustments. In particular, he is interested in measuring the capacity of institutions to attend to political information and then tracking the allocation of that attention across issues: what issues receive attention, for how long, and to what effect. He also study criminal justice, with a particular focus on racial patterns in police traffic stops.

Courses


GOV 310L • American Government

37400 • Fall 2019
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM UTC 4.124

This course is an introduction to American government and politics.  While the main focus is on the national level, additional attention is paid to the state and local governments of Texas. Topics will include U.S. political history, political institutions, elections, public opinion, rights and freedoms, and public policy issues.

GOV 358 • Introduction To Public Policy

37605 • Fall 2019
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM UTC 4.124

This course will examine the politics and history of public policymaking in America. We will examine how policy is made, and whether LBJ’s dicta that “good policy is good politics” holds. We will study contemporary policy challenges, especially focusing on financial and budgetary challenges, and health care. We will also examine education, environment, and justice.

Since good policies can only come about with good information, properly interpreted, the course will emphasize the roles of ideas and information in the policy process: how elected and appointed political leaders use it to formulate and implement public policies.

Guiding Course Principle:

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” --John Adams, Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, December 1770

Major Theme:

Using Evidence to Evaluate Policy Choices. Some policies are based on general goals that everybody recognizes. Others are based on values. All involve some sort of trade-offs. But some of these can be reduced if we recognize that even goals based in values can be subject to factual analyses.

Course Objectives

(1) Survey the approaches used by political scientists to understand the public policymaking process.

(2) Integrate current public affairs into our understanding of public policy.

(3) Survey the use, history, and success of the major tools used by governments in the US to address policy problems in several major issue areas.

(4) Further the development of analytical skills in policy analysis through brief exercises and a major paper employing library and web-based sources. Students will use the Policy Agendas Project's datasets located at the University of Texas to trace public policy activity across time.

GOV 310L • American Government

38290 • Fall 2018
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM MEZ B0.306

GOV 310L: American Government
MEZ B0.306
TTH, 9:30 – 11:00am
Fall 2018

Professor: Derek Epp
Office: BAT 3.126
Office Hours:
E-mail: depp@austin.utexas.edu

Teaching Assistant:
Office:
Office Hours:

How should we evaluate governments and the politicians that run them? What do we expect successful governments to do or not to do? In answering these questions, not everyone will reach the same conclusion. Differences in what we consider a successful government go a long way toward clarifying the multitude of political opinions that find voice among the American public. But having a sensible answer (or at least being able to meaningfully engage with the question) is part of being a responsible citizen in a democracy. The objective of this course is to provide some of the background information that may help you clarify your own expectations of government, whatever those may be. Specifically, this course will serve as an introduction to American (and Texas) politics by examining important political institutions, processes, and actors.

Like other academic fields, the study of government demands skepticism (not cynicism) and critical thinking. We will seek to develop these are attributes throughout the semester and apply them to governments, politicians, and institutions. The goal, through readings, class discussions, and homework assignments is not to promote any specific worldview, but to emphasize the importance of approaching politics with a critical eye.

Grades

Your grades will be based on the following assignments:

Exams (100%): There will be three exams – two midterms and a final – each of which will be worth 1/3 of your total grade. None of the exams are cumulative.

Exams that are not taken will be graded as a 0. If you are experiencing a personal crisis (or one in your immediate family) then accommodations can be made, but it is crucial that you contact me as soon as possible. After-the-fact emergencies will not be considered. In some instances, a note from your dean may be required. 

By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of your pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, you will be given an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.

The grading scale in percentages is as follows:

93-100 (A)
90-92.99 (A-)
87-89.99 (B+)
83-86.99 (B)
80-82.99 (B-)
77-79.99 (C+)
73-76.99 (C)
70-72.99 (C-)
67-69.99 (D+)
63-66.99 (D)
60-62.99 (D-)
0-59.99 (F)

GOV 358 • Introduction To Public Policy

38525 • Fall 2018
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM UTC 3.112

Government 358: Introduction to Public Policy

TTH 2:00 – 3:30pm, UTC 3.112

Fall 2018

Instructor:  Derek Epp

Office:  BAT 3.126

Office Hours:                                                                                                                         

Email: depp@austin.utexas.edu

 

Teaching Assistant:

Office

Office Hours:

Email:

 

This course will examine the politics and history of public policymaking in America.  We will examine how policy is made, and whether LBJ’s dicta that “good policy is good politics” holds.  We will study contemporary policy challenges, especially focusing on financial and budgetary challenges, and health care.   We will also examine education, environment, and justice. 

