A political science degree will provide you with a sound knowledge of five principal areas of study—American politics, political thought, international relations, comparative government, and legal studies. You also will gain a wider understanding of the world by focusing on both the theoretical and practical problems of politics through a combination of core courses and advanced specialized concentrations. You will be encouraged to link theory and practice and to compare different political systems and cultures. Students are expected to translate concepts into action, to become real-world problem solvers rather than merely classroom puzzle solvers, to explore such central issues as the exercise of power in its myriad forms and consequences, to analyze the role of religion in global governance, to explore the impact of the war on terrorism on national and international politics, to examine the causes of war and peace, and to contemplate the history of such important ideas as “liberty,” “justice,” “community” and “morality.”
Teaching and Assessment
The Political Science Department is devoted to excellence in teaching, and we challenge our students to master difficult concepts and to articulate what they learn in both written essays and oral presentations. Many of our classes are taught as discussion seminars in which students play a leading role in explaining and analyzing the issues that are being discussed. This approach becomes more pronounced during the third and fourth years of study when seminars and independent and directed studies gradually displace formal lectures.
We always insist that students take an active role in their own learning, and we never expect you to listen passively to lectures or to simply regurgitate memorized lists of basic facts. We are committed to the idea that the study of politics and international affairs is the proper training ground for students who want to play a leading role in the political, public policy, and international affairs of their communities, our nation, and an interconnected world.
Everyone has opinions about politics. We expect that you will bring your opinions to class, articulate those opinions as clearly and persuasively as possible, subject those opinions (and those of your classmates) to a rigorous and critical examination, and revise your opinions according to the dictates of the arguments presented. We expect our students to graduate with a wide range of well-informed thoughts on the most pressing issues facing our nation and our world as well as the practical skills necessary to translate their principles into reality.
The bachelor of arts degree in political science offers students four degree options, each designed to enhance students’ qualifications to pursue either further study or any number of varied career options.
- B.A. in Political Science: To prepare students for graduate study in political science and careers in teaching at the secondary level.
- B.A. in American Political Studies: To prepare students for advanced study or entry into careers related to public service, government, or administration.
- B.A. in Law and Politics: To prepare students for entry into law school or to pursue other work in the legal profession.
- B.A. in Comparative and International Political Studies: To prepare students for political work in the international field.
The Department of Political Science faculty also offer majors in Asian Studies, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, and European Studies. We collaborate with appropriate faculty members from the History, Religion, and Languages departments to offer an interdisciplinary view of the politics and culture of these regions for students preparing to work in these specific areas of the world.
The Political Science Department supplements its regular course offerings with a number of other opportunities designed to help students gain practical experience to complement their theoretical proficiency. These opportunities include the following:
Honors Thesis Program. The Political Science Department offers one of the most rigorous undergraduate Honors Thesis Programs in the region. Particularly well-qualified seniors apply for admission into this highly selective program. We are proud of our honors graduates; their successes are the best advertisement for what we do here. A very partial list of the students who have graduated from this program includes:
Opportunities for Study Abroad. The opportunity to study abroad is an integral component of the political science program, enabling students to study any specialization, particularly international law and international relations, literally anywhere in the world, including China, India, France, England, the Middle East and Europe.
Annual Moot Court Competition.Every year, the department sponsors a moot court competition. Students argue cases before real federal and state judges. Winners of the E&H competition have gone on to win major law school contests.
Studying politics gives students the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly global, complex, and dynamic environment. A major in politics is good preparation for graduate work in the fields of law, business, journalism, politics, public administration, education, social service, and diplomatic and international affairs.
- Tiffany Sykes, summa cum laude in English and with honors in political science, 2002; intern, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, 2003; top advocate, National Council of Law Schools, Constitutional Law Moot Court, 2005; J.D., Duke University Law School, 2005.
- John Honeycutt, magna cum laude with honors in political science, 2003; Student Government Association president, 2001-2003; admissions officer, Emory & Henry College, 2003–2005; masters in public administration, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2007; J.D., University of Tennessee Law School, class of 2010. Associate, PennStuart Attorneys at Law, Abingdon, Va.
- Christie L. Maloyed, magna cum laude with honors in political science, 2004; Ph.D. in political theory, Texas A&M University. Assistant professor of political science, Texas Pan-American University.