Academic Requirements and Courses
- Take the following introductory level courses:
- POL 102: American Government and Politics
- POL 104: Introduction to World Politics
- POL 209 Political Data Analysis
- Take one 200 level course in political theory, to be completed by the junior year:
- POL 201: Theories of Peace and Conflict
- POL 202: Justice, Power, and Political Thought
- Take the POL 401 Senior Seminar in Political Science in the fall, senior year
- Take seven additional department course offerings, including one 300-level course from each of the three sub-fields offered at Washington College: American Government and Political Thought; Comparative Politics; and International Politics.
- Complete a senior thesis, Political Science SCE, for the Senior Capstone Experience. Please see the department’s webpage on the Senior Capstone Experience for more information.
- Complete a department-approved experiential learning requirement, such as a study abroad experience, an internship, or completion of a Model Diplomacy or Model UN course. Please see the department’s webpage on the Experiential Educationrequirement
Like all Political Science majors, POL-IS double majors are expected to take the following courses: POL 102, 104, 201 or 202, and 209. Instead of taking POL 401, Senior Seminar in Political Science, those double majors are required to take INT 491 International Studies Seminar.
As a substitute for POL 401, POL-IS double majors must take eight additional Political Science courses rather than the seven required for only Political Science majors.
Courses in American Politics and Political Thought
As polarization has intensified among political elites and the public, conflict between and within political parties has resulted in near gridlock on all but the most urgent of legislative issues. Why has this happened? How do the formal and informal rules of the legislative process perpetuate this dysfunction? And most importantly, what can we do about it? It is with these questions in mind that we will explore the historical development of the United States Congress, its procedures and organizational structure, its relationship to the Executive and Judicial branches, and the ways in which voters hold lawmakers electorally accountable. In short, we will explore the electoral and institutional forces that shape the membership of Congress and the institution’s (in)capacity to govern. To enrich the learning experience, students will participate in a semester-long simulation as U.S. Senators where they will draft, debate, and vote on legislation. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
The Presidency has evolved into the most powerful institution in American politics. While the Founders envisioned a glorified clerk executing the will of Congress, the Modern President is expected to enhance the safety, stability, and prosperity of the nation largely on his own. Presidential power has expanded considerably to accomplish these goals, but so too has their ability to sidestep the checks and balances system – posing serious questions for the future of our Democracy. Through an examination of key moments in presidential history, this course will explain this evolution and its political implications. In particular, we will explore the contexts in which these expansions of power have occurred and how presidents built legitimacy for these changes among the public. We will also consider the effect that these changes have had on elections, political polarization, and the general functioning of our government. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
Campaigns and Elections are the cornerstone of American democracy. Through our readings and discussions, you will learn how political campaigns are won and lost and in the process gain an understanding of the fundamental factors that drive elections and some of the technical skills employed by political professionals. But this course is about more than memorizing facts and theories – it is designed to foster your ability to think critically and apply what you have learned to develop a more sophistical understanding of Elections. As such, students participate in a semester long simulation of a political campaign. Working in groups, you will develop campaign advertisements and a social media presence along with making strategic decisions about where to build field offices, hold fundraisers and campaign events, and how much media time to purchase. As individuals, you will draft strategic memos that incorporate the course material to analyze the current state of the simulated campaign along with developing proposals for group assignments. While only one campaign will win on Election Day, you will all gain invaluable experience and insight into the world of Campaigns and Elections. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
This course is designed to analyze the nature of the relationship between religion and various aspects of politics in the United States. We will begin by asking why religion and politics are so thoroughly interwoven in the United States by examining the religion-politics relationship in historical and theoretical perspective. Then we will proceed to analyze how religion affects American politics at the mass and elite levels; in doing so, we will learn a bit about a variety of other broad themes in the study of American politics. Lastly, we will consider church-state conflicts in American jurisprudence by examining some of the most hotly contested Supreme Court cases dealing with First Amendment issues.
This course focuses on the interactions among the three levels of government in the United States as well as on the institutional structures of state and municipal governments. It concentrates on the interaction among governments as a significant portion of the policy-making process. The course discusses the changing roles over time of different levels of government. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
This course examines the causes and consequences of various forms of inequality in the United States. Students will examine the political processes that create and maintain systems of inequality in terms of race, gender, sexuality and income. Prerequisites: POL 102 or 104 or permission of instructor.
A study of the American system of criminal justice. The major emphases of the course are the operation of the institutions and processes of the system, the constitutional rights of those accused of crime, and the social goals and consequences of criminal punishment. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
This course examines the role of women as voters, citizens, candidates, and leaders in American politics, grounded in theories of gender. Attention will also be given to the history of the women’s movement and the current status of women’s organizations. The course also focuses on how various public policies, including workplace issues, family issues, education issues and reproductive rights, affect women and their legal rights. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
An analysis of the distribution of power among the three branches of the federal government, and between the federal and state levels of government, as specified in major decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court itself will be studied as a political institution, with emphasis on its role in a democratic political system. The course also includes a study of the constitutional rights of individuals, as specified by the U.S. Supreme Court, with primary emphasis on issues of freedom and equality. Prerequisite: Political Science 102.
