Political Science

Requirements & Courses

  • How do government and politics operate both within the United States and in foreign countries? How do nations and people interact in the international arena? What consequences result from these activities? How can we use knowledge to promote our human and social values through the political process? Alma’s Political Science Program is designed to help students learn the answers to these questions and thereby become more effective citizens and professionals. Courses in comparative politics broaden our political knowledge by the examination and comparison of the political systems in other countries. International relations courses focus on the problems and conflicts in international politics and the ways by which they can be resolved or minimized. Courses in American politics offer both an introductory and an in-depth understanding of American political institutions and processes, public management, policy making and policy analysis, and public law. Political theory relates politics to ethical and normative considerations, human values, and means-end problems. Graduates completing Alma’s Political Science Program are successfully pursuing careers in government, law, business, teaching, journalism, public administration and non-profit organizations, and public relations.

  • Major Requirements
    1. Common requirements — 12 credits that must include POL 201, 202, 302 and 401.
    2. Disciplinary breadth — 16 credits that must include one course from each of the following four groups: Group A-Comparative Politics: POL 111, 115, 211, 212, 215, 217, and 315; Group B-International Relations: POL 121, 127, 221, 225, 226/227, 325, 326, 327 and 328/329; Group C-Political Theory: POL 131, 231, and 335; Group D-American Politics, POL 101, 141, 241, 242, 245, 341 and 345.
      1. POL 100 may be used to satisfy any one group. With instructor approval based on content, the following courses may be used to satisfy any group: POL 381, 382 (Washington Semester); POL 385, 386, 387; POL 499; or POL 500. Only 8 credits of POL 226/227 and 328/329 may count towards the major.
    3. Sub-disciplinary expertise — 8 credits: Students must complete two additional upper-level courses, 200 or higher, from a single group.
    4. Major Cognates: MTH 116.
    5. Additional major requirements: All majors must satisfactorily complete the Graduate Record Advanced Examination, or the MFAT, or a departmental comprehensive examination to satisfy the College comprehensive evaluation requirement; at least 24 credits of upper-division coursework within the Department; and have a minimum 2.75 cumulative GPA.
    6. Departmental honors: Completion and public presentation of a senior thesis; minimum 3.5 GPA in Political Science, and 3.3 GPA overall.
  • Minor Requirements

    Twenty-four credits which must include POL 100 and 201 and at least 16 credits at the upper level. POL 401 is recommended. Only four credits from 226/227 and 328/329 may count for the Political Science Minor.

  • Four credits from POL, with the exception of practicum or independent study courses, count towards the Distributive Requirements in the Social Sciences.

