Chair: Professor Jeffrey Ayres
Professors: William Grover, John Hughes, Patricia Siplon
Assistant Professors: Michael Bosia, Shefali Misra
Political science is the study of how humans live collectively—how individuals organize themselves into social structures and how they make decisions concerning their common destiny. As students of politics, we seek to understand the structures and processes of government on both the local and the national levels, as well as the relations among states on the world stage. Our focus, however, is broader than the formal institutions of government. Many social entities outside of government—including interest groups, corporations, media and even other states—influence the allocation of values and goods in a society. Hence, civic and economic organizations are also within the purview of political science. Finally, politics is an inherently normative enterprise, involving questions about the nature of justice, how individuals should treat each other, and what it means to live a good life in the context of a political society. Thus, we are also concerned with the “oughts” and “shoulds” of political life.
The political science department offers both a major and a minor in political science. Both are designed to expose the student to the four subfields of political science: American politics, international relations, comparative politics, and political theory. The goal of the political science department is to prepare students for the demands of active citizenship, in all its facets. Upon graduation, political science majors enter a variety of fields, including business, law, education, journalism and public service.
Off Campus Study—The political science department encourages, but does not require, its students to take advantage of the opportunities to study abroad. Courses outside the major and electives in political science may be transferred for credit, with the permission of the appropriate department and the Assistant Dean of the College. Required political science courses should be taken on campus. Students should plan carefully for a semester abroad, so they do not jeopardize their timely graduation. Recent political science majors have gone to Australia, Fiji, France, Ghana, Great Britain, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Spain.
An alternative to international study is a semester in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of American University’s Washington Semester Program. Although there are several courses of study available through this popular program, students typically take seminars on issues in government or the public policy process, and work in internships in government agencies or legislative offices. As with international study, careful planning in coordination with one’s academic advisor and the Study Abroad Office is essential.