Since good policies can only come about with good information, properly interpreted, the course will emphasize the roles of ideas and information in the policy process: how elected and appointed political leaders use it to formulate and implement public policies.

Guiding Course Principle:

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”  --John Adams, Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials, December 1770

Major Theme:

Using Evidence to Evaluate Policy Choices.  Some policies are based on general goals that everybody recognizes.  Others are based on values.  All involve some sort of trade-offs.  But some of these can be reduced if we recognize that even goals based in values can be subject to factual analyses.

Course Objectives

(1)  Survey the approaches used by political scientists to understand the public policymaking process.

(2)  Integrate current public affairs into our understanding of public policy.

(3)  Survey the use, history, and success of the major tools used by governments in the US to address policy problems in several major issue areas.

(4)  Further the development of analytical skills in policy analysis through brief exercises and a major paper employing library and web-based sources. Students will use the Policy Agendas Project's datasets located at the University of Texas to trace public policy activity across time.

 

Required Texts

Carter A. Wilson, Public Policy: Continuity and Change, Second Edition.  Waveland Press.

 

Timothy Conlan, Paul Posner, and David Beam.  Pathways of Power.  Georgetown University Press

 

Bryan D. Jones and Walter Williams.  The Politics of Bad Ideas.  Pearson-Longman

 

Grades:

Weekly Assignments; attendance, and class participation. (20%)  Assignments will include summaries of the major points in the readings for the week and other assignments as noted on the syllabus.

 

Exams. (30%)  A midterm and a final.  

 

Book Analysis. (20%) This assignment will involve reading The Politics of Bad Ideas, and discussing where the authors of this book were right and where they were wrong in light of developments since the book was written.

 

Policy Paper and prospectus. (30%) The paper will ask you to use the analytic skills that you are learning in the course to study the course of policy development in a major policy area.   See below.

 

Paper:

Students will prepare a paper on a current specific policy topic.  The paper should analyze the development of policy within a policy area. It must use a theoretical perspective discussed in the class to develop an understanding of the history and recent developments of a particular public policy, and should rely on the Policy Agendas Datasets and other web-based material as well as traditional library resources.  

Students will submit a one-page proposal for the paper with the second exercise (see above), which we will comment on. The paper should be around 7-10 pages in length, with proper citations (APSR or other approved style). Writing style and clarity of presentation are important.  The paper should include a one-paragraph abstract, an introductory section introducing the theme of the paper, a body developing the evidence, and a concluding statement drawing the linkages between the theme of the paper and the evidence developed.

The instructor’s objectives in this assignment is to try to get students to master the following: 1) develop an intensive understanding of a specific policy area; 2) apply a theoretical framework for it; 3) gain experience in developing policy histories; 4) gain skills in graphical presentations; and 5) be able to explain this to policymakers. 

 

 

GOV 310L • American Government

38050 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM WAG 101

This course is an introduction to American government and politics.  While the main focus is on the national level, additional attention is paid to the state and local governments of Texas. Topics will include U.S. political history, political institutions, elections, public opinion, rights and freedoms, and public policy issues.

GOV 310L • American Government

38545 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ B0.306

GOV 310L: American Government

How should we evaluate governments and the politicians that run them? What do we expect successful governments to do or not to do? In answering these questions, not everyone will reach the same conclusion. Differences in what we consider a successful government go a long way toward clarifying the multitude of political opinions that find voice among the American public. But having a sensible answer (or at least being able to meaningfully engage with the question) is part of being a responsible citizen in a democracy. The objective of this course is to provide some of the background information that may help you clarify your own expectations of government, whatever those may be. Specifically, this course will serve as an introduction to American (and Texas) politics by examining important political institutions, processes, and actors.

Like other academic fields, the study of government demands skepticism (not cynicism) and critical thinking. We will seek to develop these are attributes throughout the semester and apply them to governments, politicians, and institutions. The goal, through readings, class discussions, and homework assignments is not to promote any specific worldview, but to emphasize the importance of approaching politics with a critical eye.

Grades

Your grades will be based on the following assignments:

Homework (40%): Periodically throughout the semester you will be asked to complete a homework assignment, due at the beginning of the next class. A typical assignment will include research and writing components. For example, you might be asked to research a proposed bill in the Texas Legislature and to write a 1- to 2-page policy brief about it. There will be no more than 10 and no fewer than 6 of these assignments. Assignments will be announced in class and then posted to the course website.

