2019-2020 Academic Catalog 
    Mar 04, 2024  
2019-2020 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Political Science Major

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Political Science Overview

Why are some governments stable and others unstable? How do formal government institutions and informal political resources affect the ability of leaders to govern effectively? What factors cause wars or contribute to a peaceful resolution of conflicts? How do public policies affect citizens’ lives and how can citizens affect those policies? In what ways do differences in the social characteristics of people, such as their race, religion, gender, or ethnic background, affect their political attitudes and behavior? And most important, who gets to decide who will decide these and other matters when conflicts over them arise? The department offers courses that address these questions and others-in international relations, American politics and comparative politics. The curriculum provides theories and concepts, relevant information and tools for investigation for students to develop their own answers.

For more information, please see the Political Science Department’s website.

Internships and Study Abroad

Internships with American local, state and federal government agencies, non-profit organizations, elected political officials, public-interest groups, and law firms can earn students Political Science major credit. Study abroad may also fulfill major requirements. To receive Political Science major or minor credit, a student must be supervised by his or her faculty adviser or another faculty member in the department.

Nonmajor Concentration and Minors

Certain fields of study can be taken as concentrations or minors in addition to and complementary to the Political Science major. Some concentration and minor requirements may also fulfill political science major requirements. (See specific catalog sections on these concentrations and minors.)

Student Handbook

The Political Science department publishes a handbook, which has a more extensive description of major requirements, programs, courses and faculty, as well as other information relevant to the major. This information can be found online on the department home page or a hard copy can be picked up in the Political Science department office, Jefferson 302.

Major Requirements

The major provides a broad introduction to the study of politics as well as the opportunity to gain depth in a subfield of particular interest to each student.

The three subfields are: American politics and public policy; comparative politics; and international relations. Students must take 13 courses, with leeway to choose particular courses. Most courses are in the Political Science Department; a few from other disciplines complement the study of politics and explore the relationships between government and other sectors of society. The 13 required courses include 11 in Political Science, one in Economics and one in History. 

General requirements for the Political Science Major:

Seven courses, including one subfield introductory course (in addition to the introductory course in one’s chosen subfield); the economics course, ECON010 Economics and the World Economy; one political science course in normative political theory (PSCI 155, PSCI 203 [Inactive], PSCI 206, PSCI 207 or PSCI 260); one course in research methods and skills, PSCI 107; and three political science courses from outside one’s chosen subfield, one of these must be a 200-level course and one must be in the third subfield.

Subfield specialization requirements:

Five courses in Political Science and one related History course. The Political Science courses include the introductory course to the subfield (PSCI 050 - Introduction to American Government , PSCI 070 - Introduction to Comparative Politics  courses or PSCI 069 - Introduction to International Relations ); four additional Political Science courses in the subfield (at least one of these must be at the 200-level and one must be a capstone seminar taken in the junior or senior year).

Subfield Descriptions

American Politics and Public Policy: The analysis of the U.S. political system in all its complexity, e.g., government institutions; public opinion; federal, state, and local politics; the politics of the courts and law; urban politics; political parties; women and politics; interest groups; social movements; elections; media and politics; and public policy making and implementation broadly and in specific areas, such as environmental policies, and housing and community development policies.

Comparative Politics: The analysis both of the trends in and workings of the political systems of the world’s more than 190 countries (excluding the U.S.) through in-depth investigation of particular societies or regions and of transnational phenomena, such as transitions to democracy, revolution and political violence, women and politics, and race and ethnicity.

International Relations: The analysis of political dynamics between and among countries, e.g., trade politics, international political economy, foreign policy, national and international security, the politics of waging war and making peace, the politics of international organizations, and international law.


All political science majors are required to take a capstone course in their subfield specialization during their junior or senior year.  We offer six capstone seminar courses every year (one offered every fall and spring in each subfield – American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations).  The topics vary according to the interests and research of the faculty.  To enroll in a capstone seminar, students must have completed the introductory-level course in their subfield, or obtain permission of the instructor.  Students taking the capstone will typically have had multiple intermediate-level courses in that subfield, as well as our Research Methods course, and one of our political theory courses before enrolling in the capstone.   The capstone seminar builds on knowledge, as well as on research, writing, collaborative, and oral presentation skills gained in previous Political Science courses. 

In our capstones, students gain increased familiarity with a professional field, a policy area, one or more regions of the world, and/or a theoretical/conceptual literature, and are thereby further prepared to succeed in graduate school or in a professional environment.  They demonstrate this capacity in class through oral presentations on their research and participation in class discussions, as well as through their written work, from analytical summaries to in-depth research papers.

Political Science Capstone Courses:

·  PSCI 280 - Politics of Food and Drink

·  PSCI 281 - Civil Wars in Comparative Perspective

·  PSCI 287 - Refugees, Migrants, and the Politics of Displacement

·  PSCI 289 - Advanced Topics in International Relations - Capstone Seminar

·  PSCI 290 - U.S. - Latin American Relations - Capstone Seminar

·  PSCI 291 - Lawyers and U.S. Politics - Capstone Seminar

·  PSCI 292 - U.S. Urban Policy - Capstone Seminar and Internship

·  PSCI 295 - Globalization and Democracy - Capstone Seminar

·  PSCI 296 - Special Topics in American Politics: Capstone Seminar



Political Science majors with outstanding academic records (a GPA of at least 3.5 in their Political Science major courses) may apply to the departmental honors program in spring of their junior year.  Those with a lower GPA can be admitted through a petition process.  To receive departmental honors, a student must successfully complete an honors thesis.  Prospective candidates for honors should choose a thesis advisor and topic in the early spring of their junior year, and then draft an honors proposal which will be reviewed by the thesis advisor and then revised and submitted by the student for consideration to the departmental honors committee following spring break.  If approved for the honors program, the student will begin writing the thesis in the fall of the senior year, and will also participate in the honors colloquium that semester by presenting a chapter of the thesis and commenting on other students’ thesis chapters.  In the spring of senior year, the student finishes writing the thesis and has a thesis defense at which the thesis is evaluated for possible departmental honors.  More information on the honors program is available in the department’s Honors Guidelines.

Political Science Faculty

Robert Boatright, Ph.D.
Michael Butler, Ph.D.
Mark Miller, J.D., Ph.D.
Paul W. Posner, Ph.D.
Heather Silber Mohamed, Ph.D.
Suzanne Scoggins, Ph.D.
Srinivasan Sitaraman, Ph.D.
Valerie Sperling, Ph.D.
Ora Szekely, Ph.D.
Kristen Williams, Ph.D.

Political Science Courses

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years


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