Jun 25, 2024  
2023-2024 Academic Catalog 
2023-2024 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]


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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

Zahra Ahmed, PhD, Assistant Professor

Patrizia Longo, PhD, Professor, Chair

Melinda R. Thomas, JD, Professor Emerita

Susan C. Weissman, PhD, Professor Emerita

Steven Woolpert, PhD, Professor Emeritus

David Alvarez, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Wilbur Chaffee, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Stephen Sloane, PhD, Associate Professor Emeritus

Barbara Mc Graw, JD, PhD, Professor of Social Ethics, Law, and Public Life

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate with a politics major will be able to demonstrate:

  • SUBSTANTIVE KNOWLEDGE: Politics (POL) students will graduate with substantive knowledge of basic political concepts and systems. It is our goal that POL students will understand the institutions, processes and values that shape politics within and among states and be able to apply that knowledge to the world. It is also our goal that students understand the major theories, concepts, foundations, and methodologies used in the study of politics.
  • CRITICAL THINKING, WRITING AND RESEARCH SKILLS: POL students will graduate with the ability to think critically about political concepts and systems. It is our goal that POL students will demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge of politics by using the major analytic and theoretical frameworks in several subfields of politics. It is also our goal that students be able to formulate questions and evaluate arguments and hypotheses based on these frameworks.
  • ENGAGEMENT IN POLITICS: It is our goal that POL students are prepared for active citizenship and begin to develop an ongoing interest in national and global politics.

Prerequisite Grade

Any course listed in this department with a prerequisite assumes a grade of C- or better in the prerequisite course.

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.

Learning Outcomes

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 https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/academics/liberal-arts/politics/law-society-minor 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.


    Bachelor of ArtsMinorCertificate


      Politics - Lower DivisionPolitics - Upper Division

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