learning goals

The undergraduate political science program creates educated members of society capable of organizing information, thinking critically, and communicating effectively.  Students who complete a major in our department will be able to consider contemporary political issues in their historical and institutional contexts, evaluate and analyze competing political claims, and explain political phenomena using a variety of empirical methods and interpretive frameworks.  We aim to instill skills that encourage critical analysis of the philosophical and practical problems of the world and the polis.  We aim further to teach students to synthesize these ideas in arguments about real world issues.   

To do this we spur student reflection on civic membership while increasing student understanding of the definitions, theories, and approaches political scientists use to make sense of politics, power dynamics, and policy issues.  We strive to create opportunities for students to engage in experiential learning in political, governmental, and related settings. 

The end goal of a political science major is to create active, engaged members of society capable of being lifelong learners promoting the public good.

We operationalize these goals through the political science major.  Each of the goals listed below matches one of the requirements of the major and connects directly with one or more courses approved for that part of the major.    

  1. Students will be able to collect, analyze, and synthesize substantive scholarly information relevant to the fundamental areas that comprise political science: political philosophy, American politics, international relations, and comparative politics.  Examples of these fundamental questions include the origins of law, dimensions of liberty, processes of political change, the role of institutions, the consequences of cultural and economic differences, and the sources of international conflict.  These are the focus of our introductory level classes, 101 Nature of Politics, 102 International Relations, 103 Comparative Politics, 104 American Government, and 106 Law and Politics. 
  2. Students are required to take at least one course on political science research methods. The research methods courses introduce students a range of tools scientists use to investigate social and political phenomena. Students will be exposed to and understand a range of methodological orientations (quantitative, qualitative, and interpretive) and elements of research processes, including, but not limited to, concept development, building and testing hypotheses, evaluating theories, and data management. In addition to learning foundational theories of power and investigating political norms and institutions, students will be able to understand the mechanisms, complexities and limits of quantifying and assessing human behavior. Students will be equipped to produce and analyze different types of research necessary for addressing critical political questions. This is the focus of our research methods requirement and is found in 300 Political Science Research Methods, 307 Survey Methods, 391 Data Science for Political Science, and 392 Qualitative Research Methods. 
  3. Students will develop a more in-depth, sophisticated understanding of at least one major topic in each of the following three areas of political science: theories from a diversity of historical contexts and global political traditions, American institutions and politics, and foreign and international politics. This is the primary goal of our upper-level classes. 
  4. Students finalize their education by developing experience in designing, completing, and defending a research project, which gives students exposure to the process of research and discovery in political science.  This is the focus of the 395 Political Science Seminar. 
  5. Students will dig deeper into material and gain exposure to the range of questions that social scientists pose and the tools and approaches they use to develop answers. This is found in all upper-level courses. 

Beyond the general learning goals indicated above, students pursuing the political science minor are expected to acquire: 

  1. A solid foundational understanding of the critical theoretical issues underlying political life: the individual vs. the community; political obligation vs. civil disobedience, stability, revolution, and change; legitimacy and justice; and freedom and power; and 
  2. An upper division competence in several areas of political activity, whether that is in comparative institutions, theories of justice, policy making, or something similar. 

Those majors electing to complete the Certificate Program in Quantitative Political Science Methods will be able to:

  1. Understand the mechanisms, complexities and limits of quantifying human behavior. Students will be equipped to produce and analyze different types of quantitative data necessary for addressing critical political questions; and 
  2. Put their methodological skills to use as part of a supervised research project.

Those majors electing to complete the Global Politics Certificate should acquire: 

  1. Competence in a relevant language; 
  2. First-hand exposure to and understanding of another political system or culture; and 
  3. A specialized knowledge of foreign and international politics through coursework in political science and in related fields that permits them to apply their language skills and incorporate this first-hand experience in developing an advanced understanding of or appreciation for some specific element of global politics or some particular region of the world. 

In addition, students electing to complete the Eagleton Undergraduate Associates Certificate will: 

  1. Explore applications of political science to the practice and processes of American politics; 
  2. Connect classroom learning with the experience of working in government, politics, or public affairs; 
  3. Grasp the complexity of political decision-making amongst voters and elites alike by analyzing the positive and normative dimensions of particular political decisions; and
  4. Examine the issues of representation, leadership, campaigning, lobbying, management, and ethics. 

As revised by William Field, Nikol Alexander Floyd, Stacey Greene, Christine Cahill, and Elena Gambino, June 2022 and adopted by faculty vote, January 2023.