2018-2019 Academic Bulletin 
    Jun 20, 2024  
2018-2019 Academic Bulletin [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Political Science Major

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At graduation Political Science majors must present a GPA of at least 2.0 in the 46 (or, in some cases, 45) semester hours of required Political Science coursework. All courses toward the major taken at Allegheny College are included in the GPA calculation, with the exception of repeated courses for which only the most recent grade counts. Students other than transfer students may present a total of 16 semester hours toward the major on a Credit/No Credit basis from a) courses taken at other approved institutions or b) specially arranged internships. Any additional credits beyond the 16-credit limit must be approved by the department chair. All other courses must be taken on a letter-grade basis. One AP course (U.S. Politics or Comparative Politics) will be accepted on a Credit/No Credit basis as a substitute for the department’s introductory course, but cannot be used to satisfy the department’s subfield distribution requirement described below.

A major in Political Science leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree and requires the successful completion of 46 semester hours (45 for some double majors) of coursework in Political Science. All majors must present two introductory courses from POLSC 110 , POLSC 120 , POLSC 130 , and POLSC 140 ; students are strongly encouraged to complete these by the end of the sophomore year. Three introductory courses may count toward the major. Majors must also present at least three Political Science courses at the 300- or 400-level. Students must complete one junior seminar from POLSC 580 -POLSC 586 ; generally three junior seminars of varying topics are offered each year. Students must complete the segmented senior project (POLSC 600 , POLSC 610 ; six credits total). Both POLSC 600  and POLSC 610  must be taken on the letter-grade basis.

From the following, all majors must complete three courses each in two categories. Double counting of courses (some courses fall into more than one category) is permitted.

Culture and Politics:

Culture is said to be a key factor in shaping our political lives. The courses below explore political culture in different ways and in different domains, but all share one or more of the following themes:

  1. Culture as norms informing policies, institutions, and behaviors;
  2. Culture as influencing inequalities, movements, and change;
  3. Culture as a politically created and contested terrain.

Globalization and Transnational Politics:

Studies of transnationalism focus on the effects of norms, ideas, people, policies, movements, networks, and institutions that cross national boundaries. Transnational phenomena increasingly challenge how political scientists think about economies, national boundaries, and sovereignty. Studies of globalization examine the intensification of transnationalism. In our classes on globalization and transnationalism, students will learn to:

  1. Investigate the ways that global or transnational forces shape the regional, national, and local arenas and vice versa;
  2. Analyze transnational and global phenomena as contested, uneven, and value-laden;
  3. Evaluate the costs and benefits of globalization for individuals and collectivities.

Institutions and Processes:

Struggles over the rules of the game–institutions and processes–reside at the center of political debates. Institutions structure and constrain the context of political action and policymaking. They are persistent, structured, and comparable across time and political communities and are not politically neutral. Indeed, policy biases can be directly linked to institutional biases that structure the decision-making environment of political actors. As a consequence, policy debates are actually conflicts about which rules and structures are proper and which outcomes are preferred. In courses in “Institutions and Processes” students will:

  1. Explore how institutions emerge, persist, change, and decay;
  2. Examine and explain political behavior that occurs within the context of non-neutral rules and procedures;
  3. Reflect on ways that the preferences of political actors interact with institutions to generate specific policy outcomes.

Policy Studies:

Public policy is the formal realization of ideas, norms, and political objectives through governmental and international actions, rules, and the creation of new organizational forms. Public policy analysis uses methodologies such as case studies, game theory, and statistics to better understand the origin and delivery of public policy. In our classes on public policy, student will learn to:

  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of a policy and to compare systematically across policy options;
  2. Trace the origin of and debate over public policies, looking at how legislative demands, interest groups, constituent interests, and political entrepreneurs all shape the eventual form that policy takes;
  3. Assess the impact of policy on individuals, vulnerable groups, movements, and institutions, as well as on norms and political culture.

Problems in Democracy:

Democracy and the corollary “self-evident truth” that all human beings are created equal has become a widely accepted basis for legitimate government in the modern era. However, the meaning of democracy remains contested. Is democracy simply a form of government, or does it also include social, economic, and cultural practices and institutions? To what extent, and in what ways, does the health and survival of democracy depend upon the character and behavior of citizens? The establishment and preservation of democracy depends upon how we answer such questions, and for that reason, such questions continue to confront democratic theory and practice. In courses on the “problems of democracy,” students will learn to:

  1. Recognize and evaluate competing conceptions of democracy by developing arguments and using evidence;
  2. Identify and confront the challenges of establishing and preserving freedom, equality, and order through democratic practices;
  3. Recognize, confront, and where necessary rework the assumptions, values, and habits/behavior that shape our thinking about democracy and the responsibilities of democratic citizenship.


Major programs may be arranged in combination with other departments. Students who are interested in double majors, or in creating a student designed major, should see Professor Mattiace. Students who wish to declare either a major in Political Science or a combined major involving Political Science should obtain a copy of the junior-senior program from the department. All majors must follow this program. Students are encouraged to discuss with their academic advisors those cognate courses that should be scheduled to enhance the particular focus of the Political Science or combined major they select.

Political Science majors who anticipate applying to the Washington Semester, Washington Center, or similar programs should discuss these plans with their advisor as soon as possible. Those wishing to study abroad or to declare an International Studies major should contact the International Studies program chair, Professor Reeck. All students who wish to take part in an internship should speak with their advisors and the department liaison referred to in the internship descriptions below. Students may offer a maximum of eight semester hours of coursework from internships.

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