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Political Science

Department Chair: Kay Wolsborn

Faculty: Neal Allen, Derrick Becker, Claire Haeg, Scott Johnson, Philip Kronebusch, Matthew Lindstrom, Manju Parikh, Gary Prevost, James Read, Richard Virden, Kay Wolsborn

The political science department equips students to understand political life, to be effective citizens, and to achieve positions of political leadership. The Department makes the following mission commitments:

  • We prepare students for successful careers or graduate study in government, public policy, law, business, the not-for-profit sector, and related fields.
  • We expand and strengthen critical thinking, research, and communication skills of students.
  • We examine politics through innovative teaching, experiential learning, and student/faculty collaboration across the main fields of political science so that students can achieve political literacy appropriate for citizenship responsibilities.
  • We help our students discover and learn the concepts and theories of our discipline so they can integrate new information and events into their own worldviews.
  • We encourage students to adopt the habit of the examined life, to reflect upon themselves in relationship to others, to take risks, to participate actively in political life, and to accept responsibility for their actions.
  • We encourage our students to participate and accept leadership in a variety of special programs, clubs and activities both on and off campus.
  • Finally, we invite students to embrace the Benedictine traditions of service, stewardship, and community.

Visit the Political Science website for more detailed information:

Major (40 credits)

Required Courses:
111, 121, 211, 221.
One or more of 222, 223, and 224.
At least four (4) additional 300-level sequence courses and a Senior Research Seminar.
An internship for 4 or more credits may satisfy no more than one 300-level course requirement. Programs of study are developed in consultation with a faculty advisor.

Additional Requirements:
Comprehensive exam, senior year.

Minor (24 credits)

Required Courses: (total of six courses)
111, 121, 211.
One or more of the following: 221, 222, 223, 224.
Any two or more 300-level courses.

Courses (POLS)

111 Introduction to U.S. Politics. (4)
Introduction to the study, analysis and evaluation of U.S. political institutions, processes and policies. Subjects of the course include the structure of the federal government, constitutional rights and liberties, the functions of political parties, interest groups, communication media, and the process of democratic decision-making. Every semester.

112 Election Prediction. (1)
Prediction of Congressional, presidential and gubernatorial races. Students will predict winners in all races in all states. Evaluation based on justifications of the prediction. Alternate years, fall semester.

113 Election Outcomes and Policy Consequences. (1)
Examination of election outcomes from preceding fall semester and the policy outcomes likely to emerge as a result. Alternate year, spring semester.

114 Public Policy Analysis and Recommendation. (1)
In this course students will diagnose a public policy problem and recommend a specific course of action to address that problem. Policy fields from which problems are drawn might include foreign policy, environmental policy, health care policy, education policy, or any other field of interest to the student. There are no regular classroom meetings. Students will work in groups to meet with instructor on as-needed basis. Each student will write a focused 3-page policy memo. Students will also publicly present their recommendations in poster form at the end of the course. Alternate years.

121 International Relations. (4)
Analysis of the fundamental structure of the international system, including power, development, war and peace and trade viewed from a political, economic and social perspective. Every semester.

211 Politics and Political Life. (4)
Intensive discussion and writing-oriented course that explores perennial issues of political life (such as freedom and justice, race and gender) through literature, drama, film, and essays. Students write a Political Autobiography reflecting upon their own political experiences and the formation of their own political perspective. The course is required for political science majors and minors, and open to students from all other majors. Prerequisites: sophomore standing, 111 and 121, one of which may be taken the same semester as 211. Fall and spring.

221 Political Theory: An Introduction. (4)
Introduction to the practice of thinking theoretically about politics. Readings will include classic works (such as Aristotle's Politics, Hobbes' Leviathan, Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government) as well as some American and 20th-century political theory. The course stresses careful reading of texts, but also encourages students to theorize on their own about present-day political questions. The course is required for political science majors and minors, and open to students from all other majors. Prerequisites: sophomore standing, 111 and 121, one of which may be taken the same semester as 221. Fall and spring.

222 Analysis of U.S. Policy and Elections. (4)
Investigation of scholarly work and methods in all areas of political science. Students form hypotheses in response to political questions, use a variety of methods and tools to gather evidence, and identify criteria for evaluating the quality of evidence. Not available to first-year students. Every year.

