Political Science

Bas relief of a sarcophagus in Aphodisias

Undergraduate Program Overview

The Political Science Department offers a major, minor and elective courses for non-majors (including courses that fulfill some of Clark’s Program of Liberal Studies requirements).

The major provides a broad introduction to the study of politics as well as the opportunity to gain depth in a subfield of particular interest to each student. Our majors take a research methods course and a normative political theory course that provide them with a broad foundation of concepts and methods for developing their own answers to questions that political scientists ask and for evaluating the validity of answers other people present. Students also take courses in all three of our subfields (American Politics and Public Policy, Comparative Politics, and International Relations). They acquire depth in one of these subfields of their choosing by taking courses at all levels: from the introductory level to advanced capstone seminars in that subfield. Learn more about these areas of study at Clark.

Students must take 13 courses, with flexibility to choose particular courses. Most courses are in the Political Science Department; a few from other disciplines complement the study of politics and explore the relationships between government and other sectors of society. The 13 required courses are: 11 in Political Science, one in Economics and one in History (related to the student’s subfield).

The political science minor requires a minimum of six courses within the department. One must be an introductory course; one must be either in political theory or in research methods; and four others can be in any assortment of subfield areas (including two at the 200 level). An internship supervised by a political science faculty member, as well as approved political science courses taken as part of an accredited study-abroad program, may count toward the minor.

Clark students with Professor Mark Miller

Left: In March 2013, political science majors and pre-law advisor professor Mark Miller attended oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court and then met with the Supreme Court Judicial Fellows at the Administrative Office of the Federal Courts.

Front row, (l to r): Desiree Jerome, '14, Whitney Brown '15, Patrick Burchat '15, Jacob Dinerman '16, Kevin Mawe '16, Daniel Diez '15. Back row: (l to r): Chelsea Salmonsen, '14, Afra Danai '14, Rose Farrell '15, Jeffrey Wasson '14, Ellen Davis '13, Andrew Lloyd '15, Professor Mark C. Miller

Learning Objectives for the Major

Political science students will be able to:

  1. Formulate a research question and a thesis statement
  2. Write a critical literature review
  3. Understand the conceptual foundations and principles of social science research
  4. Identify the steps to follow when the scientific method is used to study political phenomena
  5. Evaluate, articulate, and defend normative claims about political actions and institutions
  6. Understand the relationship between political theory and empirical political science and
  7. Demonstrate good oral communication skills.

Internships

Many of our students do internships during the academic year or over the summer and gain valuable perspectives on government and politics in the “real world.” Our faculty have supervised student internships in the Office of Worcester's Mayor, with city councilors, at neighborhood community development organizations, in the Worcester Area Legal Assistance agency, at local law firms, and with non-profit organizations that offer services to homeless families and individuals, among others. Other students choose to complete an internship at the Washington Center.

Study Abroad or Away

Some of our students take advantage of opportunities to learn more about other countries first-hand by going on study-abroad programs. The Zenovia Sochor Memorial Fund ($500) is awarded annually to a declared political science major studying abroad during the spring semester. Other students enhance their understanding of U.S. politics by spending a semester studying in Washington, D.C.

Senior Honors Thesis Program

In order to graduate with Honors in Political Science, an acceptable senior Honors Thesis must be completed. Majors who have maintained at least a 3.5 average in Political Science major courses (Political Science courses plus subfield related courses) are eligible for admission to the Honors Thesis program. Requirements for the Honors Thesis Program include the submission of an application to the Department’s Honors Committee in the spring semester of the Junior year, participation in the Honors Thesis Colloquium during Fall semester of Senior year, completion of the thesis during the Spring semester of the Senior year (with the approval by the thesis advisor), and review by a committee of at least three faculty members and an oral defense. For more information on the honors thesis guidelines, see Guidelines for the Honors Program.