Exams (60%): There will be two exams – a midterm and a final – each of which will be worth 30% of your total grade. The final is not cumulative.

Homework assignments that are not submitted and exams that are not taken will be graded as a 0. If you are experiencing a personal crisis (or one in your immediate family) then accommodations can be made, but it is crucial that you contact me or your TA as soon as possible. After-the-fact emergencies will not be considered. In some instances, a note from your dean may be required. 

The grading scale in percentages is as follows:

93-100 (A)
90-92.99 (A-)
87-89.99 (B+)
83-86.99 (B)
80-82.99 (B-)
77-79.99 (C+)
73-76.99 (C)
70-72.99 (C-)
67-69.99 (D+)
63-66.99 (D)
60-62.99 (D-)
0-59.99 (F)

Reading

There are two required books for the course:

(1) The American Political System (3rd Edition) by Ken Kollman

(2) Readings in American Politics (3rd Edition) by Ken Kollman

It is your responsibility to obtain these books. There is an ebook option for the main text, which is less expensive, and, of course, you should look around for used copies, just be sure that you purchase the 3rd edition. Any additional readings will be available on the course website. 

GOV 370K • Race/Policing/Incarceration

38819 • Fall 2017
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM GDC 2.210

In a number of American states, almost 25% of black men are not allowed to vote due to a felony conviction. Researchers have estimated that almost 70% of young black men will, at some point in their lives, spend at least one night behind bars. Decades after the height of the Civil Rights Movement, we are confronted by glaring inequalities between black Americans and white Americans that can be observed over a myriad of indicators that cover health, employment, income, education, and incarceration. We will explore racial gaps through the numbers, considering their origins and their social and political consequences. In particular, the course will focus on the criminal justice system (from everyday police patrols to the death penalty) both historically and as it operates today. A major goal is to understand how inequalities in criminal justice influence elections and alter the state of representation in Congress and other representative bodies in the United States.

Grades

Your grades will be based on the following assignments:

Participation (15%): Come to class prepared to discuss the material covered in the readings. Full participation points will be given to students who consistently engage in class discussions and demonstrate that they have thought critically about concepts explored in the readings. Attendance is not mandatory, although it will obviously be difficult to earn a good participation grade if you attend class only intermittently.

Critical Response (35%): You are required to submit a critical response to five of the readings, which are marked below with a ? symbol. The responses should be no longer than a page (single-spaced and 12pt font) and they must be submitted at the beginning of class on the day that we will be discussing the reading. In them, you should provide a thoughtful critique of an empirically supported claim that is made by the author of the piece. This claim can be anything that the author concludes – either explicitly or implicitly – from analyzing data. You should describe how the claim is supported empirically and then you should critique the claim by explaining how you agree and/or disagree with it. After your critique, you should end the response with a description of how you might improve or extend the analysis. You can offer a hypothetical solution to your criticism or you can propose a new analysis that compliments the current one. The purpose of this assignment is for you to engage critically with the readings and think about how you might respond to them as an interested but skeptical reader.

Exams (50%): There will be two exams – a midterm and a final – each of which will be worth 25% of your total grade. The final is not cumulative.

Critical responses that are not submitted and exams that are not taken will be graded as a 0. If you are experiencing a personal crisis (or one in your immediate family) then accommodations can be made, but it is crucial that you contact me as soon as possible. After-the-fact emergencies will not be considered. In some instances, a note from your dean may be required. 

The grading scale in percentages is as follows:

93-100 (A)
90-92.99 (A-)
87-89.99 (B+)
83-86.99 (B)
80-82.99 (B-)
77-79.99 (C+)
73-76.99 (C)
70-72.99 (C-)
67-69.99 (D+)
63-66.99 (D)
60-62.99 (D-)
0-59.99 (F)

Reading

There are three required books for the course:

(1) Trading Democracy for Justice: Criminal Convictions and the Decline of Neighborhood Political Participation by Traci Burch

(2) Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy by Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen

(3) Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship by Charles R. Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald Haider-Markel

It is your responsibility to obtain these books. I encourage you to buy used copies and in some cases there are ebook options, which are perfectly fine and tend to be less expensive. Additional readings will be available on the course website. 

Curriculum Vitae


Profile Pages


External Links



  • Department of Government

    The University of Texas at Austin
    158 W 21st ST STOP A1800
    Batts Hall 2.116
    Austin, TX 78712-1704
    512-471-5121