Why Study Politics & Government At Puget Sound?

First and foremost, you will find this to be a department full of excellent teachers.  The Department boasts a Washington State Professor of the Year and many professors who have won university-wide teaching awards. We take our teaching and our students’ learning extremely seriously, and we think that this shows in everything we do.

Second, you will find a department of creative, active scholars.  One professor has written one of the most widely-adopted comparative politics textbooks in the nation, and he has worked with two other members of our department to write an extremely well-regarded text, Cases in Comparative Politics. Two members of the Department have won prestigious book prizes from the American Political Science Association, and all of the professors in the P&G Department are active in producing books and scholarly articles that inform their teaching and the supervision of student research projects. 

Third, the Department encourages student research, pushing students to seek summer research awards and requiring most students to conduct serious independent research during their senior years.  You can see the titles of some senior theses at the end of this document.  

Finally, we work hard to encourage and place our students in internships, and in employment. You can see a sampling of some of the things our graduates are doing these days at the end of this document, and you can track our departmental blog at http://www.upspolitics.blogspot.com to follow the range of opportunities that we highlight for Puget Sound students.

A large department at a small liberal arts college
We have eleven political scientists, making us larger than many liberal arts college political science departments.  This enables us to offer a wide range of courses in all of the core areas of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. 

Comparative and international politics
We have seven faculty teaching comparative politics and international relations, and can offer courses focused on many areas of the world—Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and South America, Iran and the Middle East.  We also have strong offerings in international relations, including courses on global security, foreign policy, international organizations, humanitarian and military interventions, and terrorism.  

Comparative and international politics faculty

  • Rachel DeMotts….African politics, global environmental politics
  • Lisa Ferrari (now posted to the Dean’s office)…ethics in international relations, international                          organizations, Canadian politics
  • Chris Kendall….International law, comparative judicial politics, and rising states
  • Karl Fields….Asian politics and political economy
  • Patrick O’Neil….European politics, Iran and Israel, terrorism
  • Donald Share….Central and South American politics, Spanish politics
  • Seth Weinberger….International politics, global security, foreign policy, political theory of international relations, constitutional law and foreign policymaking
  • Kelly Erickson (visitor)….international organizations, humanitarian and military interventions, nuclear politics, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East

American politics
In US politics we have four specialists, and our offerings range from courses on American national institutions to constitutional law and civil liberties to campaigns and elections and public opinion race and ethnicity to public policy.   Each semester there is a good choice of upper-division courses in the field, and P&G has excellent connections in the local policy and political communities that help interested students gain practical experience.

U.S. politics faculty

  • William Haltom….public law, public opinion and media
  • Robin Jacobson….race, ethnicity, and religion in politics, immigration politics, the politics of detention, local politics
  • Daniel Sherman….environmental politics and policy
  • David Sousa….Presidency, Congress, public policy, political economy, environmental policy

Political theory
In political theory, we have two specialists.  Our core theorist is interested in democratic theory and problems of authority in democratic politics, and the department is able to offer excellent courses in the history of political thought and American political thought as well as exciting classes such as “Race in the American Political Imagination,” “Liberalism and Its Critics” and “Comparative Political Ideologies.”

Political theory faculty

  • Alisa Kessel….democratic theory, ancient and modern political thought, 19th, 20th and 21st century political ideologies, race in the American political imagination
  • Seth Weinberger….introduction to political theory, American political thought

Politics and Government has unusual strength in environmental policy and politics, with two colleagues teaching and writing on US environmental issues, and one colleague focused on environmental politics in Africa and global environmental politics.

Environmental politics and policy faculty

  • Rachel DeMotts….global environmental politics, African environmental issues
  • Daniel Sherman.…environmental policy and decision making in the United States
  • David Sousa….environmental policy and politics in the United States

The Department’s strength in Asian politics intersects nicely with the university’s larger strengths in Asian studies and Asian languages, offering students excellent opportunities to supplement their coursework in politics and government with related courses in other disciplines. There are many research and travel opportunities available to Puget Sound students interested in Asia.

An excellent faculty
Recently, Professor Fields was named Washington State Professor of the Year, a significant honor, and as noted above many members of the department have been recognized by the university for excellence in the classroom.

