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Political Science

Political Science | Courses | Faculty

218 Thompson

Degree: Bachelor of Arts

Contact: John Hird, Chair
Office: 316 Thompson
Phone: (413) 545-6184

Contact: Raymond LaRaja, Undergraduate Program Director
Office: 330 Thompson
Phone: (413) 545-6182

Chair of Department: Professor Hird. Professors Alejandro, Alvarez, Brigham, Fountain, Edie, Goldman, Haas, Peterson, Xenos; Associate Professors Bushouse, Cruikshank, LaRaja, Robinson, Roy, Schaffner, Schwedler; Assistant Professors Ahmed, Ascher, Barakso, Bernal, Carpenter, Curtis, Maxwell, Nteta, Reed, Rhodes, Schaffer, Shulman.

The Field

The Political Science Department is committed to offering undergraduates and Political Science majors excellent instruction across diverse fields of inquiry into politics in large lecture courses and smaller seminars, and through internships. The department believes that this study cannot be reduced to any single theory or method; consequently, diverse interests and approaches characterize its academic life. Current faculty interests incline toward the study of institutions, law, political development, political theory, social movements, international relations, and public policy.

Departmental requirements encourage students to develop a sophisticated understanding of the structure and operation of one or more political systems and the questions of justice and equity presented therein. Majors are strongly encouraged to pursue a diverse course of study, combining depth in political science with breadth in the rest of the liberal arts. In addition, majors are urged to take full advantage of internship, foreign and domestic exchange, Five College classes, and service learning opportunities.

The Major

The Department of Political Science requires its majors to complete a minimum of 11 three-credit courses in political science and the Junior Year Writing requirement, as described below. None of these courses may be taken on a Pass/Fail basis. At least six of the eleven courses must be taken within the department.

Introductory Courses: At least two 100-level Political Science courses completed with grades of C or better. At least one of these courses must come from the following: 101 American Politics, 111 Comparative Politics, 121 World Politics, 171 Introduction to Political Theory. A third 100-level course, may be applied to major requirements.

Upper-Level Distribution Courses: One course in each of the subfields of American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. All courses must be at the 200 level or above. A listing of courses meeting the subfield requirement can be found on the department’s website:

Departmental Electives: Additional upper-level courses to bring the course total to eleven. If two introductory courses have been completed, five departmental electives are required. If three introductory courses have been applied to major requirements, four departmental electives are required. One three-credit, graded internship or independent study course may count as one of the electives. A second three-credit, graded internship or independent study course may be counted with prior approval from the Undergraduate Program Director.

Junior Year Writing: The Junior Year Writing requirement is fulfilled by completion of POLISCI 399. This should be completed in the junior year; sophomores may enroll on a space-available basis. (Students for whom Political Science is a second major and who have completed the Junior Year Writing requirement in their primary major are not required to take POLISCI 399.)

Honors Program
The Political Science Honors Program is open to majors who have a grade point average of 3.200 or higher and who are in Commonwealth College. Students are admitted to this program on application and, once accepted, they fulfill part of their departmental and college requirements with honors courses. These requirements include eight honors courses (three in the department) including an Honors Project (paper in a political science senior seminar or special capstone course sequence) or eight honors courses (two in the department) including an independent Honors Thesis. Political Science majors who complete this program as part of their Commonwealth College honors requirements with a GPA of 3.400 or better may graduate with Departmental Honors and Commonwealth College Honors. Further distinctions may be achieved for excellence in the capstone, project or thesis, combined with higher overall GPAs. For detailed information on diploma and transcript recognitions, and for criteria required to graduate with Latin honors, see the “University Graduation Requirements” section of this Guide. Enrollment preference in Honors courses is given to Commonwealth College and Political Science Department Honors students. More information is available from the department’s Honors Coordinator and from the “Political Science Honors Requirements” brochure, available in 222 Thompson or on the department’s website.

Education Abroad and Exchanges
Numerous opportunities are available for study at other institutions, including members of the local Five College Consortium, North American colleges and universities participating in the National Student Exchange, and a variety of foreign universities. The department has a special undergraduate student exchange with the Department of Politics at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England.

Questions about the applicability of exchange credits to the major should be directed to the department’s chief undergraduate adviser. Up to five Political Science courses may be taken in this manner. Students should consult with the department’s counseling office on course selection before starting the exchange.

Related Programs
Many certificate programs are available to undergraduates in fields closely related to Political Science, including the Five College International Relations Certificate, Film Studies Certificate, and certificates in Public Policy, Near East Politics, Latin American Politics, among others. Students also may pursue minor degrees in conjunction with their Political Science major in such areas as Economics, Journalism, Legal Studies, Women’s Studies, and Communication.

Several types of internships with government institutions at all levels, non-profit advocacy groups, research organizations, and other agencies with public service functions (including law offices) are available to Political Science majors. These are designed to enable students to earn graduation credits while employed temporarily in a professional position to gain work experience. More information about internships is available from the department’s internship coordinator.

Career Opportunities

The following is a brief listing of careers for which a major in political science is valuable preparation: law school admission, study and practice; business and corporate positions in environmental protection, consumer affairs, and public affairs; journalism; federal and state government employment in such areas as environmental protection, criminal justice, public health and welfare, and transportation; local management and general administration in planning, zoning, housing, human resource management, law enforcement, budgeting and finance; secondary-level teaching of social studies; positions with nonprofit research and advocacy organizations; managers with domestic or international grass-roots development or refugee assistance organizations; educational administration; and university-level teaching.

The Minor

A minor in Political Science, or in one of the subfields of American Politics, Public Law, Public Administration, Political Theory, International Relations, or Comparative Politics/Area Studies, may be earned by the successful completion of a minimum of five three-credit courses in Political Science. All courses counted toward the Political Science minor must be taken for a letter grade, and no fewer than three of the five Political Science courses must be taken within the department. Only one of the five may be at the introductory level. The minimum GPA for a Political Science minor is 2.000.

In many cases, one of the subfields of political science will complement the perspective provided by the student’s major. The link between public law and legal studies, between public administration and business administration, between political theory and philosophy or social thought and political economy, can be especially helpful. And, finally, a Political Science minor may help students make sense of the political world that confronts them in their role as citizen.

Political Science | Courses | Faculty