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Political Science Department Goals and Objectives

Politics, the pursuit and exercise of power, exists in many realms of social life, including government, businesses, religious institutions, universities, clubs, the media, and 
families. Political science is the study of politics in its various forms and manifestations.

The discipline of political science focuses mainly on the politics of governments, including their political relations with members of society and with one another. It examines a broad variety of topics, ranging from the sources, distribution, and exercise of power to the role of class, race, and gender; the political attitudes and behaviors of individuals and groups; the functioning of domestic and international political institutions; and major issues of public policy, such as affirmative action, abortion rights, and governmental budgets.

The discipline also addresses questions of values: What forms of government, society, and economy ought to exist? How can liberty, equality, justice, or security best be achieved? How should conflicts between them be resolved? What is the proper relationship between the individual and the state? What rights do people have? What obligations? What are the rightful limits, if any, on the powers of government? 

Finally, political science looks at questions of method. How does one decide issues of value? What political phenomena are susceptible to social-scientific investigation? What methodologies are best suited to studying such phenomena?
The study of politics is consequential for everyone, not just specialists. Non-majors are therefore expected to gain a comprehension of the mechanisms by which politics is conducted; an understanding of questions of values as they relate to politics; and familiarity with analytic tools that enable them to make sense of political issues. Non-majors are likewise expected to develop the ability to think independently, critically, and politically; to express themselves clearly, both orally and in writing; and to construct clear and persuasive arguments and to critique flawed arguments.

The department offers courses in four sub-fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Politics, and Political Theory. Courses in all these sub-fields expose students to the subjects of power, globality, diversity, and cultural pluralism through different lenses. Many courses provide students with the basic skills necessary to explore rigorously and in depth the interaction between local, national and global levels. However, their focus varies. Courses in American and Comparative Politics explore these subjects primarily at the local and national levels in the U.S., and in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Courses in International Politics explore these subjects primarily at the global level, while courses in Political Theory consider philosophical approaches to the subjects of power, diversity, cultural pluralism, and globality.Our goals for majors and correlates include a comprehension of the mechanisms by which politics is conducted; an understanding of questions of values as they relate to politics; and an understanding of and ability to employ various methodologies by which politics is studied. Majors are expected to gain an understanding of major political and public-policy issues at the sub-national, national, and international levels. Finally, they are expected to develop the ability to think independently and critically, and to express themselves clearly, both orally and in writing.

Courses at all levels expose students to questions pertaining to the mechanisms of politics, to values, and to methodologies. Our majors are required to take one course at the 100 or 200 level in each of the four sub-fields described above. This ensures that students gain a range of understanding and that all majors are exposed to the study of politics and public policy issues at the sub-national, national, and international levels. This requirement also provides students with the basic skills necessary to explore rigorously and in depth the interaction between these different levels of analysis.