Undergraduate teaching is the main focus and central work for all professors in the Politics and Government, but all members of our faculty are also active scholars.  Two members of the Department have had their books recognized by the America Political Science Association as “best books” in their fields in the period in which they were published—Haltom won the C. Herman Pritchett Award for the best book published in the field of public law for his co-authored Distorting the Law; Sousa won the Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize for the best book published on environmental policy or politics in a three-year period for his co-authored American Environmental Policy, 1990-2006:  Beyond Gridlock.  In the past few years, members of the department have produced lots of papers, published articles, and books.  You can learn more about faculty research at our website, but here is a brief listing of recent books by P&G faculty.   

Recent books by P&G faculty


  • Robin Dale Jacobson published Faith and Race in American Political Life, co-edited with Nancy D. Wadsworth, with the University of Virginia Press in 2012; she published The New Nativism: Proposition 187 and the Debate Over Immigration with the University of Minnesota Press in 2008. 
  • Daniel Sherman’s book, Not Here, Not There, Not Anywhere:  Implementation Vulnerabilities of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act and the Power of Local Collective Opposition, Resources for the Future Press in 2010.  Dan is now preparing a textbook on sustainability issues forthcoming from Norton.
  • Seth Weinberger’s book, Restoring the Balance: War Powers in an Age of Terror, was published by Praeger Security International Press in 2009
  • Patrick O’Neil’s widely-adopted comparative politics text, Essentials of Comparative Politics, appeared in its fourth edition from Norton in 2012. O’Neil has collaborated with Karl Fields and Don Share on Cases in Comparative Politics.  The latest edition of this widely-adopted text also appeared in 2012.
  • David Sousa’s book (co-authored with Christopher McGrory Klyza), American Environmental Policy 1990-2006: Beyond Gridlock was published by MIT Press in 2008.  A second edition of this book appeared in Fall 2013.
  • Bill Haltom’s book [co-authored with Michael McCann], Distorting the Law: Politics, Media, and the Litigation Crisis, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2004.  Bill is now at work (along with colleague Hans Ostrom) on a book focused on George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”

A strong curriculum
Students in the department gain breadth by the requirement that they take introductory courses in three of the political science subfields—American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory.  They develop depth by concentrating in a particular subfield, taking several upper-level courses in one of the four fields and then completing their work in the department with a capstone  senior seminar typically requiring the completion of a significant independent research project or, in some cases, another major project.

To prepare students for thesis writing, and to build community in the major, all sophomore-level majors are required to take a course in research and writing in political science.  In P&G 250 students learn research skills, hone their writing, and work closely with a professor and many of the students they will be working with in major courses through the rest of their time at Puget Sound.

Concerted effort to highlight scholarship, research, internship, and job opportunities for students
The Department’s strong commitment to its students is not only reflected in its teaching, but in efforts we have made to inform students of opportunities that exist for them to win scholarships, to travel, to present their research to the scholarly community, and to find internships and permanent jobs.  The department’s blog at http://www.upspolitics.blogspot.com is a constant source of information and reminders about as many opportunities as we can find.  The Department is committed to pushing our students to get in the game, to enter the competition for money and internships and jobs, so they can win the support and experience necessary to help them to achieve their larger personal and career goals.  

Recently completed theses
In the senior capstone thesis seminars, students have an opportunity to conduct major independent research projects under the direction of a professor.  Here is a sampling of recent thesis titles:

Postponed Promises and Hidden Costs: Explaining Obstacles to the Rule of Law Reform in Croatia and Macedonia


Empowering the Regime: Internet Censorship in China 


Achieving a Revolution in Sustainable Transportation: Lessons for Singapore and Curitiba


The Persistence of Power: Explaining the Resilience of the Somoza Dynasty, 1936-1979


Islam in France and Sweden's Secular States: Will it Survive?


For God or Country? A Comparison of Religious Political Parties in Turkey and Israel


Burden-sharing in European Asylum Policy: Italy


From the Temple Mount to the PLO: The Enigmatic Nature of Land Conflict in East Jerusalem


Angry Youth: Patriotic Education and the New Chinese Nationalism


Spain and Its Guests: The Permissive Immigration Policies and Public Opinion


A Party, A Nation, and an Identity: ANC Dominance in Post-Apartheid South Africa


Politicians or Bureaucrats: Can the Democratic Party of Japan Tame the Bureaucracy?


