Political Science (POL)

Academic Catalog 2010–2011

  • Jill Locke, Chairperson
  • Loramy Gerstbauer
  • Christopher Gilbert
  • Asli Ilgit
  • Lori Carsen Kelly (Visiting, 2010–2011)
  • Katherine Knutson
  • Richard Leitch
  • Alisa Rosenthal

The Department of Political Science helps students develop an understanding of political processes, institutions, and the issues and problems of politics. Students learn to think critically about political life in a variety of settings. While the broad areas of study include political theory, comparison of different governments and political organizations, political behavior and institutions, and international relations, the focus of the department is on analytical sophistication rather than simple mastery of a body of facts. The department’s curriculum emphasizes the development of research, writing, and analytical skills.

Because an awareness of other cultures is vital to both an understanding of politics and a liberal arts education, the department urges majors to study abroad as part of their academic program. The department also encourages majors to pursue internships, domestic study opportunities, and relevant courses in other departments. All these experiences complement the department’s curriculum and objectives.

The department values collaboration with students in and out of the classroom. Students participate in faculty research projects, independent research supervised by faculty, and co-curricular activities such as Model United Nations, and Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. Students meet individually with faculty members on a regular basis to discuss academics, career plans, internships, and other curricular and co-curricular activities.

While Political Science courses serve the needs of students contemplating scholarship and teaching in political science, as well as professional careers such as law, business, journalism and public services, the department emphasizes approaches that nurture active, thoughtful, and creative participants in the civic life of their communities.


9 courses in Political Science, chosen in consultation with a departmental adviser, including:

  1. Level I courses: POL-110, POL-130 or POL-150, and POL-160.
  2. POL-200, Analyzing Politics, normally taken in the sophomore year.
  3. One research seminar course, normally taken in the senior year, chosen from a set of Level II or Level III course offerings announced each year. These courses will have limited enrollments and the department chair’s permission is required for registration. Students taking the research seminar to satisfy this requirement will be enrolled concurrently in POL-099 (0 credit).
  4. Four additional courses, only one of which can be a Level I course.

The research seminar course will normally be taken after completion of POL-200 and all required Level I courses. Students should consult with their adviser to determine which research seminar course best fits their interests. Students are permitted to take more than one research seminar course, but enrollment priority will be given to seniors who have not yet completed this major requirement.

A minimum of six courses for the major must be taken from the department offerings. January Interim courses do not count toward the major. No more than one course credit of internship during the fall and spring semesters can count toward the major.

Majors are encouraged, with the help of their advisers, to select relevant courses in other disciplines (particularly the social sciences, philosophy, statistics, history, communications studies, and foreign languages); such courses do not count toward the major, however.

Political Science Major with Honors

The major with Honors option is for those who wish to undertake a significant independent research project as a culmination of their coursework in political science. This opportunity may be particularly attractive for students who intend to enter graduate school in political science or related fields. Honors students work closely with a faculty adviser, think deeply about significant questions, and grow as researchers, writers, and political scientists. Writing a successful Honors thesis demands a considerable amount of time, dedication, and perseverance. Before applying, students must carefully consider the extent of other demands during the two semesters in which they will be working on their thesis.

The Political Science major with Honors is a two-semester program which requires participating students to complete a one-credit independent study (POL 391) as well as one of the research seminars offered by the department each year.

  • Students enrolling in a thesis seminar during the fall of their senior year will complete their independent study during the spring semester of their junior year.
  • Students enrolling in a thesis seminar during the spring of their senior year will complete their independent study during the fall semester of their senior year.

In either case, the supervisor of the independent study will be the faculty member teaching the thesis seminar in which the student plans to enroll.

Participation in the major with Honors program is by application due in the department chair’s office by the end of the second week of January Interim of the junior year for students intending to begin their work in the spring semester of their junior year, or by April 15 of the junior year for students intending to begin their work in the fall semester of their senior year. Applications will be reviewed by the faculty of the Political Science Department. No more than 10 percent of the graduating class of Political Science majors will be accepted into the major with Honors program.

The application must include the following:

  1. A cover letter setting forth the applicant’s reasons for wishing to pursue the major with Honors;
  2. A copy of the student’s transcript or degree audit reflecting a minimum of five Political Science classes completed, a minimum 3.7 GPA in all Political Science courses taken, and a minimum 3.7 overall GPA (these GPA levels must be maintained throughout the program);
  3. A research proposal describing the intent, the topic area, and the method of study;
  4. A writing sample derived from a Political Science course;
  5. The name of the supervising political science faculty member.

