Political Science

Bas relief of a sarcophagus in Aphodisias

Political Science Alumni

A number of our alumni have become "movers and shakers" in government, business, and the media. For example:

Other alumni who have gone on to earn the Ph.D. in Political Science are now distinguished professors, deans, pollsters, and officers of prestigious professional associations. Some examples:

  • Dr. John Coleman '82 is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin
  • Dr. David Lake '78 is Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of Social Sciences at the University of California-San Diego and President of the International Studies Association
  • Dr. Virginia Sapiro '72 is Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Boston University
  • Dr. Lee Miringoff '73 is Director of the Marist Poll in New York

Recent Alumni

Six political science alumni share what they have been doing since completing a B.A. at Clark.

 

  • Beverlie SopiepBeverlie Sopiep '10
    Administrative/Technical Assistant
    National Consumer Law Center, Boston, MA

    I still utilize a lot of the research and project management skills I gained as an undergrad… READ MORE »



    • Political Science concentration: Comparative Politics

      What have you been doing since you left Clark?
      After earning a B.A. in Political Science, I went to the 5th year program and received a Master of Science in Professional Communication. Since then I have been working at a national non-profit that focuses on low-income consumer law issues through legal advocacy, research, and policy work. It is a small office so I do everything from development, publishing, providing administrative support, IT and assisting with legal cases and policy work. I'm lucky in that I am able to meet and interact with many different people that have influence on federal and local consumer legislation and public policy.

      How has your time at Clark and in the political science department influenced what you are doing now?
      Having a background in political science has helped me fill in a lot of blanks when I'm at work. It helps that I know how the U.S. government is organized, the names of major political figures and organizations, and something about politics. It is interesting to see how this all impacts the work that my organization does. Without that kind of background I don't think I would appreciate it as much.At Clark, I became a more curious person. Even after college, I'm still trying to expose myself to new ideas and topics by reading, listening to podcasts, and conducting my own research. I still utilize a lot of the research and project management skills I gained as an undergrad in my personal and professional life.

      Did you have one particularly memorable experience as part of your political science major?
      "Political Science Fiction" (my first-year seminar) was by far the most fun class I have ever taken. It was the class that steered me on the path of becoming a political science major. I became more conscious of how political, social, and media systems affect society. What I learned in that class still runs in the back of my mind every time I read a book or watch TV.

      What advice do you have for current undergraduates?
      Graduate with some job experience and different kinds of internships under your belt. Most entry-level jobs require 1-2 years of experience and it helps if you already have that before graduating. One of the most important things I learned at Clark was how to be proactive and self-motivated. Your success after college depends on how well you can find your own opportunities and be informed enough to make decent decisions. While in college you should learn software skills, how to rebound from setbacks and failures, take on more responsibilities, and practice contacting people outside of your comfort zone to create opportunities.


  • Christopher BurtonChristopher Burton '09, M.S.P.C. '10
    Curriculum Designer/Editor/Consultant/Online Teacher
    Mangoi.com, Ansan City, Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea

    My studies at Clark…gave me both a global perspective and a method of problem solving... READ MORE »


    • Political Science concentration: Comparative Politics

      What have you been doing since you left Clark?
      Even before I graduated, I had long had the desire to live abroad. On the advice of a friend who had done it previously, I was hired as an English teacher outside Seoul, South Korea beginning in August 2010. I worked as a classroom teacher to elementary and middle school students for about 18 months. During this time I ingratiated myself with my school's boss, an entrepreneur who subsequently hired me as a trainer and consultant for his internet company. The objective of the company is to sell internet-based videoconferencing classes to Koreans (primarily children) interested in improving their conversation skills. This operation is based in the Philippines. Taking advantage of recent improvements in the internet connection speed between South Korea and the Philippines, the objective of the company is to employ Filipinos as teachers to Korean students, taking advantage of their near-native English proficiency and the low labor cost in the country. My role since May 2012 has been a curriculum developer and trainer for this operation (in addition, I personally teach classes to some of the more advanced students). My responsibilities so far have included developing a curriculum to be used in the conversation classes, conducting observations, and training Filipino staff via videoconferencing. For six months last year I worked part time while I studied Korean for 16 hours a week at Hanyang University College of Foreign Languages. I really enjoy living and working in Asia, and my plan for the future is to use my analytical and teaching skills to work with students who have the desire to study and learn not only English, but also critical thinking skills.

