Why Study Politics & Government At Puget Sound?

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 and international politics, and political theory. 

Comparative and international politics

We have six 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 politics, including courses on global security, foreign policy, international organizations, humanitarian and military interventions, and terrorism.   

Comparative and international politics faculty

Rachel DeMott: African politics, global environmental politics

Lisa Ferrari (currently posted to the Dean’s office): Ethics in international relations, international organizations, Canadian politics                        

Holley Hansen (visiting): European politics, ethnic conflict

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 (visiting): International organizations, humanitarian and military interventions

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 “Engaging Poverty,”  “Race in the American Political Imagination,” and “Utopian Dreams and Dystopian Nightmares: Contemporary Political Ideologies.”   

Political theory faculty

Alisa Kessel: Democratic theory, modern political thought,  contemporary political ideologies, race in the American political imagination, ancient political thought, poverty and political theory

Seth Weinberger: Introduction to political theory, American political thought

Environmental policy and politics

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

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

An excellent faculty 

More than half of the members of the Politics and Government Department have won awards for excellence in teaching, and we think that this number will grow as our terrific younger faculty become eligible for these awards. 

We have recruited exciting young faculty in international politics, political theory, comparative politics, and American politics, and are pleased to note that two of our junior colleagues occupy named chairs, or prestigious positions funded by foundation grants: Alisa Kessel is Phibbs Assistant Professor of Political Theory, in a chair honoring a former president of the University of Puget Sound. Rachel DeMotts is Mellon Professor of Global Environmental Politics.   

Undergraduate teaching is the main focus and central work for all professors in the Politics and Government, but all 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 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. 

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 third edition from Norton in 2009. The fourth edition of this textbook will appear soon.  O’Neil has collaborated with Karl Fields and Don Share on Cases in Comparative Politics.  The new edition of this widely-adopted text is also due to appear soon. 

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 is forthcoming in 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.

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 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.  

Check out the department blog.

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 Your'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

A sampling of what our graduates do

  • Peter Russell,  State Department Critical Languages Scholarship in Arabic and is currently teaching in Tunisia
  • Matt Perry, District Office Manager, Adam Smith's office.
  • 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 Legislative Tracker Analyst 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. 
  • Ali (Weise) Lapp, Director, HouseMajority PAC
  • Chelsea (Waliser) Trumbull, State Director, Washington State Obama for President Campaign
  • Kevin Price, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Founder and Owner 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, campaign manager, Denny Heck for Congress, WA 10th district
  • Rachel Martin, correspondent and host, National Public Radio
  • Scott Twito, Yellowstone County (MT) County Attorney
  • Joe Balich, Community Outreach and Public Relations Coordinator, Greensavers, USA
  • Becca Bryant, Executive Assistant/Legislative Correspondent, Office of Congressman Adam Smith
  • Tashi Chogyai, Operations Director, Obama for America—Iowa
  • Geoff LeGrande, Peace Corps, Guatemala
  • Ben Merkel, Legislative Aide, U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
  • Megan Buscho, graduate student in Social Work, NYU
  • Cat Fish, graduate student in Social Work, University of Michigan
  • 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