Courses

  • POL
    100
    .
    Introduction to Political Science
    4 credits
    Introduction to the discipline of political science. Explores certain key themes and concepts of the discipline, such as politics and power, and considers some of the different approaches that political scientists use to study the political world. Introduces the discipline’s four subfields of political theory, comparative politics, international relations and American politics, and explores the connections between them.
  • POL
    101
    .
    The American Political System
    4 credits
    Study of institutions and processes of politics and government. Contemporary political problems. Primary focus on federal government with some attention to state and local politics.
  • POL
    103
    .
    Reel Politics
    2 credits
    Exploration of the portrayal of American politics in historical and contemporary films.
  • POL
    111
    .
    Introduction to Comparative Politics
    4 credits
    Examines concepts and approaches to comparative political study, comparative functions, processes and structures. Explores issues and concerns such as political change, democracy, effectiveness and stability.
  • POL
    115-*315
    .
    Ethnic Politics Case Studies
    4 credits
    Explore the nature of ethnic identity, its potential for and actualization of political activism and violence, and survey the role political institutions play in mitigating or eliminating ethnopolitical activism.
  • POL
    121
    .
    World Conflicts and Problems
    4 credits
    Examines a selection of world conflicts in terms of their causes and prospects for war, control or settlement. Explores world-wide problems, needs and efforts among states to deal cooperatively.
  • POL
    127-*327
    .
    Presidential Library Research
    4 credits
    Research visit to a presidential library. Lower level focuses on primary source investigations on topics of student interest. Upper level is preparation for a substantial research paper potentially leading to a senior thesis and/or published article.
  • POL
    131
    .
    Introduction to Political Theory
    4 credits
    Introduction to normative political theory, both historical and contemporary. Includes analysis of central concepts of politics, such as power, freedom, justice, democracy and equality. Explore key modern ideologies, such as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, fascism and political Islam. (Cross listed with PHL 131.)
  • POL
    141
    .
    Introduction to Public Management and Policy Analysis
    4 credits
    Study of leadership and administration in public organization, including relationship between bureaucracy and the executive, judicial and legislative branches; development of organizational theory; policy-making and implementation process; bureaucratic ethics; and reconciliation of democracy and bureaucracy. Recommended for those considering careers in public service or jobs affected by public policy.
  • POL
    180
    .
    Topics and Problems in Political Science
    2-4 credits
    Examines special political subjects in both the foreign/international and American realms.
  • POL
    *
    201
    .
    Nature of Political Inquiry
    4 credits
    An introduction to political science research, including the nature of political inquiry and research methodology. Development of an actual research project.
  • POL
    *
    202
    .
    Journal Club
    2 credits
    4 POL credits
    Introduction to contemporary research in political science. Evaluate recent peer-reviewed articles published in top-tier political science journals. Students are expected to engage with material and actively participate in discussion.
  • POL
    *
    211
    .
    Western European Politics
    4 credits
    Comparative study of the main political systems of Western Europe. Examination of European Union and its policies, processes and outcomes. Comparative analysis of short- and long-term implications of European economic integration for the rest of the world.
  • POL
    *
    212
    .
    Eastern European Politics
    4 credits
    A survey of contemporary Eastern European politics at a turbulent time that often attracts international attention to that region. Analysis of some of the transformation and continuity in the region’s politics and society.
  • POL
    *
    215
    .
    Ethnic Politics
    4 credits
    Explore the nature of ethnic identity, its potential for and actualization of political activism and violence, and survey the role political institutions play in mitigating or eliminating ethnopolitical activism.
  • POL
    *
    217
    .
    Arctic Politics and Science
    4 credits
    Survey the current state of scientific research examining polar melting. Explore the international legal and strategic implications of polar melting globally, with particular emphases on the five countries claiming polar waters (the U.S., Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway).
  • POL
    *
    221
    .
    Analysis of International Politics
    4 credits
    Study roles of the state, international and non-state actors in international politics; theories of conflict, conflict control and resolution; and prospects for world community.
  • POL
    *
    225
    .
    International Law and Organizations
    4 credits
    Analyzes historical evolution of international law, its purposes, principles and relationship to the international arena. Study of international organizations and their impact on international legal order.
  • POL
    *
    226-*227
    .
    Model United Nations
    2 credits each
    $150 for POL 226
    Preparation to represent an assigned country at a Model UN competition through examination of current international issues and UN organizational structures and processes.
  • POL
    *
    231
    .
    American Political Thought
    4 credits
    Historical and contemporary meanings of democracy, its assumptions and implications: tensions between theory and practice, majority rule and minority rights, civil disobedience, economic-political democracy, institutionalization of democratic procedures, and the future of democracy.
  • POL
    *
    232
    .