Students with an academic offense (e.g., violation of the honor code), determined by standards set by Gustavus Adolphus College academic procedures, will not be eligible for the Political Science major with Honors.

The major with Honors requires the completion of at least 10 courses in Political Science. These include the requirements for the regular major in Political Science as well as the independent study that makes up the first semester of the thesis work.

Other requirements include formal presentation to the department of the thesis research proposal no later than six weeks into the independent study semester. All major with Honors students formally present and defend their completed thesis to political science faculty and interested students in the last two weeks of the semester during which the thesis is completed.


Five courses in Political Science including POL-110, POL-130 or POL-150, and POL-160.


110U.S. Government and Politics(1 course) A course designed to acquaint students with the theory and practice of U.S. government, and to increase their ability to evaluate and analyze our political practices in terms of democratic values. Topics include concepts of democracy, the Constitution, political parties and elections, the three branches of the federal government, and public policy. SOSCI, Fall and Spring semesters.

130International Relations(1 course) This course introduces students to the structures and processes of international politics and surveys the major global issues of our time. The course focuses on the functions of the modern nation-state system and the patterns of conflict and cooperation in contemporary international relations. The purpose of the course is to provide students with a basic understanding of how the international political system works and to help them develop their own perspective on global issues. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. Fall and Spring semesters.

150Comparative Politics(1 course) This course introduces students to the comparative study of a variety of political systems. The course focuses on comparative analysis of various aspects of political systems, including historical legacies, political culture and society, political institutions and parties, citizen participation and group formation, leadership, and policy-making. Political systems are also evaluated in terms of their performance in economic development, political stability, and political change. Countries studied include: Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Japan, India, Mexico, and Nigeria. SOSCI, Fall semester.

160Political and Legal Thinking(1 course) This course introduces students to major themes in political and legal thought (e.g., justice, authority, power, inequality, democracy, and the rule of law) through ancient, modern, and contemporary readings. Competing interpretive approaches, historical and political context, and intended audience of the readings will be considered. HIPHI, Fall and Spring semesters.

200Analyzing Politics(1 course) This course introduces students to the discipline of political science. Basic definitions of the political process and the fundamental concepts used in studying politics are discussed. The course acquaints students with how political scientists think about society and provides a basis for more sophisticated research and understanding of empirical political theory, as well as skills for analyzing political and social issues. Students also will explore the use of statistics and quantitative methods to address research questions. Prerequisite: Open to sophomore and junior majors, others with permission of instructor; completion of Level I major requirements is recommended. Normally, majors should complete POL-200 before taking additional Level II and Level III courses in the department. Fall and Spring semesters.

215Political Parties and Elections(1 course) A study of the nomination and election of political candidates, with emphasis upon American presidential and congressional races. Political parties are examined from the viewpoint of their organization, voters, and government officials. Fall semester.

220U.S. Public Policy(1 course) Public policies impact the lives of American citizens every day but rarely do we stop to think about the factors influencing the development or implementation of those policies. This course examines the process of policymaking and the effects of public policy in America. Using the stages model of policymaking as a guide, this course explores the components of public policy development and implementation from a theoretical perspective while emphasizing the impact of policymakers and the role of attention in the policy process. The second half of the course focuses on several important policy topics in American politics including, among others, crime, welfare, agriculture and nutrition, education, health, and morality policy. Prerequisite: POL-110. Spring semester.

230Latin American Politics(1 course) In the last two decades much of Latin America has overthrown authoritarian military regimes and is again on a democratic path, yet Latin America can also boast some of the most violent cities in the world and the countries with the greatest income inequalities. This course takes a comparative look at political institutions and processes in several Latin American nations. We explore dominant themes in regional politics, such as transitions to democracy, economic crisis and reform, dealing with human rights abuses, the interests of indigenous peoples, the Catholic Church, and the role of the United States in the region. Spring semester.

240Resistance and Liberation(1 course) This course will highlight theories of resistance and liberation in politics. We will consider the nature of oppression, the agents of change, the means of resistance, and the ends of liberation from the perspectives of liberalism, Marxism, and feminism, among others. Who is oppressed? How do class, race, and gender intersect? Do we internalize what is perceived as normal by society? Are there any objective standards that we can use to critique cultural practices? Are “dirty hands” inevitable in politics? Is violence or non-violence the best means to liberation? Can truth lead to reconciliation? On what foundation do we build the just society? The writings of Martha Nussbaum, Alison Jaggar, Angela Davis, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Frantz Fanon, Mohandas Gandhi, and Desmond Tutu will be among those discussed. Based on their own values, students will develop their own theories of resistance and the ideal state in this discussion-oriented course. Spring semester.

