Politics & Government

About the Department

Politics is about the struggle over power, authority, freedom, security and peace-the core issues of public life. The Department of Politics and Government trains students to understand these issues at the local, national, and international level, by providing a wide-ranging yet integrated study of politics and governance. In order to gain these understandings, the Department of Politics and Government provides a rigorous training in political issues, policies, and institutions as well as in research, analysis, and writing. The major emphasizes both cultivating an understanding of politics and developing skills that will enable students to become effective political and civic actors in their own right.

Learning objectives and assessment

  • All P&G courses aim to enhance students' substantive knowledge of politics, assessed in regular quizzes, examinations, and papers.
  • All P&G courses aim to enhance students' abilities to to construct and articulate, orally and in writing, well-reasoned arguments grounded in evidence and texts. These abilities are assessed in regular examinations and papers, from students' engagement in our small classes, and, in some courses, in formal oral presentations.
  • The major aims to develop students' abilities to conceive and execute major research projects. Students will frame questions, analyze data and arguments, and present their findings in a major paper as the capstone experience in the major. Alternatively, to assess the Department's success in advancing students' substantive knowledge of politics and their ability to construct and present well-reasoned arguments, the capstone experience may involve opportunities for students to lead seminar meetings centered on major texts in political science, and to articulate their knowledge of theory and substance in political science in an oral examination.

Given the diversity of topics within political science, the Department of Politics and Government is divided into four subfields. Students concentrate in one of these subfields, allowing them to specialize while still providing flexibility in their own intellectual pursuits. The subfields include:

  • U.S. Politics: The study of domestic political institutions and policy
  • Comparative Politics: The study of political institutions and policies outside of the United States
  • International Relations: The study of relations between countries and other global actors
  • Political Theory: The study of political philosophy and political norms and ideals

While students concentrate in one of the four subfields, they are required to take courses from outside their major concentration. In addition, many department courses straddle more than one subfield, ensuring that each is part of a cohesive education in political science.

Students majoring in Politics and Government are expected to master the tools of research and analysis. Politics and Government 250, a required course on research and writing in the discipline encourages students to develop these skills well in advance of graduation and alongside other students in the major. Building upon these skills, students complete the major with a capstone research seminar where they produce a senior thesis. Many students also choose to do internships and study abroad programs in order to broaden their academic experience. The department can provide guidance as to which study abroad programs may best meet the needs of students as well as helping place students in internships in the local area, in Washington, D.C., or overseas, and assisting them in receiving credit for this work.

The Department of Politics and Government provides its majors with information on a wide range of resources, including fellowship opportunities, summer programs, internships, alumni connections, employment and educational opportunities. These are maintained on the departmental blog and website. After graduation, many majors pursue careers and advanced degrees in political science, public policy, international development, diplomacy, business, and law. The department faculty draws upon their experiences, as well as those of alumni, to guide Politics and Government majors, helping them to find and realize their goals, wherever those goals may take them.

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