The Political Science major is a part of the Liberal Arts curriculum. We provide the tools and information to enable students to critically evaluate their political and social environment. Political Science students should obtain an understanding of the workings of government and politics, and develop skills in critical thinking, analysis and communication.
We have divided the major into required sub-areas (American government, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory and philosophy). We have one optional sub-area, Internships and Overseas Study. Courses in this area will normally count as electives in Political Science, but at the discretion of the Political Science Adviser, they can count towards one of the required sub-areas. Each required sub-area has learning objectives. We also have an overall objective for research and the communication of that research.
Learning objective 1: Research and communication.
All graduating students should be able to:
• Formulate a research question,
• Identify appropriate sources and bibliography,
• Write a well organized, well supported and thoughtful research paper using appropriate methods to answer their research question, and
• Make a short, interesting and clear oral report about their research.
Learning Objective 2: American Government.
Students in the American government sub-field should have a broad knowledge of major issues and debates in American politics, practice critical thought, be comfortable with analytic procedures, and be able to present and analyze arguments.
1. Majors will demonstrate a working knowledge of the American political system. This will include an understanding of the nation’s political institutions, political culture, and political ideologies.
2. Students will know understand and be able to discuss the public policy process, and possess a broad knowledge of the theory and methods used in the American politics subfield.
Students can take a wide variety of courses in this area, and few students will possess all of the skills/information taught. But they should be familiar with most of these objectives:
• Understand America’s political culture, including ideologies, philosophy, traditions and practices.
• Understand the American political system and how it differs in structure and function from systems in other countries.
• Be familiar with the major theories and principles fundamental to American governments and understand the dynamics of the operation of those governments.
• Understand American Political institutions (including federalism) and the manner in which they function.
• Understand the important Constitutional arguments used by the Court.
• Understand, specifically, the process of policy formation.
Learning objectives 3: Comparative Politics
Political science majors should have command of the vocabulary and analytic tools for analyzing government systems and domestic politics around the world. They should have the ability to categorize states according to the dominant typologies in the field, for example as strong or weak, as based on civic or ethnic nationalism, or as democratic or non-democratic. Students should be able to analyze the basic characteristics of the regime and discuss the major institutions and processes, comparing and contrasting across systems. Finally, students should have knowledge of the key players and major public policy issues in selected countries, both Western and non-Western.
Learning Objective 4: International Relations.
Political Science majors should become familiar with (1) the history of international politics; (2) major theories, concepts, and analytical approaches in the study of international relations; and (3) contemporary global and regional issues. In studying international history, students examine practices in the Western world and their spread. Students should be able to discuss essential theories, concepts, and approaches including power, nationalism, levels of analysis, intellectual paradigms such as realism, and theories of international political economy. Examples of major issues are great power conflict, weapons of mass destruction; arms control and disarmament; internal warfare; terrorism; globalization; international law and organization; international economic relations; and international approaches to economic development.
Learning Objective 5: Political Philosophy and Theory.
Students who take a political theory class should become familiar with the types of analysis and normative structures that have been, or are being, used for political analysis. They should be familiar with the different theories, understand and be able to compare them, and be able to use these theories to understand current political issues.
The success of the program is measured by the large number of students who go to outstanding professional and graduate schools. Additionally, we use the Major Field Exam to evaluate our program. All students write a Senior Thesis in the Senior Seminar. That thesis is presented to the rest of the department and defended before them.