Communication Center


Policy Memo Prompt, Tips, and References — updated 9/9/2016
How to Structure Your Policy Memo
Memo Evaluation Criteria

Communication Tip: Plagiarism

Sample Memo 1
Sample Memo 2

Academic Integrity at UCSB


To excel in your graduate studies and future professional endeavors, you must cultivate strong verbal and written communication skills. Employers of Bren School graduates consistently identify strong communication skills as the most important factor that influences hiring and advancement of employees. All incoming MESM students are required to participate in a three-part writing workshop. During the writing workshop, we will discuss principles of excellent writing, and students will write a policy brief on a current topic and engage in an evaluation process. The workshop offers a nurturing environment for students to learn and practice graduate-level writing skills.


Monday, September 12, 11:15am-12:45 pm: Writing Workshop Part I. Communication Program Manager & Lecturer Dr. Lisa Leombruni discusses communication training at the Bren School, introduces principles of excellent writing, and gives students their mandatory writing assignment and the rubric for scoring.

Friday, September 16, 11:00am - 1:00pm: Writing Workshop Part II. Your policy brief is due!
Please submit an electronic copy of your policy brief to an online Box folder by Friday, September 16 at 11:00 am. Please use the unique document name of “LAST NAME_FIRST NAME_ Writing_Workshop_2016.” Print one hard copy of your policy memo and bring it to the Writing Workshop Part II with a pencil or pen. Be prepared to discuss your work with your fellow Bren students, since Part II is a peer review workshop. The instructor and Bren School writing tutors will also review your memos and return electronic comments by Monday, September 19 at 5:00 pm.

Tuesday, September 20 at 1:45pm – 3:30 pm: Writing Workshop Part III. Final mandatory writing workshop to review led by Dr. Lisa Leombruni and the Bren School Writing Tutors.

Tuesday, September 20 at 3:30pm – 4:45 pm. Bren Faculty Panel: Wildland Fire Management presented by Professors Sarah Anderson (Bren), Andrew Plantinga (Bren), and Max Moritz (ERI).



The U.S. Forest Service has managed wildland fire for more than 100 years. Fire management is central to meeting the Forest Service mission of conserving natural resources, restoring ecological health, and protecting communities. Climate change, the growth of communities into wildlands, and the buildup of flammable vegetation have made managing fire riskier and more complex (U.S. Forest Service, 2013). To meet these challenges, the Forest Service is developing new strategies for managing wildland fire.

You are an advisor to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Your assignment is to write a policy brief (500-750 words) with recommendations on how to manage fire in U.S. National Forests. In your policy brief, recommend a fire management strategy that will be most effective against the challenges of a changing climate. Be sure to describe the scope of the problem and how your approach effectively addresses it, such as through removal of flammable vegetation, controlled burns, fire suppression, or post-fire restoration. Provide a brief but thoughtful evaluation of benefits and costs for each management strategy you propose. Take into account the relevant economic, political, and social consequences of each action.

Note: You will not be evaluated on the merit of your policy recommendation; rather, this assignment is to meant to give you practice writing analytically. Focus on a strong and well-supported argument, presented in a logical structure with clear and compelling language.


  • Fire management is a complex issue and there are many ways to approach the assignment. The prompt is broad so you can decide how to focus your recommendation.
  • As you read and plan your argument, think about trade-offs: what are the impacts of each policy recommendation?
  • You can suggest anything, but be sure to clearly state the scope of the problem, your suggested course of action and how it would help, and be sure to discuss any limitations to your approach.


Please review the following seven references to complete the assignment. Please reference a minimum of 4 references in your memo.

Note: You do not need to look up other sources or have expertise in the subject. Evaluation will focus on organization, logical flow, and clarity—not disciplinary knowledge.