244, 344Topics in Political Science(1 course) This course offers an in-depth analysis of a special topic in political science. The subject matter varies, but always focuses on some of the central concepts and problems of politics, such as the tension between freedom and social order, developing democratic institutions, the analysis of power and authority, and political ethics. Offered periodically.

250The Politics of Developing Nations(1 course) The gap between the rich and poor on a global scale and within domestic contexts is growing. As students of politics, this should concern us. What role does government play in the quality of life of the people of the Third World? This course surveys the politics of the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. We examine the networked causes of human suffering in these nations: poverty, violent conflict, culture, corruption, and political and economic instability. We will evaluate the conflicting theories about the North-South gap and how to bridge it. Who is to blame for Third World conditions? How do Third World regimes impede human dignity? How has the international power structure through colonialism and neocolonialism contributed to Third World stagnation and/or progress? Prerequisite: Either POL-130 or POL-150 is recommended. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. NWEST, Fall semester.

255East Asian Politics and Development(1 course) This course introduces students to domestic and international politics, economic development, and social change in selected East Asian countries. East Asian politics and development are studied with respect to historical legacies, society and culture, political institutions, economic development, and foreign relations. The course focuses on the nations of China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, but will occasionally include nations in Southeast Asia. Prerequisite: Either POL-130 or POL-150 is recommended. NWEST, Spring semester.

260Environmental Politics(1 course) This course is an introduction to the theories, themes, selected issues, and contending viewpoints of environmental politics, from both a domestic and international perspective. By the end of the semester, course participants will appreciate how the environment has become “politicized” and the conflict over it pluralized; recognize the major actors in the policymaking process, their positions, and their strategies; understand the potential and limits of conflict and cooperation among these competing actors; and realize what can and is being done as part of this process. Fall semester, odd years.

265Classics in Political Thought: Ancient and Medieval(1 course) Is tragedy a suitable allegory for contemporary politics? What is the role of philosophy in public life? How does the rise of Christianity affect the ancient ideal of politics? Students in this course explore the development of the Western political tradition from the time of the Greek city-state to late-medieval Christendom. HIPHI, WRITI, Fall semester.

275Classics in Political Thought: Modern(1 course) What does it mean to speak of modern politics? How did the Reformation contribute to the rise of secular authority? What happens to liberalism when its rights and obligations are extended to women? How are political liberty and economic liberty linked? Students in this course consider the development of European political thought from the early 16th century to the mid-19th century. HIPHI, WRITI, Spring semester.

280Democracy and Citizenship(1 course) Democratic ideas are typically traced to the ancient Greek polis, whose citizens were few, homogeneous, and male. But the idea of democracy as government by citizen-rule has been expanded significantly beyond the scope of the original polis. This course will examine the meaning, promise, and limits of democracy and citizenship in light of changes in contemporary social and political conditions: the decline of face-to-face interaction, the advent of the World Wide Web, global trade, and persistent, if not increasing, social and economic inequities. We will contemplate the problems and dilemmas facing democratic citizens through a study of historical and contemporary texts. Prerequisite: senior status and permission of instructor to satisfy research seminar requirement; juniors may register with permission of instructor. Spring semester.

285Sex, Power, and Politics(1 course) This course explores the impact of sex/gender on law, policy, and social movements as well as the ways in which questions of race, class, religion, and nationality shape our understanding of sex/gender. Issues discussed may include (but are not limited to) HIV/AIDS policy, prostitution, pornography, gay and lesbian rights, women’s rights, sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and reproductive rights. Fall semester.

290Jurisprudence(1 course) What is law? What is the purpose of law? What is the basis of law? Is there such a thing as natural law and if so, what is its relationship to civil law? Who gets to say what the law is? Must we always obey the law? Should we use the law to make us better human beings? What is the relationship between freedom and law? Why do we punish lawbreakers in the way that we do? Do we have equality under the law in the United States? In this course we will take up these and other questions as we approach the law in philosophical and moral terms. Offered annually.