223 Comparative Politics. (4)
Examination of how politics is practiced in many different ways. Through examples of countries from Europe to developing world, this course analyses different forms of institutions, governmental decision-making and political revolutions. The course highlights the significance of particular histories, the availability of economic resources for development, and the influence of distinct cultures and social traditions to explain why these countries reflect economic and political forms different from the United States. Not available to first-year students. Every year.

224 Courts, Law and Policy. (4)
Introduction to the study of law and legal process with an emphasis on the relationship between courts and public policy. Federal and state courts systems will be studied, as well as issues in criminal and civil law. Other subjects include the role of courts as political institutions, the selection of judges, the impact of court decisions on public policy, prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases, and the reliability of juries. Not available to first-year students. Every year.

271 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the lower-division level. Permission of department chair required. Consult department for applicability towards major requirements. Not available to first-year students.

311 Classics of Political Theory. (4)
Study of several especially interesting and important works of political theory from the ancient, modern and contemporary periods. The course examines historicist, feminist and postmodern interpretations of the works assigned. Since the course assumes some background in political theory, students will be able to consider more carefully and in greater detail the insights these works provide for the study of politics. Prerequisite: 221, equivalent, or consent of instructor. Alternate years.

312 American Political Thought. (4)
What is America? How have Americans thought about democracy, equality, power and justice through the last two centuries? This course focuses on the central questions that have shaped American politics by examining the primary texts written by men and women who have contributed to the continuing debates. Every year.

313 20th-Century Political Thought. (4)
Examination of political thought throughout the turbulent 20th century, with special attention to writers who theorize about justice and the struggle to achieve it. Topics covered may include: just and unjust wars, imperialism, economic justice, justice in relations between men and women and between members of different racial and ethnic groups. A careful study of the ideas of the 20th century will prepare students to face the new challenges of the 21st century. Prerequisite: 221, equivalent, or consent of instructor. Alternate years.

314 Feminist Political Theory. (4)
Examination of the common theme that cannot be ignored in feminist thought—a   claim to equality. This course examines the many varieties of feminist political theory including liberal feminism, radical feminism and socialist feminism. Students will look at how feminism has dealt with gender, ethnicity, sexual preference and examine where feminist theory is going into the future. Prerequisite: 221 or consent of instructor. Alternate years.

320 Topics in Law. (4)
Examination of the relationship between law, considered broadly as a socializing force, and society. Topics will vary and may include the use of alternatives to courts for the resolution of disputes, challenges of legal authority, and the relationship between cultural pluralism and legal order. Alternate years.

323 Constitutional Law: Structure and Power. (4)
Examination of constitutional interpretation and development in the United States with an emphasis on the role of the Supreme Court in the U.S. system of government. The course uses a combination of case, historical and political analysis to acquaint students with the power of the Supreme Court as an institution of government. Themes studied include the development of constitutional doctrines regarding the power relationship among the president, Congress, and the judiciary and between the federal and state governments. Every year.

324 Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties. (4)
Examination of the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with an emphasis on noteworthy Supreme Court cases from the past 50 years. Subjects studied include the guarantees of equal protection and due process, the right to privacy, the doctrines of free expression, and the separation of church and state. Every year.

330 Environmental Politics and Policy. (4)
This course is an examination of the political discourse concerning environmental issues and institutional policy responses. It concentrates on the various stages of environmentalism as well as local to international public policies.

331 U.S. Political Parties and Elections. (4)
Analysis of the party system of U.S. elections. Students evaluate how populations are connected to governance through electoral and other processes; specifically, major parties, minor parties, interest groups, media, movements, and campaign organizations. Students investigate and compare the value of a 'two-party' system to one-party and multi-party systems as organizers of government power. Alternate years.

332 U.S. Congress. (4)
Study of the legislative branch with emphasis on the concept of representation, internal organization, committees, party leaders and constituency influences on the Congressional process. Every year.

333 U.S. Presidency. (4)
Analysis of the president, organizational aspects of the executive office and relationship with Congress, the bureaucracy, the media and public opinion. Every year.

334 U.S. Bureaucracy and Regulatory Law. (4)
Analysis of public policy organizations. Students examine values and processes that influence the regulations generated by the public sector at the national level, as well as the merit system of public service, and the web of connections among public bureaucracies at the state and national levels and institutions in other sectors. Prerequisite: 111, or instructor’s consent. Alternate years.