      How has your time at Clark and in the political science department influenced what you are doing now?
      In terms of the content I learned in class, my Political Science degree has not been directly useful to my career as an educator in South Korea. Nevertheless, I am greatly indebted to my Clark education for two reasons. I believe that my studies at Clark in general, and in the Government and International Relations department in particular, gave me both a global perspective and a method of problem solving.

      By "global perspective" I mean the sense that, generally speaking, the world is bigger than America, and different countries and regions have ways of doing things that are quite different from what most people who grow up in the suburbs experience. Differences in no way mean that one way is better than another (if trying to explain the all-day cram studying that is ubiquitous in Korea to Americans sounds difficult, try to explain the epidemic of school shootings to a Korean). A global perspective can teach us about the influence of cultural factors on different societies. Travelling the world is a great experience not least because everyone has something to learn from somebody else.

      By "method of problem solving," I mean a particular approach to professional and personal problems (as a classroom teacher, I have seen many of both arise). I have in mind a method of deep thinking, or finding solutions based on an understanding of context, cause and effect. While this line of thinking was hammered into me in classes with Professors Posner, Sperling and others, with questions about reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the difficulties facing states making the transition to democracy, I find the thought processes of considering context, doing research from different viewpoints, and considering causes and effects to have been invaluable skills in all the work I have done. One concrete example was a 15-page feasibility study that I wrote for my company last year after visiting a prospective office site in the Philippines. In that study, I employed the same principles that I had used in my Clark research papers. More generally though, my Clark education taught me to analyze: to determine facts from context, and, after looking at an issue of concern, to form a well researched, well thought-out opinion.

      Did you have one particularly memorable experience as part of your political science major?
      The opportunity to study abroad in Europe and visit and meet people from some of the countries that I learned about was certainly a memorable experience in my life, and living away from home for eight months undoubtedly prepared me for my much longer stay abroad in Korea after graduating. It was taking Professor Sperling's Transitions to Democracy course that first piqued my interest in many of these ideas and themes, so surely taking that class was a pivotal moment in my life. Since I was something of a news junkie even before coming to Clark, I would credit the opportunity to seriously study (and debate) current events issues in class as a huge influence on the way I look at the news today.

      What advice do you have for current undergraduates?
      You will get out of the degree what you put into it. Much of what you learn studying government and international relations takes place outside the classroom in the readings that you highlight and the research that you conduct. Teachers in class can teach you the methods, but honing your skills of critical thinking and analysis are up to you. In addition I suggest that, as far as possible, think of some useful things you can do with your research. Get practical experience working in the field through Clark clubs and organizations, and if possible secure an internship that is related to your preferred focus of study. If you can make yourself an expert on one particular, relevant, policy area, that will be an asset indeed.


  • Jesse ManutaJesse Manuta '12
    Student in Graduate program in Conflict Resolution, Portland State University
    Portland,Oregon

    The comparative politics concentration… has… given me an ongoing interest in international conflicts… READ MORE »


    • Concentration: Peace Studies

      Political Science concentration: Comparative Politics

      What have you been doing since you left Clark?
      After I graduated from Clark I moved to Yongin, South Korea (about 40 miles southwest of Seoul) to teach English in a Hagwon (private elementary school). I lived there for almost ten months and moved back to the United States to start a graduate program at Portland State University (in Oregon) studying conflict resolution.

      How has your time at Clark and in the political science department influenced what you are doing now?
      While I was a student at Clark I became involved in the Difficult Dialogues program, which led to a fellowship and training as a dialogue facilitator. This experience led to me to seek a graduate program in this area of study. The Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University has been an amalgamation of the work I did with Difficult Dialogues and my study of Political Science. In some of my current classes the research, assignments, and class structure are similar to those of the Political Science classes I took while an undergraduate. I find that I most draw on my capstone seminar, since my graduate level courses involve similar course work and expectations. The experience of writing research papers during my final classes at Clark has been most helpful and relevant to these classes. My other classes at Portland State reflect more on the work I did with Difficult Dialogues, as these classes are more reflection-based and therefore are more challenging on an interpersonal and intrapersonal level. The comparative politics concentration I did at Clark has also given me an ongoing interest in international conflicts.

      Did you have one particularly memorable experience as part of your political science major?
      What comes to mind the most was how during a given semester I was immersed in so many different areas of study. I recall fulfilling a requirement for both my comparative politics concentration and an American politics course that provided an interesting perspective from abroad and at home. This varied coursework prepared me for the work I am doing now and will always keep me interested in the world as a whole.

