Learning Goals

learning goalsThe political science major aims to create educated citizens capable of organizing information, thinking critically and communicating effectively.  Students who complete a major in our department are expected to be able to understand politics and exercise their duties as citizens at the local, state, national and international levels.  Furthermore, we aim to instill skills that encourage critical analysis of the philosophical and practical problems facing them and facing the society around them and to communicate in both written and spoken forms attitudes, opinions, and arguments about the issues under consideration. 

To do this we aim to spur student reflection on the nature of citizenship while increasing student understanding of politics and the theories developed to make sense of politics and policy issues.  Central to our educational mission is to create the opportunity 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 citizens capable of being lifelong learners.

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. 


  • A solid foundational understanding of the critical theoretical issues underlying political life: the individual and community; political obligation; stability, revolution, and change; legitimacy and justice; and freedom and power.  This is the focus of 101 Nature of Politics.
  • A solid foundational understanding of American political institutions, the principal political, economic, and social influences affecting American democracy, and major issues affecting federal, state, and local government. This is the focus of 104 American Government and 106 Law and Society.
  • A solid foundational understanding of foreign and international politics, including the nature of other political systems or the operation of the international system. This is the focus of 103 Comparative Politics and 102 International Relations.
  • A more in-depth, sophisticated understanding of at least one major topic in each of the following three areas of political science: theoretical approaches to political science, American institutions and politics, and foreign and international politics. The courses offered in requirements V2, V3, and V4 satisfy these three areas.
  • 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 395/396 Political Science Seminar.
  • An exposure to the range of questions that social scientists pose and the tools and approaches they use to develop answers. This is found in 395 and 300 and elsewhere.


Those majors electing to complete the Certificate Program in Quantitative Political Science Methods should:

  • Acquire an understanding of how social scientists use quantitative methods as they pose research questions, design tests of hypotheses, and gather and analyze quantifiable information;
  • Put their methodological skills to use as part of a supervised research project.


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

  • Competence in a relevant language;
  • First-hand exposure to and understanding of another political system or culture.
  • 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:

  • Explore applications of political science to the practice and processes of American politics.
  • Connect classroom learning with the experience of working in government, politics, or public affairs.
  • Grasp the idea of politics as choice, analyzing the positive and normative dimensions of particular political decisions.
  • Examine the issues of representation, leadership, campaigning, lobbying, management, and ethics.


Beyond the general learning goals indicated above, undergraduate minors are expected to acquire:

  • 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.
  • An upper division competence in several areas of political activity, whether that is in comparative institutions, theories of justice, policy making, or something similar.


Revisions developed by William Field and Dennis Bathory January 2015
Adopted by faculty vote, December 2015