Programs

Major in Politics

Majors are required to complete three classes in each of their three chosen concentrations, two introductory (100-level) courses; a seminar at the 400 level; and take comprehensive exams by their last semester. Majors must complete at least eleven Politics courses.

To help students plan their major course schedules, they may consult our list of courses sorted by concentration and with their planned offering(s) over the next two years. IMPORTANT NOTE: Majors should complete Course planner (Apr.10, 2017) and bring to each advising session with their advisor before registration.

Students select courses that fall into the following seven concentrations:  

  • Development and political economy examines different models or approaches that states have taken to economic development and governing economic and political exchanges.  Students also study the political and economic theories that relate to development, as well as policies that address the development challenges that countries face.
  • Law and justice addresses the structure of laws and legal institutions, the values underlying laws, and the effects of laws on citizens and governance in both the national and international context.  Courses in this concentration help students to understand how law intersects with the emergence of rights and social power for classes of people such as gender, race, sexual orientation, and social class.  Students learn about competing notion of justice and law as a means to pursue justice.
  • National institutions and policies explores the constituent parts of government and how they interact to shape politics and policies.  Students analyze national institutions in the U.S. and foreign countries for the purpose of understanding and comparing how political institutions function, politics emerge, and policies form.  Study of various arrangements of political institutions helps to reveal the values that underpin institutional design and policies.
  • Global institutions and policies examines the constituent parts of international governance and how they interact to shape global politics and policies.  Students analyze global institutions such as the United Nations, international law, and human rights for the purpose of how global institutions function, politics emerge, and policies form at the international level.  Analysis of global institutions and policies clarifies how state and non-state actors interact to shape international policies.
  • Conflict and peace addresses the emergence and process of conflict, as well as tactics used for obtaining objectives.  Courses in this concentration cover the range of conflicts including interstate wars, civil wars, and violence perpetrated by non-state actors.  The study of conflict also sheds light on the process of how to avoid conflict and construct peace in post-conflict settings.
  • Identity and diversity analyzes how conceptions of selves emerge, interact with group identities, and relate to politics.  Courses invite students to reflect on the politics of identity construction, how identity formation allows for self-empowerment, how identity is inscribed with meaning by others, and how identity formation processes influence collective political action.
  • Citizenship and political action examines the definition of citizenship, rights that attach to citizenship, as well as how individuals and groups coalesce in pursuit of political action, including challenges to political order, claims on power and resources, and pursuit of justice. Courses address what constitutes “political action,” some of which takes place through formalized processes such as voting, while other elements occur outside formal institutions, including social movements, media, protests and political violence.

Majors should discuss with their advisor what courses to complete in order to ensure adequate breadth and depth in politics and to prepare for the comprehensive exam. 

A course may fall into more than one concentration, but students may apply it toward satisfying only one of their chosen concentrations.  Independent studies and honors projects will be placed in appropriate categories by the chair of the department.  The public affairs internship course (POLS 445) is excluded from coverage on the comprehensive examination and counts as a course outside the major. 

Prospective majors may begin their course of study with any 100-level course or a 200-level course that does not have a prerequisite.  Prospective majors should consider taking 100-level introductory courses that are designated as useful entry points for fields of concentration that interest them.  For example, POLS 101:  "American Government and Politics"  is an excellent starting point for students interested in the "National Institutions and Policies" concentration, and POLS 150: "World Politics" can provide a solid foundation for the "Conflict and Peace" concentration.  

Other Expectations

Students contemplating professional careers in international affairs are encouraged to take several upper-level economics courses (for example, microeconomics, macroeconomics, international economics).

Students considering graduate work in political science are encouraged to take Political Behavior (407), several economics courses, and at least one semester of upper-level Political Theory.

Students interested in prelaw are strongly urged to take courses in Anglo-American history and constitutional development, political theory, economics, and logic. The Law School Admissions Test is required by all law schools and should be taken early in the senior year.