Politics & Government

About the Department

Politics is about the struggle over power, authority, freedom, justice, 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 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 develops students’ abilities to evaluate research design and interpret research findings. Students’ data literacy and understanding of the research process will be assessed in tests in the methods courses as well as discussions and papers in upper division classes and the capstone. Students will have the opportunity to participate in the thesis seminar where they will execute a major research project.

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 politics, political institutions and policy
  • Comparative Politics: The study of politics, 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 norms, ideals, and concepts
  • Law, Politics, and Society: The study of the relationship between law, politics, and society in American, comparative, and international contexts.

While students concentrate in one of the five subfields, they are required to take introductory 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 200, a required course in the major, encourages students to understand the tools and methods used in political inquiry. Building upon these skills, students complete the major with a capstone seminar. Some students will also choose to complete an optional thesis in the spring semester of their senior year. Many students also choose to do internships, conduct independent research, and participate in 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. 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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