The politics major is designed to provide a systematic understanding of political power, political processes and political institutions, both in the United States and the world at large. Politics majors gain insight into public affairs; improve their conceptual, analytical, critical and communication skills; and explore normative questions concerning the relation of individuals to governments and of governments to one another. The curriculum offers courses in four fields: American government, political theory, international relations, and comparative politics. The department advises students to divide their work among the four fields, although a concentrated major may be advised in a particular case. The department also recommends substantial coursework in related disciplines such as economics, history, communication or philosophy.
The politics major provides a liberal arts education that fosters responsible civic engagement and an appreciation of diverse political cultures and identities. It prepares students for fulfilling careers in government service, international affairs, education, journalism, community service and business. It also serves the needs of students who seek postgraduate education in political science, the law, public policy and international studies. Students seeking a career in the legal profession will find that the Politics Department’s law-related courses will prepare them with a broad background and specific tools with which to undertake their legal education. See also the Law and Society minor, described below.
Students who expect to pursue graduate study in politics should note that knowledge of foreign languages and/or quantitative reasoning is usually required for a graduate degree. Knowledge of world languages is also particularly important for careers in international affairs. Department faculty advisors assist students in the selection of appropriate courses.
The department participates in several off-campus programs that allow students to combine study with practical experience in public life. Students may arrange to receive academic credit for internships with local agencies, officials or political groups. Students interested in American politics can spend a semester studying at American University in Washington, D.C., which includes an internship with a government agency or interest group.
Ronald Ahnen, PhD, Professor, Chair
Zahra Ahmed, PhD, Assistant Professor
David Alvarez, PhD, Professor Emeritus
Wilbur Chaffee, PhD, Professor Emeritus
Patrizia Longo, PhD, Professor
Stephen Sloane, PhD, Associate Professor Emeritus
Melinda R. Thomas, JD, Professor
Susan C. Weissman, PhD, Professor
Steven Woolpert, PhD, Professor
Students who graduate with a politics major will be able to demonstrate:
- knowledge of institutions, principles and theories of American constitutional democracy
- knowledge of: a) political theory and structure, b) dynamics of political conflict, and c) historical and cultural contexts of political events
- clear and effective analysis of significant political issues
- understanding of, and proficiency in research techniques relevant to political science issues
- commitment to civic engagement
Major Requirements (13 Courses)
The Politics major consists of 13 (1 credit) courses.
Any course listed in this department with a prerequisite assumes a grade of C- or better in the prerequisite course.
Law & Society Minor (6 Courses)
See end of Politics section for requirements.
Law & Society Minor
The Law & Society Minor is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of law and its impact on society. It is designed for students who wish to study how social forces influence the legal system and how the law affects society. The Law & Society minor is open to all undergraduates. Offered by the Department of Politics, the minor helps prepare students for a wide range of professional opportunities in justice-related careers in law and related professions. Courses taken to satisfy students’ major requirements may not also count towards completion of this minor.
Students who successfully complete this minor will:
- DEMONSTRATE understanding of the interrelationships among legal, social, and ethical issues
- DEMONSTRATE understanding of the legal process
- CRITICALLY ANALYZE the role of law in its political, economic and social context;
- DEMONSTRATE skill in oral and written expression and critical thinking
- INTEGRATE theoretical and practical understanding of law and society concepts
Requirements: Students must complete 6 courses, which may be double-counted towards core curriculum requirements. See the list of courses at stmarys-ca.edu/politics/law-and-society-minor/the-law-and-society-minor-curriculum Courses taken to satisfy students’ major requirements may not also count towards completion of this minor. At least 4 courses must be upper-division. The 6 courses shall include the Overview course, one Domestic Justice course, one Global Justice course, one Skills course, one Field Placement course, and one Elective course. The elective may be satisfied preferably by choosing an additional course in either Domestic Justice or Global Justice, or by choosing a course from the list of additional electives. Courses may be taken in any order. Some listed courses have a prerequisite or require instructor’s permission. January Term courses do not count towards the minor requirements.
ProgramsBachelor of ArtsMinor
CoursesPolitics - Lower DivisionPolitics - Upper Division