    Ancient Political Thought
    4 credits
    Exploration of key ideas in ancient and medieval political thought. The works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Epicurus, Augustine and Aquinas are considered. Key questions addressed include: Is democracy superior to rule by the enlightened few? Are humans by nature political creatures? What is the proper relation between the individual and the state? Is the state a natural entity? (Cross listed with PHL 232.)
  • POL
    *
    233
    .
    Current Controversies in U.S. Politics
    4 credits
    Examine the ethical and empirical dimensions of some current political controversies in the U.S., such as the death penalty, gay marriage, torture, terrorism, affirmative action and euthanasia. Introduction to relevant concepts in ethical theory, law, political philosophy and empirical inquiry in order to provide the framework to think knowledgeably and critically about these issues.
  • POL
    *
    234
    .
    Classics of Political Thought
    4 credits
    Analysis of selected original works of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, the American founders, Bentham, Mill, Marx and Nietzsche. Emphasis on relevance to contemporary political thought and issues. (Cross listed with PHL 234.)
  • POL
    *
    241
    .
    Presidential Leadership
    4 credits
    Study the links of elections and the media, campaign fundraising, electoral strategies, the role of the media in shaping campaigns, and the impact on public policy. Offered especially in national election years, where the election can serve as a laboratory to test theories.
  • POL
    *
    242
    .
    Comparative Environmental Health Policy
    4 credits
    Comparative analysis of the environmental-health policy process. Emphasis on applied research related to current government or non-governmental organization projects or concerns.
  • POL
    *
    243
    .
    Public Opinion and Voting
    4 credits
    Explore how Americans form their political beliefs and values, and how those beliefs and values influence their voting behavior. The impact of ideology, economic class, ethnicity, religion and education are considered.
  • POL
    *
    245
    .
    The Political Experience
    4 credits
    Explores nature of elective and administrative politics in state and local governments. Integrates cognitive and experiential learning. Includes field trips and interviews with state/local leaders in government, interest groups and media.
  • POL
    *
    280
    .
    Topics in Political Science
    2-4 credits
    Variable topics in political analysis.
  • POL
    *
    302
    .
    Journal Club
    2 credits
    POL 202
    Introduction to contemporary research in political science. Evaluate recent peer-reviewed articles published in top-tier political science journals. Students are responsible for article selection and leading discussion of material. In addition, students will prepare a substantive research proposal, including literature review, which can be developed into a senior thesis.
  • POL
    *
    325
    .
    U.S. Foreign Policy
    4 credits
    Study of goals of American foreign policy and U.S. role in changing world; structure, processes and politics of foreign policy-making; and U.S. foreign policy since end of WWII. Analysis of selected current U.S. foreign policy concerns.
  • POL
    *
    326
    .
    U.S. National Security Policy
    4 credits
    Analyzes emergence and evolution of post- WWII national security state. Assesses impact of changing international environment on conceptions of “national security.”
  • POL
    *
    328/*329
    .
    Advanced Model UN
    2 credits each
    $150 for POL 329
    Examine in detail the functioning of the central bodies of the UN community, including the General Assembly, Security Council, ECOSOC and specialized agencies. Also address the role of nongovernmental organizations, regional and subregional organizations and individual states. Only four credits may count toward the major.
  • POL
    *
    335
    .
    Constitutional Law I
    4 credits
    Case law study of the Supreme Court’s interpretations of U.S. Constitution in the areas of the governmental structures and processes, and civil rights and liberties. Different approaches to interpreting the Constitution are also considered.
  • POL
    *
    341
    .
    Public Policy Analysis
    4 credits
    Study of policy process, particularly policy evaluation. Focuses on such policies as educational, environmental, economic and social welfare. Emphasis on learning evaluation methodologies through application to current public policy issues.
  • POL
    *
    345
    .
    Public Administration History and Theory
    4 credits
    Study of the development of modern public bureaucracies and the relationship of bureaucracy and other governmental institutions, particularly through analysis of original works on public administration from Woodrow Wilson and Max Weber to more recent commentaries.
  • POL
    *
    380
    .
    Topics and Problems in Political Science
    4 credits
    Courses on special political subjects in both the foreign/international and American realms.
  • POL
    *
    381-*382
    .
    Washington Semester
    4 credits each
    Credit awarded for student participation in seminars and coursework. (American University)
  • POL
    *
    385-*386-*387
    .
    Practicum
    1-4 credits each
    Placements in government, political institutions and related agencies may be made available by the Department or may be arranged by students in consultation with the Department.
  • POL
    *
    401
    .
    Senior Seminar
    4 credits
    Comprehensive capstone study of politics within the context of a distinct theme in political science.
  • POL
    *
    499
    .
    Independent Study: Readings
    1-4 credits
    Individual study of particular topic or problem area; intensive reading; problem formulated with instructor consent.
  • POL
    *
    500
    .
    Senior Thesis
    4 credits
    Under supervision, student formulates a project topic or research program, conducts research, then prepares and publicly presents a senior thesis. Required for departmental honors.