      What advice do you have for current undergraduates?
      Don't wait! If you want to do something, go somewhere, or study a specific area/subject, just do it. This past term I was talking with a professor in my program about my thesis project and this is what she told me: "The time you spend here [for me it is Portland State, for you it could be Clark or whatever you decide to do after you graduate] doesn't have to be a rehearsal, everything you do now can lead you to where you eventually want to be." This has led me to begin planning my thesis project to be conducted in Uruguay (a place I someday hope to live) to further my interests in dialogue and farming. So don't wait. Do what you love, and go to Annie's [diner] as much as you can because someday you'll be living halfway around the world and wishing you could get a big plate of spicy steak hash!


  • Oana ChiminaOana Chimina '11
    Mergers and Acquisitions Analyst, investment banking
    London, England

    The legacy of my education at Clark is something I am carrying beyond Worcester and the United States… READ MORE »



    • Double major with: French Language and Literature

      Political Science concentration: International Relations

      What have you been doing since you left Clark?
      I got a master's degree in International Relations from Cambridge University the year after graduation. As part of the program I took courses in International Political Economy, Diplomacy, and International Economics. My thesis focused on policy creation in the EU in the context of EU-Russia relations and gas diplomacy in Europe. Following that I took a job in investment banking in London.

      How has your time at Clark and in the political science department influenced what you are doing now?
      Political science teaches a way of thinking that I came to appreciate since leaving college. I have moved away from an exclusive focus on my major; however, the legacy of my education at Clark is something I am carrying beyond Worcester and the United States. At a very basic level, the analysis of global politics and strategy often finds equivalent in daily life. I am now finding it easy to weigh the pros and cons of a situation or to understand others' motives. More generally, the few years spent at Clark have instilled a genuine interest in current affairs and the international arena. In many ways this has become part of who I am and is reflected in my everyday routine, just as is the idea of "challenging convention" which I quickly learned is not to be taken for granted outside Clark and college life.

      Did you have one particularly memorable experience as part of your political science major?
      In 2009 I was offered a Harrington Fellowship to study human trafficking in Romania. I spent the summer in Bucharest doing research and liaising with representatives from one of the Romanian ministries. It was a great opportunity to gain insight into how the government works and particularly how it responds to human trafficking, which is a major issue in Eastern Europe. Romania is both a country of origin and transit for human traffickers so it offers a complex analytical landscape. I then wrote a paper on the topic that I presented to the Clark community.

      What advice do you have for current undergraduates?
      Work hard, respect others, stay focused.


  • Samantha BainbridgeSamantha Bainbridge '10
    Law student, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
    Denver, CO

    After graduation I…became an AmeriCorps member, working for Community Legal Aid (CLA) in Worcester… READ MORE »



    • Minor: International Development and Social Change

      Political Science Concentration: Comparative Politics

      What have you been doing since you left Clark?
      After graduation I turned down a job in the insurance industry and became an AmeriCorps member, working for Community Legal Aid (CLA) in Worcester for a year, serving indigent clients in civil areas of law as a non-attorney representative. I had started volunteering for Community Legal Aid in my last year at Clark after receiving an email through Clark University about the opportunity. Working with CLA made me sure I wanted to pursue a career in the law and I started law school in my home state of Colorado in 2011. I'm in my final semester of law school and beginning the job search.Mini pitch for Community Legal Aid: It's a truly extraordinary organization and I highly recommend volunteering with them if you have an interest in the law and serving marginalized populations. Many of the people there were Clarkies or have Clark connections.

      How has your time at Clark and in the political science department influenced what you are doing now?
      Clark gave me a great basis in social justice and critical thinking. I want to be a public interest attorney, ideally a legal aid attorney, and Clark was always an encouraging environment for people interested in doing what mattered to them, as opposed to doing what just paid well. Many of my comparative politics classes focused on social justice issues. Being surrounded by people who also valued non-profit and social justice work made it a supportive environment.Good professors make all the difference. While at Clark I took all the classes I could from Valerie Sperling. She also served as the advisor for my honors thesis about xenophobia and racism in Russian immigration policy. She taught me so much and pushed me to be a better critical thinker and writer. Those skills have been invaluable in law school. My law school also offers a course in Russian for Lawyers, which has allowed me to continue with this area of interest.The experiences I had at Clark more broadly were extremely formative to the person I am now. After my first year another Clarkie and I went to rural Ghana to do community-based AIDS prevention research for two and a half months. We had our Clark research professor, Dick Ford, present for the first few days but after that it was just us and some local contacts. That experience expanded my world view enormously and made me think on my feet and problem-solve a lot. Although not clearly related to my legal career it remains on my resume because I always get asked about it (a lawyer at one of my jobs said it was what made me stand out to him) and it made me learn so much about myself.

