Feb 27, 2024  
College Catalog 2022-2023 
College Catalog 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Political Science

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Full Time Faculty: Julie Dolan, Paul Dosh, Andrew Latham, Leslie Lavery (Chair), Lisa Mueller, Patrick Schmidt, Wendy Weber

Part Time Faculty: Michael Zis, Della Zurick

The study of political science at Macalester emphasizes making connections between the theory and practice of politics. Concerns range from perennial philosophical or normative issues regarding power, justice, freedom, human dignity and social responsibility to practical political matters such as policy making and public problem solving.

The political science department seeks to cultivate in its students a wide range of practical and scholarly competencies, including several we consider to be centrally important. First, the department seeks to help its majors develop a mature political imagination. By this we mean a capacity to approach important social problems and issues as a political scientist. A mature political imagination includes an ability to envision what constitutes an important political question/issue; to understand the various ways in which a political scientist might address such a question/issue; to conduct social inquiry into that question/issue employing methodologies and techniques appropriate to political scientists; to recognize the partiality of political science questions, explanations and forms of social inquiry and the importance of insights from other disciplines; and an ability to think creatively about humane solutions to the political problems and challenges confronting the world today.

Second, the department seeks to cultivate in its majors specific knowledge competencies. These include both a sound understanding of facts relevant and necessary to the study of political life (including a working knowledge of the key actors, structures, institutions and historical dynamics that constitute the contemporary political order) and a well-developed understanding of the major theoretical trends, perspectives, concerns and debates that have shaped the evolution of the discipline and/or its sub-disciplines over the past several centuries. Political science graduates should be able to engage the world - whether as political scholars or political actors-with theoretical sophistication and confidence.

Third, the department seeks to cultivate in its majors a range of cognitive or intellectual competencies. These include a well-developed ability to think conceptually, critically, synthetically, analytically, and rigorously about the world of politics. The political science faculty believes that the development of these higher-order cognitive skills comprises the core of the department’s collective endeavors.

Fourth, the department seeks to help political science majors develop a number of practical competencies, including:

  • a capacity for close, focused, and critical reading of political texts;
  • an ability to convey information, analysis and persuasive arguments in written and oral forms clearly and effectively;
  • a well-developed capacity for democratic deliberation;
  • a level of numeracy appropriate to a student’s research interests and the demands of contemporary political life;
  • an ability to conduct sound and rigorous social inquiry using appropriate methodologies and techniques;
  • a capacity for effective collaboration with others;
  • a capacity for effective problem-solving;
  • a facility with relevant information technologies

Finally, the department believes that educational excellence in political science should not only involve the development of intellectual capacities, but also the civic competencies required for humane leadership in a multicultural and globalizing world. Cultivating a capacity for effective civic engagement and leadership is central to the goals of a first-class political science program.

General Distribution Requirement

All courses taught by faculty in the political science department count toward the general distribution requirement in the social sciences, except POLI 267 , POLI 268 , POLI 274 POLI 276 POLI 277  and POLI 278  (all of which count as humanities distribution) and internships and preceptorships (POLI 624 , POLI 634 ). Topics courses that are taught by other faculty but cross-listed by Political Science fulfill the general distribution requirement of the offering department.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and U.S. identities and differences will be posted on the Registrar’s web page in advance of registration for each semester.

Additional information regarding the general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements  section of this catalog.

Honors Program

The Political Science department particpates in the Honors Program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the department are available from either the department office or the Academic Programs and Advising Office.

Interdisciplinary Programs

The political science department supports a number of interdisciplinary programs, including: American Studies, Asian Studies, Media and Cultural Studies, International Studies, Latin American Studies, Legal Studies, Environmental Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Urban Studies. Consult both program and departmental advisors.

Topics Courses

POLI 194 , POLI 294 , POLI 394 , POLI 494  

Courses numbered 194, 294, 394, and 494 are Topics courses. These courses address current issues in contemporary political life or offer an experimental course which may later become part of the regular curriculum. For a list of offerings in any given year, consult the College website prior to registration. (4 credits)

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of tutorials, independent projects, internships, preceptorships and Honors independent projects. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum  section of the catalog.


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