School of Humanities & Behavioral Science

Political Science

The Political Science major requires 36 hours including foundational courses, research methods, and an option to concentrate in international politics, comparative politics, or American politics. Majors are expected to complete successfully the foundational classes before attempting upper-division coursework.

Our curriculum begins with required foundational courses you should complete by the end of your sophomore year:

  • Introduction to Politics
  • American National Government
  • Political Science Research Methods
  • Statistics

You build upon the skills, theories, and concepts you learn in the foundational courses through a range of upper-division courses in your junior and senior years. And you complete your studies with a senior capstone course designed to help you synthesize the knowledge and skills you’ve developed in your earlier coursework. According to a 2005 study, this structured curriculum places our program in the top 18.1% of political science programs at smaller colleges and universities in the Midwest.

 

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Program Options

Majors

  • The Political Science major combines the foundational courses with ones in American politics, international relations, comparative politics, political theory, and the law.
  • The Political Science/Philosophy/Economics major integrates an economics curriculum with traditional political science courses and offers concentrations in international political economy and domestic policy and economic problems.

Minor

  • The Political Science minor is an excellent complement to a variety of majors, including business, Christian ministries, communications, global studies, history, the sciences, and social work.
  • The Legal Studies minor is excellent preparation for law school, combining courses from a variety of disciplines to create a pre-law curriculum.
Classes

What courses will I take?

  • American National Government
  • Political Science Research Methods
  • Political Behavior
  • American Foreign Policy

View the complete course listing.

To complement your political science coursework, you should consider completing a minor or second major in one or more of the following:

  • global studies
  • history
  • computer science
  • economics
  • foreign languages
  • information systems
  • journalism
  • math
  • nonprofit leadership
  • peace and conflict transformation
  • philosophy
  • public relations
  • psychology
  • sociology
  • speech communication
  • statistics
  • women’s studies

Coupling courses in political thought and philosophy with the political economy major will produce the equivalent of a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) major. Be sure you meet regularly with your Political Science program advisor who will help you identify the opportunities most relevant to your career and to determine how best to incorporate them into your schedule.

Careers

What kind of jobs can I anticipate after graduation?

  • Activist or Advocate
  • State Legislator
  • Immigration Officer
  • Attorney
Experience

Along with the in-depth courses, students have the opportunity for hands-on learning. Depending on students’ professional career goals, internship experiences at all levels of government or in the legal profession provide invaluable opportunities to learn and become involved in the daily operations of these organizations.

After graduation, our students move on to a law school or an MBA program, join the U.S. Foreign Service or other government agencies, work at museums and national parks, serve in the mission field, or teach overseas.

Skills Development

Our curriculum is designed to help you develop a number of skills that are important to employers. The best way to develop your proficiency with a skill is to use it repeatedly. That’s why you’ll have opportunities to apply these skills in all your Political Science courses rather than encountering them only once.

  • Written communication: Our majors write a lot. They’ll tell you that no program on campus requires more writing than ours. And you’ll do more than learn how to write a traditional research paper. You’ll also write policy memos, briefing memos, position papers, blog posts, and news analyses. You’ll be able to hone your writing skills for a professional audience through our policy practicum or on internships. In Senior Seminar, you’ll collect your best work in an electronic portfolio and make it available to potential employers.
  • Oral communication: Our majors routinely present oral briefings of research or reading they’ve done. Beginning in the sophomore year, you’ll develop your ability to present complex information in a concise and understandable fashion. In your introductory speech class, you’ll probably deliver three speeches. In an ordinary semester, our majors will brief their peers or an external audience 12-15 times. You’ll get good at briefing.
  • Social Media: We understand the growing importance of social media in the information economy, so you’ll learn how to use Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ in a professional manner and how to build a personal brand that’s attractive to potential employers. You start by setting up a professional Twitter account and learning the basics in Introduction to Politics. When you’re in Senior Seminar, you’ll be engaged with experts across the globe who work in your area of interest. In between, you’ll be using social media in every Political Science class. As an example of the work you’ll be doing, check out the Twitter hashtag #AUPOSC.
  • Analytical/quantitative skillsFew political science programs require their majors to complete courses in both research methods and statistics. Ours does. You’ll learn best practices for the visual display of quantitative information, how to create tables and figures to incorporate into your writing and briefings, and how to discuss the meaning of data you encounter. You’ll learn how to read, understand, and brief an audience on work that is statistical in nature. And after the course in statistics, you’ll be asked to do your own quantitative research in upper-division courses. These skills are at a premium in an increasingly big-data world.
  • Critical Thinking: Political Science is theory-driven, meaning it looks for general explanations like why nations go to war rather than particular ones like why the U.S. entered WWI. Because we focus on theory, you’ll constantly be developing your ability to think in the abstract and apply your knowledge to new cases such as explaining why Barack Obama was reelected in 2012 or predicting the outcome of the 2014 congressional elections. You’ll also learn how to evaluate claims made by politicians and pundits so you can reach well-supported positions on important policy issues.
  • Research skills: The ability to find quality information quickly is a skill that’s essential in today’s economy, so you need to be able to do more than library research. That’s why we’ll help you develop information literacy—the ability to use technology to efficiently locate the information that is needed and to evaluate its quality. You’ll be familiar with a wide range of primary sources of economic, demographic, and political data in both the domestic and international arenas, because you’ll be using them regularly for your briefings, research, and projects.
  • Teamwork: Employers place a high value on people who can work effectively on a team. Not only will you learn best practices for effective teamwork, you’ll also have multiple opportunities to use them. You’ll work in teams for in-class activities, briefings, projects—even exams. And you’ll have additional opportunities if you participate in Model UN, College Republicans, College Democrats, or Pi Sigma Alpha.
  • Computer skills: You’ll develop proficiency with Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Google Docs, R, Zotero, and Hootsuite. You’ll also be encouraged to use a variety of productivity tools important to employers, including Google Calendar, Evernote, Dropbox, and task managers. And you’ll be using all of these by the end of your sophomore year.

If you want to know what employers look for in job applicants, see Department of Labor’s Soft Skills to Pay the Bills — Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success.