      Did you have one particularly memorable experience as part of your political science major?
      The honors thesis process! I got to push myself to become a better writer, researcher, and thinker. I'm so glad I did. It was a beast to write but a wonderful experience in the end. Plus getting a quote from one of my papers posted on my mentor professor's door was pretty awesome for a nerd.

      What advice do you have for current undergraduates?
      Fall in love with Worcester and get involved both on and beyond the Clark campus. I wish I had done that sooner. Working at Community Legal Aid made me feel like a part of the city. Even if you don't plan to stay, it is a city with plenty of opportunities and unique places to get experience. The professors at Clark are great resources, so find the person or people you like/learn well from and ask for their advice and help.


  • Scott RitnerScott Ritner '05
    Ph.D. candidate, New School for Social Research
    New York, NY

    My first comparative politics class, "Revolutions and Political Violence"…set me on the path that I am on today… READ MORE »


    • Concentration: Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

      Political Science concentration: Comparative Politics, with specific interests in post-socialist transitions (especially Russia and Ukraine), social movements, and techniques of state repression.

      What have you been doing since you left Clark?
      The first thing I did after graduating from Clark was to enroll in the International Masters in Russian Studies Program at the European University of Saint-Petersburg (EUSPb) where I completed a thesis titled "Is Democracy Enough? Tocqueville and the Case for Russia's Next Generation of Civil Society" in 2006. Living in Saint-Petersburg was one of the highlight experiences of my life. My language skills drastically improved, I made life-long friends, and I found myself participating in organizing against xenophobia and racism on a more grassroots level than ever before. After my 18 months in Russia, I moved to New York City to play music and regroup before taking the GREs, which took me about a year longer than I expected. In Fall 2008 I began my studies in political theory at The New School for Social Research in New York. I received an M.A. in Politics from the New School in January 2011 and have continued there with my PhD studies. Over the three semesters from Fall 2012-Fall 2013, I came back to the [now] Political Science Department at Clark as a Visiting Professor (!) and taught one class per semester during that time. I am currently taking some time away from teaching to focus on my dissertation and spend more time with my partner and our puppy.

      How has your time at Clark and in the political science department influenced what you are doing now?
      I can say without flattery or even a hint of truth-bending, that my experience at Clark is the foundation of what I am doing and what I continue to set out to do in my life. Political Science, and comparative politics especially, has served as the intellectual backbone for my continuing studies in political theory and my participation in various activist causes. Additionally, because I have pursued further education, I have been lucky to be able to preserve and continue to develop my relationships with the faculty at Clark—a number of whom have provided excellent debate, feedback, and, at times, the comfort of those who have been through graduate school and understand the difficulties and frustrations of dissertation writing.

      Did you have one particularly memorable experience as part of your political science major?
      There are two, in fact: the first was my first comparative politics class, "Revolutions and Political Violence" with Professor Sperling. This is the class that set me on the path that I am on today. Before taking it in the spring of my first year at Clark, I had taken nothing but English and Music classes, and intended to double major in those subjects. The second was watching the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (in 2004-2005) derail my independent study course on "State Responses to Terrorism in Russia" and turn it into a study of "Russian Responses to Social Movements in the Post-Soviet World." This study later generated the questions underlying my M.A. thesis at EUSPb. There is nothing like watching your project expand in front of your eyes!

      What advice do you have for current undergraduates?
      This is the hardest question, which, I suppose, is why it comes last: I think the first thing would be to question everything, literally everything. Never believe in objective fact, don't take politicians' word for it, don't necessarily take your professors' word for it, definitely don't take the words of administrators, police, or parents as truth. Along with this, don't be afraid to be disagreeable, wrong, or direct. Engage in debate with your friends and colleagues in order to learn every position and how to respond to it, and also to just learn more. Raise a stink if Clark spends money in a way you don't like. On a different note build relationships with the department secretary for your major—it may not seem obvious, but they are the people upon whom the even the continued existence of the buildings rests. And finally, find a mentor among the faculty: trust this person to the point of being able to hear criticism from them. At a place as small as Clark, this can be done. I took full advantage of it and my relationship with Professor Sperling continues today because of this.