Resources for Current Students
As you're pursuing your major or minor in political science, we're here to help you achieve your academic goals. We've answered some frequently asked questions about advising, declaring your major and studying abroad, and we've collected resources that can contribute to your academic success.
If you are a political science major, you should meet regularly and work closely with a faculty advisor within the Department of Political Science. Faculty advisors provide guidance on coursework and unblock your PINs so you can register for your courses. They also offer information on internships, honors theses and careers in political science.
If you have a general question for the Department of Political Science, you're always welcome to call our main political science office at 303-871-2743 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intro to Law & Society
About this Course
This course introduces the relationship between law and society, exploring principles of legal conduct in social contexts and explaining how social scientific methods are used to understand these principles. Questions discussed include what is the relationship between the “law-on-the-books” and “law-in-action,” and what can we learn from gaps between formal law and the “real” law that is experienced in society? Empirical examples may include international comparisons and the evolution of law over time. This course counts toward the Scientific Inquiry: Society and Culture requirement.
Democratic Erosion: Comparing Experiences Across Countries Over Time
About this Course
As the conclusion of the Cold War spurred a tidal wave of democratization around the globe, western policy makers and pundits often assumed that even in weak, poverty-impacted states attempts to democratize were bound to succeed – at least eventually. By 2008, however, the discourse of democratization had been transformed. “Celebrations of democracy’s triumph are premature,” wrote a noted scholar of democratization; “in a few short years, the democratic wave has been slowed by a powerful authoritarian undertow.” Recently, both the quality and quantity of “democratic” states have declined. Even the world’s oldest, most taken-for-granted liberal democratic regimes increasingly flout democratic norms and policies. We begin with a focus on the United States and then consider European cases and the cases of Venezuela and Zambia. Along the way, we engage theories of populism, political polarization, “stealth authoritarianism” (politicians’ use of seemingly democratic laws for antidemocratic purposes), and theories of gradual institutional change. Satisfies the departmental sub-field major requirement in comparative/international politics.
American Government Simulation
About this Course
This course explores American politics by simulating the legislative process of the federal government. Students play either a member of the House of Representatives or a member of the Executive Branch. The simulation requires that students seek the goals related to their position. By putting theory into practice, students gain a better understanding of Washington politics. Satisfies the department distribution requirement in American politics. Prerequisite: Sophomore standing.
Major Requirements & Sub-Fields
As a political science major, you take courses across four sub-fields. To understand a broad range of political science concepts, you'll take at least one course in all four sub-fields and take additional courses in areas that interest you. Political science majors must also take PLSC 2901, recommended in your sophomore year, and PLSC 3290, which must be taken during your senior year.
Our four sub-fields include American politics, which helps you gain better understanding of the American political process; comparative/international politics, which explores the impact of political, social, cultural and economic forces in countries and regions around the world; law, which examines the relationship between legal and political systems; and political theory, which analyzes the multiple meanings of fundamental political concepts and asks how these concepts are embodied in various political orders.
The American politics sub-field explores questions such as:
- Are there really two Americas—one "red" and one "blue"?
- Why do our elected officials seem so much more partisan than the people they represent?
- How much influence do voters have over a president as he decides whether to go to war?
- Can members of Congress simultaneously represent their districts while serving national interests?
- Why do campaigns run negative ads even though voters claim to despise them?
These questions and many others are what motivate the professors and students in the American politics field. The answers can be found by examining the governing institutions, political behavior and political history of the United States.
The institutional side offers courses on the U.S. Congress, the American presidency, American foreign policy, the judiciary, and state and local government. In these classes, students learn, for example, when presidents are influenced by public opinion or the historical factors that led to an increase in the use of the filibuster.
If you're interested in political behavior, you may take courses on campaigns and elections, race and politics, and on the structure and behavior of political parties. Here, you can learn about party polarization and the effectiveness of campaign advertisements.
This field also offers courses on American political history and culture, in which students can learn how the Constitution has survived virtually unchanged since the 1780s, despite the massive changes our nation has endured over that time.
- The American Presidency
- U.S. Congress
- Political Parties and Interest Groups
- American Foreign Policy
- State & Local Politics
- Religion and American Politics
- American Political Thought
- Presidential Primaries, Nominations and Elections
- Political Participation & Representation
Comparative & International Politics
Many factors shape a country's political life, from cultural and religious values to economic processes and formal political institutions.
Comparative politics asks questions such as:
- How does the organization of formal political institutions (legislatures, executives, courts, electoral systems) influence the exercise of political power and policy outcomes?
- What is required for a nation to become democratic?
- How do cultural values influence political life in different countries?
- What are the best ways to organize political institutions to achieve justice?
- What determines whether neighboring countries will live in peace or wage war?
Comparative politics examines the possibilities and constraints of social structures, institutions, ideologies, and culture within and across societies. It also looks at the interplay of economic and political forces in the world arena, including concepts such as globalization, international cooperation and democratization, and forms of government such as totalitarianism.
- Comparative Courts
- Global Political Economy
- Politics of China
- Politics of Japan
- East Asia in World Politics
- International Law and Human Rights
- Comparative Democratization: East and West
- Democratic Erosion: Comparing Experiences Across Countries and Over Time
- Latin American Politics
- Re-Inventing Europe
- Comparing Indigenous Politics
Legal institutions have enormous impact on the political system, domestically and abroad. Classes in the law sub-field explore questions such as:
- How does a society govern and control itself?