A study of the influence of values and ideologies upon the formation, evolution, and operation of the American constitutional and political system. In deference to the pragmatic character of American political thought, the course focuses on the writings of American statesmen as they confronted such continuing problems as the nature of the Union, the contest between economic power and democratic power, and the responsibility of government for individual and social welfare. The course concludes with a consideration of the relevance of American political doctrines for contemporary issues of public policy. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
A critical study of the enduring problems of political philosophy as treated by the major thinkers in the Western political tradition. The emphasis of the course is upon the fundamental choice of values which underlies the design of every system of government. The course thus examines how such writers as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, and Marx have formulated and attempted to resolve the conflicting demands of freedom and order, law and justice, authority and obligation, and the individual and the state. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or 104 or permission of the instructor.
This course will explore the role of the media in politics from various perspectives, providing an overview of the following: the history of the media in the United States; the legal issues that relate to the media; the impact that the media has on public opinion; the substance (or lack of substance) of the media’s coverage of the news, government and elections; biases of the news, media; political campaign advertising; alternative and newly developing forms of media; and the increasing conglomeration of the news media through mergers. Throughout the course, these issue areas will be discussed in a larger context involving questions of freedom, representation, and political participation. Students will also engage in a simulation involving the White House press corps and the presidency. There will be a field trip to Washington, DC, to visit various news outlets. Prerequisite: Political Science 102 or permission of the instructor.
Courses in Comparative Politics
This course focuses on the political and economic challenges confronted by developing countries, including democratization, gender, nationalism and regional integration, trade, foreign investment, and sustainable development. The course also examines issues of development theory and practice in developing countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa. Prerequisite: Political Science 104.
This course provides a broad overview of the different governmental structures and organizations, as well as history and political cultures, of a range of states in Asia, including Japan, the Koreas, China, India and the countries of Southeast Asia. Particular attention will be paid to the link between culture, identity and variations in democratic practices. Prerequisite: Political Science 104 or permission of the instructor.
This course centers African states and the African continent within contemporary global processes and discourses. Attention is given to the structures of power in political economy, colonial relationships, independence and social justice movements, and discourses and depictions in international media and policy. Case studies of individual countries will be presented alongside specific international institutions and issues in order to interrogate the meaning of “Africa” in the world.
Courses in International Politics
This course will explore environmental issues in a global context, with particular attention paid to international cooperation, international law, and the roles of governments, institutions, NGOs and social movements. The course will also focus on the impact of environmental problems and cooperation on countries in the Global South/North.
This course is designed to provide an introduction to the history, philosophy and major debates on human rights and social justice. Students will consider the philosophical and political positions underlying the debates that are central to the promotion of human rights, including gender, universalism and cultural relativism. The course also covers contemporary issues in the international human rights and social justice movement, including the right to development and freedom from poverty, women’s human rights, minority rights, torture, slavery and genocide. Group work and the creation of a public awareness campaign are required course assignments. Prerequisite: Political Science 104 or permission of the instructor.
A study of organized human efforts made throughout history to promote international cooperation and peace. Special attention is given to the principles and rules of international law regulating national conduct in international affairs, the League of Nations, the United Nations, and contemporary blueprints for world federation and government. Prerequisite: Political Science 104 or permission of the instructor.
This course is a study of the relationship between international politics and economics. It examines theories of international political economy, including Liberal, Mercantilist, and Radical. Using these themes, the course will analyze the history of political economy, the relationship between economics and politics, trade, foreign investment, economic aid, development, dependency, interdependency, and the role of the United States in the global political economy. Prerequisite: Political Science 104 or permission of the instructor.
A brief historical survey of American diplomacy and analytical study of factors conditioning American foreign policy; the constitutional basis of U.S. foreign relations; the concept of American national interest and goals; the structure and processes of decision-making and policy-execution; the organization of, and relations among, the White House, Department of State, Department of Defense, other Executive organs, and Congress; and Americas current involvement in world affairs. Prerequisite: Political Science 102, Political Science 104, or a year of American history.
A study of U.S. foreign policy and Latin America since the Monroe Doctrine. Attention is given to the interests of Latin American nations in their relationship with each other and with other areas of the world, with special emphasis on the post-World War II period. Prerequisite: Political Science 104 or permission of the instructor.
