Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Spring 2020 Study Groups

Former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, author ZZ Packer, and Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India Menaka Guruswamy join Michael Steele, former chair of the Republican National Committee and Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, in leading student study groups this semester. These not-for-credit, 4 to 7 week study groups provide an opportunity for students to delve deeply into topics and apply theory and research to real world challenges.


Divided Democracies: Constitutions and Politics in the United States, India, and Iran

Menaka Guruswamy, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India

Meeting dates are February 27, March 5, 12 and 19 from 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.

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How to Influence America’s Future

Heidi Heitkamp, former U.S. Senator
Meeting dates are February 26, March 4, 11, April 1 and 8 from 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

The goal for this study group is to engage students in a discussion of long-term American structural issues and to encourage fact-based planning and decision making to meet these challenges. Discussions will push students to ask complex questions about America’s global status and America’s position on international issues like climate change. Heitkamp brings to Brown a deep understanding of politics in a state that voted for Donald Trump by a margin of roughly 30 percentage points. 

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The 1619 Project: Governing Narratives

ZZ Packer, fiction and non-fiction writer
Meeting dates are February 11, 25, March 3, 10, 17, 31 and April 7 from 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

A fiction and non-fiction writer, ZZ Packer will lead a study group titled “The 1619 Project: Governing Narratives.”  A recent contributor to the New York Times 1619 Project, a journalistic effort to re-examine the legacy of slavery in the United States, Packer will engage students in the exploration of how certain political, historical and sociological narratives inform an American ethos and construct an American identity—sometimes at the expense of competing narratives. While the readings will include studies in politics, policy, governance, history, sociology, culture and literature, the underlying theme will be narrative itself.

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How to Win Elections and Lose the Country

Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee Chair
Meeting dates are Mondays, February 3, 10, 24, March 2, and 9 from 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.

To paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche, madness is rare in individuals - but in parties it is the rule. From the very founding of our American political system, we have been less than sane when it comes to our politics and political parties. But what makes the madness different today? And why does it feel so personal? How do policymakers manage the growth of grassroot movements from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street to “Trumpism” while dealing with insurgencies within their own ranks?

We’ll look at both the madness and the methods of our political parties and the systems they create in the fight for domination and electoral success; and ultimately how the emergence of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and the myriad of political actors signal not just a profound transformation of both political parties but their potential end. 

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