312The U.S. Congress(1 course) This course examines the formal structure of Congress, the constraints and challenges faced by members of Congress, the nuances of the legislative process, and the concept of representation through traditional readings, lectures, and discussions as well as through a semester-long Web-based legislative simulation in which students take on the duties of a member of Congress. Prerequisite: POL-110. Fall semester, odd years.

318The American Presidency(1 course) This course examines the role of the U.S. President both theoretically, and in historical context. Beginning with the constitutional provisions establishing the office of the presidency, this course covers the duties and responsibilities of the president, the relationship of the president with other branches of government, the expansion of presidential powers, the development of the modern executive office, and the impact of the mass media on the presidency. Prerequisite: POL-110 or HIS-130. Fall semester, even years.

320State and Local Politics(1 course) This course explores the central contemporary issues in U.S. state and local politics, focusing on government institutions and processes, interest group activity, federalism, and future challenges. The course will have a primary but not exclusive focus on Minnesota politics. Spring semester, even years.

325Religion and Politics in America(1 course) This course offers an intensive analysis of the many connections between religion and the American political system. Students will first consider religion’s historical role in shaping American political culture. Other topics to be covered include the constitutional relationship between church and state, the religious dimensions of American political behavior, religious influences on political institutions and decision makers, religious interest group activity and its impact on public policy, and the salience of religious factors in contemporary politics. Prerequisite: junior or senior status. SOSCI, Spring semester, odd years.

330International Relations Theory(1 course) This is an advanced course in international relations, focusing on various theories of international politics and the central features of the international political system. Major theoretical perspectives and topics covered include: Realism—power, balance of power, conflict, and war; Pluralism—interdependence, transnationalism, international organization, and decision-making; Globalism—imperialism, dependence, world economy, and historical change. Normative questions in international relations theory also are examined. These topics are explored through discussion and criticism in a seminar format. Prerequisite: POL-130 and junior or senior status. Spring semester, odd years.

340Issues for U.S. Foreign Policy(1 course) What priorities and goals drive United States foreign policy? Does the United States use its military might and economic wealth to champion freedom and opportunity for all in the globe or rather to build and defend its own land of prosperity? This course challenges students to think about what the current role of the United States is in our world and what this role ought to be. How have U.S. foreign policy goals evolved historically? What are the major determinants of foreign policy decisions? What impact can citizens have on these decisions? Current foreign policy issues will be debated, encouraging students to develop their own positions. This course counts toward the Peace Studies minor. Spring semester.

350Seminar in Comparative Politics(1 course) This advanced course in comparative politics addresses various current topics and theoretical issues in the comparative field. Topics may include patterns of democratization, the transition from socialism to market economy, theories of the State, ethnicity and nationalism, policy-making in advanced industrial societies, and cultural and historical analysis. Topics are examined in a broad comparative framework and explored through discussion and criticism in a seminar format. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing; POL-150 recommended. Spring semester, even years.

268, 368Career Exploration, Internship(Course value to be determined) Off-campus employment experience related to the student’s major. See description of the Internship Program. Prerequisite: junior or senior status. Offered Fall and Spring semesters and Summer.

380Feminist Political Thought(1 course) This seminar explores how feminist political thought has challenged, strengthened, and disrupted dominant trends in political science and political theory. Through readings, papers, and presentations, we will analyze central debates in the history of feminist political thought (e.g., “equality/difference” and “category of women”) as well as the most current trends in feminist scholarship. Prerequisite: POL-160, PHI-102, GWS-118, or consent of instructor. Spring semester.

390Constitutional Law: Institutional Powers and Constraints(1 course) This course is one part of a two-semester study of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. The course analyzes major U.S. Supreme Court decisions and their historical and doctrinal effects, focusing primarily on institutional powers and constraints of the federal and state governments. Specific attention will be paid to the Court’s decisions concerning judicial review of legislation and executive action, express and implied powers of federal and state governments, relationships among the three branches of government, and the effect and importance of the commerce clause. Prerequisite: POL-110 and junior or senior status. Fall semester, odd years.

291, 391Independent Study in Political Science(Course value to be determined)

395Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties(1 course) This course is one part of a two-semester study of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. The course analyzes major U.S. Supreme Court decisions and their historical and doctrinal effects, focusing primarily on the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment. Specific attention will be paid to the Court’s decisions concerning race, gender, privacy, free speech, religion, punishment, and political representation. Prerequisite: POL-110 and junior or senior status. Spring semester.