On the Internet, Every Knows You're a Protester: The Internet and the Arab Uprisings of 2011


The Necessity of Multilateral Cooperation and Agreement: Consequences of Humanitarian Aid and Economic Sanctions in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea


State Efforts to Ensure Security in Cyberspace


Nuclear Fallout: Weaponization, Counterproliferation Policy, and the Role of State Perception


Redefining the International Paradigm in a World of Limits: Capitalism's Competition with the Environment and the Failure of Traditional Theoretical Perspectives


International Prestige, Strategic Importance, and U.S. Foreign Aid to Africa


USDA Food Aid and the Basic Human Needs Mandate


Mayoral Politics in Black and White: How Personality, Leadership, and Race Affect a Mayor’s Ability to Govern


Leaving Dixie Behind: How Changes in Party Strength and Elite Polarization in the Democratic Party Caused the Fall of the White Democrat in the Deep South


Recidivism Rates: Differences in Public vs. Private Prisons


Participation and Empowerment from the Ground Up? Intentional Communities in Seattle


Competitive Capitalism and the United States' Economic Constitution


The Persistence of Power: Explaining the Resilience of the Somoza Dynasty, 1936-1979


Burden-sharing in European Asylum Policy: Italy

 A sampling of what our majors do

Peter Russell,  State Department Critical Languages Scholarship in Arabic and is currently teaching in Tunisia


Becca Bryant, Political Director, Congressman Adam Smith


Matt Perry, District Office Manager Congressman Adam Smith


Ali Lapp, Director, House Majority PAC


Duncan Marsh,  Nature Conservancy


Brian Stewart, Aircraft and Commercial Aviation Services Contracts at The Boeing Company


Franny Canfield,  Knowledge and Program Manager at Environmental Grantmakers Association


Ric Cantrell, Chief of Staff, Utah Senate


Eric Carlson, President, Carbonfund Foundation


Lacey Chong, Senior Consultant, Booz Allen Hamilton, previously National Security Council


Matt Ferchen, Associate Professor of International Relations at Tsinghua University


Sam Kussin-Shoptaw Political Correspondent at Bloomberg BGov


Zorba Leslie, Free The Slaves, DC


Jim Mullinax, Economic Officer at Department of State


Mike Radcliffe, Public Funding and Government Relations Specialist at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity


Natalie Jones, Senior Program Analyst at General Dynamics Information Technology


Stephanie Kanan, Attorney at Colorado State Public Defender's Office


Ashley Vroman-Lee, Senior Counsel at U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission


Erin (Speck) Goodykoontz, Senior Analyst at Homeland Security Institute


Christy Thomas, Associate Director of Development - Casey Eye Institute at OHSU Foundation


Nic Van Putten, owner, Progressive Strategies NW


Katie Rader, Associate of Nonprofit Strategy at Independent Sector, Washington, D.C.

Susanne Congress, Immigration Counselor, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York


Chelsea Trumbull, State Director, Washington State Obama for President Campaign; now Chief of Staff, Public Buildings Division, General Services Administration


Kevin Price, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Founder of Interlake Capital Management


Sydney Van Morgan, Ph.D., Cornell, Associate Director, Institute for European Studies, Cornell University


Ryan Mello,  Elected official, Tacoma City Council, Pierce County Land Conservancy


Hart Edmondson, Chief of Staff for Congressman Denny Heck, WA 10th district


Rachel Martin, correspondent and host, National Public Radio


Scott Twito, Yellowstone County (MT) County Attorney


Hari Sreenivasan, correspondent, PBS News Hour, anchor of Weekend News Hour


Joe Balich, Community Outreach and Public Relations Coordinator, Greensavers, USA


Tashi Chogyai, Operations Director, Obama for America—Iowa


Geoff LeGrande, Peace Corps, Guatemala


Ben Merkel, Legislative Aide, U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs


Sarah Webb, teaching in rural India


Brian Sponsler, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Policy, NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education


Lainie Deschamps, Ph.D., Associate Director, Caseload Forecast Council, State of Washington


Clare Magee, graduate student in the Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas


Mark Sharoff, graduate student in public policy, Georgetown University


Benjamin Anderstone, Anderstone Strategies—political consultant


Erin Eby, Fulbright Scholar, Asia


Steven Sparks, graduate student in political science, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill


Logan Dancy, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Wesleyan University