- How do organizations make claims in courts?
- What is the legal process in a particular country or region and how does it impact citizens and society?
- How do courts understand the responsibilities of legislatures and executives in regulating the environment?
- How does regulatory law affect social change?
- How does politics influence the legal system and its ability to resolve disputes?
This sub-field provides a foundation in legal reasoning, judicial processes, and the relationship between law and society. Law is often the vehicle for social change and economic development.
In the United States, everything from the building of the railroad system to the desegregation of public schools has happened in part through legal institutions. Legal institutions are at the heart of disputes over economic policy and political integration in Europe as well. Courses in this sub-field explore these questions historically and cross-nationally.
- Civil Rights and Liberties
- Constitutional Law and Politics
- International Law and Human Rights
- Judicial Politics
- Politics of Rights
- Politics of the Criminal Justice System
- Conservative Politics and the Courts
Political theory engages with the big questions of political life with which all people have struggled, in one form or another. Questions discussed in this sub-field include:
- What do we mean when we use terms such as "liberty" and "justice" and how have those definitions changed over time?
- Can power be exercised justly? What exactly are "American" values and where do they come from?
- What rights and duties do citizens have? Are some systems of authority inherently better than others?
- What are the origins and forms of government?
Political theorists explore the multiple meanings of fundamental political concepts, such as right and responsibility, power and justice, and ask how these concepts are embodied in various political orders.
The courses in this sub-field reflect an array of approaches to political theory. Some courses focus on close readings of classic political theory texts by authors such as Aristotle, Plato, Confucius, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Tocqueville, Mill, Marx, Rawls, Arendt and Nozick—people who developed and defended comprehensive visions of proper political systems.
Other courses focus on a particular theme, such as the struggle for political identity in a culturally complex world or the justice and efficacy of alternative economic orders.
All majors in our department are exposed to at least one political theory course and students with a strong interest can pursue that interest through explorations across diverse topics.
- American Political Thought
- Quest for Community
- Justice & the Classical Political Community
- The Rise of Modern Political Individualism
- Feminist Political Thought
- Politics of Desire
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I declare political science as my major?
- How do I find out who my advisor is?
Whom do I ask about study abroad approvals or transfer credits?
Make an appointment with the chair of the Department of Political Science, Joshua C. Wilson, to review study abroad course approvals or discuss transferring courses to the political science degree.
The chair's office hours are listed in the main political science office in Sturm Hall, Room 466. You can also send him an email at email@example.com.
Does the Department of Political Science have any scholarships?
The Department of Political Science has three scholarships: the Anna Mae Bradbury Scholarship, the AHSS Hogan Scholarship, and the Stephen D. and Becky L. Hogan Endowed Scholarship.
The Department of Political Science and the Office of Financial Aid select winners based on merit and financial need. Students must have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for that academic year to be eligible.
Eligible students will be contacted in mid-spring with instructions for applying for these scholarships. Scholarship winners are notified in late spring and the scholarship is applied to tuition for the following academic year.
Are classes available to both majors and non-majors?
Yes, non-majors are welcome to take 1000-level classes, which include Introduction to American Politics, Introduction to Law and Society, and Introduction to Political Thought.
Political science faculty members often teach Advanced Seminar (ASEM) courses on political science topics open to all juniors and seniors. Space is often available in upper-division political science classes for students who meet the course prerequisites or who speak with the instructor.
Due to space constraints, PLSC 2901: Political Inquiry and PLSC 3290: Capstone Seminar in Politics are limited to students who have declared the political science major.
Can the department help me prepare for the LSAT or GRE?
The Department of Political Science does not offer direct instruction for the LSAT or GRE exams. However, we often receive flyers or information about preparatory courses; check the bulletin boards in our main office (Sturm Hall, room 466), or call 303-871-2743.
Can I specialize in one of the four sub-fields?
While we do not offer a specialization in the four sub-fields (political theory, law, American politics, and comparative and international politics), if you're interested in a particular area, you can complete your eight political science elective credits in that sub-field in addition to your one required course in that sub-field.
We require that political science majors take at least one class in each sub-field to ensure breadth and exposure to the foundations of the major disciplines within political science.
- Are there research grants for undergraduate political science students?
How does study abroad affect my progress in the political science major?
We encourage you to work closely with your political science faculty advisor as you plan coursework for study abroad programs. The department chair can approve study abroad courses before students leave for the program.
You should make an appointment with the department chair to discuss coursework well in advance of study abroad application deadlines. When you meet with your advisor or the department chair about study abroad approvals, it's helpful if you bring a short description or syllabus for the classes you're considering taking abroad. This helps advisors know where to allocate your study abroad courses within your required classes for the major.
We can accept a maximum of 20 transfer credits from study abroad toward the political science major, or 10 credits toward the political science minor. No more than 60 political science credits may be used towards the 183 credits required by the University for graduation.
Does the department bring speakers to campus? How else can I get involved?
Yes, we do! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join our departmental listserv and get information on departmental events, as well as job and internship opportunities. You can also follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to stay connected and hear about new events.
DU also has the Center on American Politics, which the Department of Political Science is closely affiliated with, as well as student groups for College Democrats and College Republicans. There are also plenty of opportunities to develop leadership skills in other student organizations on campus, such as the Undergraduate Student Government or the Sustainability Council.
How do I graduate with distinction in political science? What does it take to write a political science honors thesis?
Check out our Academics page for the full requirements.