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Major in Political Science (B.A.)


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Power and the people

Understanding the policies and decisions that shape your life on the local, national, and international level requires keen insight and expert analysis. The bachelor of arts degree in political science from Clark University helps you explore this dynamic subject across three crucial areas — American politics and public policy, comparative politics, and international relations — in the context of a foundational liberal arts education.

As a political science major, you’ll investigate a range of issues that reverberate within and beyond Clark’s campus, including civil liberties, human rights, elections, and globalization. In line with our focus on action-based learning, you’ll collaborate with faculty members and peers to drive positive change through your research, internships, and service projects, at home and abroad.

Catalog Requirements for:

Why Study Political Science at Clark?

  • Engage in hands-on learning experiences like Clark’s highly successful Mock Trial team and Model United Nations program (one of the top 15 in the country), where you can compete in conferences at Yale, Harvard, Mount Holyoke, and other colleges.
  • Apply to participate in a faculty-led trip to Washington, D.C., to attend oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, and meet with professionals from a range of judicial agencies and Clark alumni who are lawyers.
  • Apply to the department’s Harrington Public Affairs Fellowship Program, which funds several political science majors each year as they conduct original research on politics and public policy, as well as service projects.

The Political Science Path

A minimum of 13 courses are required to complete the political science major. Foundational classes in research methods and political theory will show you how to articulate, evaluate, defend, and rebut answers to the questions that political scientists ask. You’ll choose a subfield of political science (American politics and public policy, comparative politics, or international relations), taking courses from the introductory level to an advanced capstone seminar. Classes outside your subfield, as well as Economics and the World Economy and a course in history, will broaden your knowledge base. You’ll have flexibility in your course selection.

Qualified students can join the Clark chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society.

American Politics

The American Politics and Public Policy subfield includes study of basic political and governmental institutions, major political processes, and important patterns of political behavior. Subfield specialists become familiar with each of these three broad areas, learning how the political system operates, why public policy emphasizes particular values and allocates certain resources to different groups and individuals, and who benefits and who loses in policy outcomes in policy areas such as housing, the environment, and the economy. The federal structure of American government and the diversity of the American population also require familiarity with state politics, urban and suburban politics, law and politics, African-American politics, and women and politics.

Comparative Politics

Comparative politics has two intertwined meanings at Clark:

  1. It means immersion in the study of politics in two or more countries other than the U.S., and
  2. It means deliberately comparing important factors, such as elites or policy-making processes in two or more countries.

Subfield specialists are given the chance to delve into politics experienced by elites and ordinary people inside other countries. While the U.S. is intentionally kept off center stage in comparative politics courses, most of them raise specific questions about American politics—its policies, experiences, and assumptions—as they are seen from the vantage point of people in other countries. The study of comparative politics alerts the specialist to the varieties but also the surprising similarities in how power is gained, and how it is justified and wielded in different countries.

International Relations

Political Science majors who specialize in international relations address global politics at two intersecting levels:

  1. formal state-to-state behavior in terms of diplomacy, war and peace, intervention, law, and organization; and
  2. translation of global interactions in terms of trade, development, social movements, refugees, human rights, ecology, and media.

Subfield specialists engage in rigorous theoretical investigations of competing analytic traditions as they attempt to explain ongoing problems of world order. Some of these problems are local, such as boundary disputes; some are regional, such as regional economic integration; and some are global, such as poverty, the greenhouse effect, or militarization. Similarly, the actors in world politics are diverse: national governments, sub-national governments, international organizations, private interest groups, social classes, and religious movements.

Morris H. Cohen Prize for Excellence in American Political and Public Policy
The Morris H. Cohen Prize was established to honor Morris H. Cohen, who joined the Government Department faculty at Clark University in 1947, and, who until his death in 1990, set the highest standards in teaching. He always had a deep concern for all facets of undergraduate learning and undergraduate education and who, after retirement in 1989, remained an active member of the Clark University community by directing the Clark Washington Semester Program at American University. The prize is given to recognize the outstanding government major at the beginning of his or her senior year.

Sallie Robinson Holthausen Prize for Excellence in International Relations
The Sallie R. Holthausen Prize was established in honor and memory of Sallie R. Holthausen, a member of the class of 1958, by her family and friends. The prize is given annually to an outstanding Political Science student for excellence in the subfield of international relations.

The Zenovia Sochor Memorial Fund
The Zenovia Sochor Memorial Fund is awarded annually by the Political Science Department to declared Political Science majors or minors studying abroad in spring, preferably in an Eastern European country. Professor Zenovia Sochor taught comparative politics courses at Clark for almost two decades. She was known by students and colleagues as a gifted scholar, a valued friend, and a caring mentor. Alumni, friends, and colleagues created the Zenovia Sochor Memorial Fund to provide support to Clark students for study abroad experiences.

Irving and Edith Wilner Prize for Best research Paper in American Politics
The Irving and Edith Wilner Prize was established by Irving Wilner, class of 1932, to award a student who has published on a topic of practical significance in the improvement of the functioning of American political institutions.

Chair’s Prize for Excellence in Comparative Politics
Annual award given to an outstanding political science student for excellence in the subfield of comparative politics.

Skills you will learn include how to:

  • Conduct political science research using appropriate data and methods
  • Formulate a research question and a thesis statement, and write a critical literature review
  • Use evidence to articulate and defend arguments about the relative merits of political actions, policies, and types of political institutions
  • Analyze and evaluate arguments and statements made by both scholars and political actors
  • Communicate effectively in both written and oral form

During your junior year, you might be accepted into the political science honors program. Joining the program means you’ll work closely with a professor to create a thesis on a topic of your choice. Examples of recent honors thesis topics are:

  • LGBT Politics and Migration in Latin America: The Case of Argentina as a Safe Haven for Gender and Sexual Minorities
  • From Trials and Truth to Amnesty and Amnesia: Transitional Justice in Argentina and Spain
  • Anti-American Propaganda in Cuba: Stability through Fear
  • Theravada Buddhism’s Political Significance under the Military Junta (1992-2011) and President Thein Sein’s Democratizing Government (2011-) in Myanmar
  • Overriding the Tax Revolt: An Exploration of Why a Majority of the Voters in Some Massachusetts Cities and Towns Have Voted for Higher Property Taxes

Building your foundation

The Clark Experience

We structure our curriculum around Liberal Education and Effective Practice (LEEP), which connects classroom learning with action through world and workplace experiences.

Learn More

Faculty and Programs in the Department of Political Science