The course seeks to expand student knowledge of important past political events and contemporary political issues related to the international relations of the Indo-Pacific region, including U.S relations with the region; to introduce students to a new terminology based in international relations theory, including the contentiousness of some terms, major thinkers associated with these terms and theories, and how general international relations theory has been applied to the Indo-Pacific region; and, to assist students in applying their new knowledge of terminology and theory to better understand past and contemporary political interactions in the region. Prerequisite: Political Science 104 or permission of the instructor.
This course focuses on contemporary conflicts and efforts at peace-building in a comparative perspective. Drawing on cases such as Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and East Timor, the course will examine the roots of conflict, theories of peace, methods of peace-building, reconciliation, and international cooperation. Simulations will be used to enable students to understand the dynamics of the peace process. Prerequisite: POL 104 or permission of the instructor.
In recent decades, the Middle East has proved to be one of the most troubling as well as important parts of the world. The war in Iraq, the standoff with Iran, the regular failure to find a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the continuing danger posed by Al Qaeda all testify to the intractability of the region’s problems. This course focuses on US foreign policy in the Middle East. The United States has grappled with the region’s persistent and cross cutting conflicts, and confronted fundamental questions about the use of force, the role of allies and international law. Prerequisite: POL 104 or permission of the instructor.
This course will explore the gendered dimensions of conflict, focusing on the post–Cold War period and paying particular attention to what feminists have described as the continuum of violence, from militarization of everyday living to overt violent conflict. Topics covered include the political economy of war, sexualized violence, the militarization of gendered bodies, gendered forms of cooperation with violence, and political activism.
Courses in Experiential Learning
Students enrolled in this program spend two days per week as state legislative interns in Annapolis during the three-month legislative session. They also meet and do assignments for a weekly academic seminar on campus. Students may enroll in this program only by application to the Director, and applicants must have a 3.0 GPA. Students completing the internship earn two course credits. Prerequisite: Political Science 311 or 317, or permission of the Director.
A full-time, semester-long internship in Washington, DC, with a federal government, political, or non-profit agency. Depending upon their interest and internship placement, students may attend hearings, conduct policy research, draft correspondence, monitor legislation, lobby members of Congress, and write analytical reports. Students will create an in-depth portfolio of their internship experience. Prerequisite: Political Science 102, 2.8 cumulative GPA, permission of an instructor, and successful application to The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. This course is normally open only to juniors and seniors. Twelve credits. The internship package of Political Science 427, 428, and 429 yields 16 credits towards graduation and 8 credits towards the political science major or minor.
Washington Center Interns participate in an evening seminar selected from a variety of topics offered during the semester. Students engage in class discussion and may also research seminar topics, prepare written assignments, and take examinations. Required of and limited to students enrolled in Political Science 427. Three credits.
Washington Center Interns participate in lectures, site visits, small group discussions, briefings, and other required events designed to help them understand the connection between their academic and professional goals and the special educational opportunities available through living and working in Washington, DC. Evaluations of these experiences are included in the student portfolio. Required of and limited to students enrolled in Political Science 427. One credit.
This two-credit course is offered as a complement to required delegate training for participation in an off-campus model diplomacy simulation. The course goes beyond the basics of delegate preparation (public speaking, model procedure, and familiarity with committee topics) to offer a broader framework for understanding the evolution of the practice of diplomacy, principal challenges facing diplomats today, and the role of diplomacy and the diplomat in the modern world. As part of the course, students are offered individualized feedback on their committee research for a model simulation, background information on important developments in international affairs and major international organizations, and the opportunity to reflect on the linkage between the model experience and the actual practice of international organizations in the 21st and previous centuries. Two credits. Prerequisite: application and acceptance into a Model Diplomacy program.
This two-credit course is offered as a complement to required delegate training for participation in an off-campus model United Nations simulation. The course goes beyond the basics of delegate preparation (public speaking, model procedure, and familiarity with committee topics) to offer a broader framework for understanding the evolution of the United Nations since its founding in 1945, principal challenges it faces today, and the role of diplomacy and the diplomat in the modern world. As part of the course, students are offered individualized feedback on their committee research for the model simulation, background information on important developments in international affairs and major international organizations, and the opportunity to reflect on the linkage between the model experience and the actual practice of international organizations in the 21st and previous centuries. Two credits. Prerequisite: application and acceptance into a Model United Nations program.
The Senior Capstone Experience is an independent research project on a topic of the student’s choosing, culminating in a thesis of at least 30 pages (worth 80 percent of the grade) and a poster presentation (worth 20 percent of the grade) to be presented at the department’s annual spring Senior Symposium. Theses are graded with a letter grade, which counts toward the GPA. Candidates for honors must employ primary sources, contribute some element of original research, analysis, or interpretation, and sustain an oral examination on the thesis. Candidates must have a GPA of 3.5 in their major courses to be considered for honors status. This project is required of all majors in political science.