336 Local and Regional Goverance. (4)
Inclusive and comparative examination of governments and politics at the subnational level. In the federal structure of the United States, states and tribal nations share sovereignty with the national government. The course examines local and regional policies, processes, and political structures and their potential for success in addressing issues such education, public assistance, pollution, health care, transportation, etc. Prerequisite: 111, or instructor’s permission. Alternate years.

337 Theory of Public Policy. (4)
Examination of the normative nature of public policy making. The principles of public policy analysis are examined. Course focuses on the place of equality, efficiency, justice, authority, community, and other principles in the practice and evaluation of policy. Policy examples are taken from education, health care, poverty, housing, crime, employment and other areas. Every year.

339 Gender and Politics. (4)
Analysis of public policy expectations, processes and decisions as they influence and are influenced by men and women differently. Students investigate criteria for gender-neutral policies, and evaluate the value and likelihood of such policy approaches. Alternate years.

341 European Politics. (4)
Comparative examination of the political systems of Europe with emphasis on the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Austria. The course includes the study of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. European integration through the European Union will be a major focus of the course. Offered on the Austrian international education programs.

343 Revolutions. (4)
Analysis of revolutions as a political, economic and sociological phenomenon. Focuses on writing by both political actors and social scientists. Case studies include Iran, Nicaragua, South Africa, Ireland and the Black Power Movement in the United States. Alternate years.

344 Middle East Politics. (4)
Study of the current political conflicts in the Middle East region with particular emphasis on the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Also emphasized will be the role of Islam and the political economy of oil. Alternate years.

345 Developing Nations. (4)
Examination of important aspects of politics, economics, relevant historical experiences and the culture of developing nations of Asia, Latin America and Africa. The course explores how these nations have sought to solve their major problems by using different theories and approaches to political, economic and social development. Each student will be expected to assess the achievements and/or shortcomings of a project in a research paper on a developing country of their choice. Alternate years.

346 Asian Politics. (4)
Examination of the politics and economics of three Asian countries, namely India, China and Japan. Contemporary politics is examined through a broad study of history, cultural and social traditions, and economic conditions. The U.S. relationships with each of these nations are also studied in light of distinct foreign policy approaches. Alternate years.

347 Latin American Politics. (4)
Comparative analysis of Latin American politics focusing on the themes of the military in politics, economic dependency, reform and revolution, and agrarian reform. Case studies include Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua and Cuba. Alternate years.

348 African Politics. (4)
Examination of politics and economics of sub-Saharan Africa. The course analyzes the different kinds of governments in the region, the relationship between economic development and political change, the social patterns that shape domestic policy and governance processes, and regional integration schemes, including the African Union. Alternate years.

349 South African Politics. (4)
Historical and contemporary overview of the South African political situation. The following topics and issues are explored: The Apartheid paradigm; major actors, parties, movements and institutions; constitutional development in South Africa; colonial and post-colonialism; economic system; and South Africa's international relations. Offered on South African international education program.

350 Topics in Public Policy. (4)
In different semesters this course will address various aspects of public policy. Topics that may be covered include the relationship between political philosophy and public policy, issues of race and inequality, health care and education. Alternate years.

351 U.S. Foreign Policy. (4)
Examination of United States foreign policy. The course focuses on key players as well as institutions and unofficial individuals or groups involved in the making of U.S. foreign policy. Case studies will be used to bring a 'real-life' element to the class. Every year.

352 Global Gender Issues. (4)
Study of gender as a fundamental variable in social, political and economic developments around the world. In this course, the focus is to identify the significance of gender at a global level. Examination of gendered division of labor in industrialized and developing societies, in particular, gendered discourses in development policies and gender-based economic strategies of modernization and restructuring. Beyond the economic realm, the course will also deal with other issues, such as wars, peace movements and concerns over military spending, which show remarkably similar patterns in terms of gender differences over policies. Alternate years.

353 International Law and Organization. (4)
Examination of the historical and current development of international law and the emergence of different forms of international organization. There will be a special emphasis on the post-WWII period when there was a virtual revolution in international law, as reflected in the Nuremberg trial, Geneva conventions, the end of Colonialism and the International Declaration on Human Rights. Cross-listed as PCST 349. Alternate years.

355 International Political Economy. (4)
Examination of international economic linkages that play a significant role in defining relations among states and non-state actors in the post-cold war world. While security has been perceived primarily in military terms, in the new world economic conditions will determine the ranking among nations. Agreements establishing the European Union, the North American Free Trade Area, and the World Trade Organization (WTO)/General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) are symbolic of the significance of global economic concerns. The course analyzes national and international responses to the challenge of global economic competition. Alternate years.

357 International Relations between Latin America and the United States. (4)
Critical perspective on historical, social, political, and economic relations between different Latin American countries and the United States. Special emphasis will be given to the analysis of the relations of Chile and the United States. Offered in Chile international education program.

358 Topics in International Relations/Comparative Politics. (4)
Related topics in contemporary international relations and comparative politics. Subjects covered could include social change in Latin America, civil-military relations in Central America, and global environmental politics. 

359 Spain and the European Union. (4)
This course addresses Spain's political and social development since its integration in the European Union, the Spanish political institutions and the role that Spain plays in the New Europe. The course will also focus on Spain's regionalisms and explores how the Euro and the European Union structure has affected Spanish society, and influenced the patterns of national development. Offered in the Spain international education program.

360 Civil/Military Relations in Guatemala. (4)
This course will introduce the students to traditional and contemporary theories on civil-military relations, focusing especially on the Latin American context and situation. Next, the course will examine the historical and political development of Guatemala from the days of independence to the end of the civil war in 1996, focusing on the role of the military in Guatemalan politics and daily life. Taught in Spanish. Prerequisite: SPAN 312. Offered in the Guatemalan international education program.

361 Research Seminar in Public Affairs. (4)
Preparation and presentation of a 35-50 page senior thesis in public policy, using standard scholarly research literature and primary source materials. Topic areas include but are not limited to health care, education, welfare, poverty, economic development and crime. Research projects focus on definition of a public policy problem, a review of existing alternative policy options for addressing the problem, and a recommendation for a preferred course of public action. Especially useful for students pursuing careers in public policy and public or non-profit management. Seniors only. Every year.

362 Research Seminar in Law. (4)
Preparation and presentation of a 35-50 page senior thesis in the area of law and law-related fields. Students will learn how to research using legal materials and tools and how to organize and draft a legal writing project. Seniors only. Every year.

363 Research Seminar in Political Institutions. (4)
Preparation and presentation of a 35-50 page senior thesis in an area related to U.S. political institutions and policies. Students work individually and collaboratively to plan and execute successfully their extended research projects. The senior thesis demonstrates the student's abilities to synthesize course work preparation in the major, to apply skills and knowledge to conduct research on important political questions, and to communicate the analysis and recommendations to appropriate audiences. Seniors only. Every year.

364 Research Seminar in International Relations and Comparative Politics. (4)
Preparation and presentation of a 35-50 page senior thesis in the areas of international relations and comparative politics. Students will study different research methodologies and share the results of their research with other seminar participants. Assigned reading, seminar discussions and individual research project in international relations or comparative politics. Seniors only. Every year.

365 Research Seminar in Political Theory. (4)
Preparation and presentation of a 35-50 page senior thesis exploring in depth the work of particular theorists (Hobbes, Locke, Madison, Mill, Marx, for example) or particular themes in political thought (such as freedom, justice, power). It will also provide students interested in constitutional law an opportunity to study/investigate law from an aspect of  political theory. Seniors only. 

371 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the upper-division level. Permission of department chair and completion and/or concurrent registration of 12 credits within the department required. Projects are understood to be part of a student's concentration area work. Not available to first-year students.

395 Model United Nations Seminar. (0-2)
Preparation for participation in a national Model United Nations Conference, usually held in New York City or Boston during the spring semester. Covers the structure and functions of the United Nations, plus selected international issues such as the environment, terrorism and human rights. Prerequisite: 121 or permission of instructor. Every year.

396 Washington, D.C., Summer Study. (8)
Preparation with faculty and other learning community participants, followed by an eight week internship experience in Washington, D.C., working full time for members of Congress, committee staffs, federal agencies, media or lobbying organizations. Includes evening seminars, discussions with Congressional delegation, and guest speakers. Every summer.

397 Internship. (4-8)
Experiential learning in the field, including work with faculty researchers, elected officials, other public officials, lawyers and judges.

398 Honors Senior Project. (4)
Required for graduation with "Distinction in Political Science." Prerequisite: HONR 396 and approval of the department chair and director of the Honors Thesis program. For further information see HONR 398.