Our goal is to provide students with a deep understanding of the core concepts and practices of politics and government while developing the analytical, research, and writing skills that enable them to think critically and creatively about existing structures of power and privilege. In doing so, we hope to nurture a life-long fascination and engagement with the political realm.
The Political Science Department provides students with an opportunity to explore politics and government from multiple vantage points—at the grassroots, the nation-state, and the global community—and from a variety of theoretical, conceptual, comparative, historical, and experiential perspectives.
We aim to:
- provide students with a broad background in the discipline of political science, including its multiple methods and subfields as well as substantive knowledge (i.e., facts, concepts, theories, etc.) about different debates and topics within the discipline.
- guide students so they can make pathways through the curriculum in ways that reflect an accumulation of learning and that help them develop a greater level of mastery over at least one body of scholarship within political science.
- cultivate critical, analytic and synthetic thinking about local, national, international and transnational politics, as well as about the nature of political power, governance, citizenship, and justice.
- help students acquire the skills of communication, collaboration, and listening necessary for effective participation within an intellectual community.
- train students to carry out sustained independent research.
- prepare students to become informed and reflective citizens who are knowledgeable about the forces that shape political life.
We offer courses in the five subfields of political science at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. We coordinate our offerings with those at Bryn Mawr in order to provide a wide range of subjects.
Courses fall into the following five subfields:
- American Politics (A): major institutions; bureaucracy; discrimination; urban politics and urban policy; and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in relation to American politics.
- Comparative Politics (C): politics and governments throughout the world; women and politics; comparative political economy; human rights; civil war and revolution; and transitions to democracy.
- International Relations (I): international political economy and international security; the state system; international organizations; causes of war, terrorism, peace-building, and reconciliation; and American foreign policy.
- Globalization and Global Governance (G): cosmopolitan theory; democracy and global governance; capitalism and its critics; global economy; global civil society and global justice movements.
- Political Theory (T): justice, equality, and liberty; power, authority, and order; democratic theory; American political thought; feminist theory; and politics and culture.
- Two of the following 100-level courses to enter the major: POLS 121, 131, 151, 161, and 171. These courses must represent two different subfields.
- Six elective courses taken above the 100 level.
- A 300-level research seminar, taken in the department during the fall semester of the senior year. (This is in addition to the six elective courses described above.)
- A combination of introductory and elective courses that includes representation of three of the five subfields, with work at the intermediate or advanced level in at least two subfields.
- Students may count some courses in either of the two subfields but not in both.
- With the consent of a member of the department, students may substitute two or three intermediate- or advanced-level courses from another department for the third subfield, where this serves to complement and strengthen the student’s work within the department. For example, a student concentrating in international politics might offer international economics courses as a subfield; a student in comparative politics might offer courses in an area study; a student in political theory might offer social and political philosophy courses; or a student in American politics might offer social policy courses. Students can count such substitutions towards fulfilling the subfield requirement only. They cannot count these towards political science course credit and cannot use them to fulfill the introductory, elective, and seminar requirements outlined above.
- All senior majors write a thesis and complete an oral defense of the thesis through enrollment in POLS 400.
- Four courses outside political science at Haverford or Bryn Mawr College that relate to the major. Examples of possible interests around which courses could cluster are: American or other area studies; political and social theory; international affairs; environmental policies; urban affairs; intermediate and advanced foreign language work related to work in the major; or courses from one or more of the other social sciences.
The goal of the senior thesis is to promote the ongoing acquisition of research and analytical skills, as well as the ability to carry out extensive projects independently and consistent with the highest standards of excellence. Many political science departments offer a senior thesis option to select students as part of an honors program, but at Haverford the senior thesis is required of all of our majors. We are one of the few political science departments in the United States to do so because we firmly believe that designing, implementing, and interpreting the results of an original project develops important skills and aptitudes that will be valuable to our students as they pursue post-graduate study and a multitude of career paths and as they live their lives as thoughtful and engaged citizens.
A detailed description of the format, goals, and assessment criteria for the senior experience can be found in the complete departmental statement in the Catalog (PDF).
Requirements for Honors
The department awards honors to senior majors who have demonstrated excellence in their coursework in political science and their senior thesis. The department may grant high honors to a select number of senior majors who have attained an outstanding level of distinction in their political science courses and senior thesis.
The department encourages students to spend a semester or a year studying abroad. Credit for courses taken abroad will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Students will need to provide documentation about the content (e.g., syllabi, papers, and exams) of courses taken abroad.
Research & Fieldwork
Faculty have conducted research in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and students have had opportunities to assist faculty members with field research in places like Guatemala and Mali. The department encourages students to supplement their classroom work by studying abroad or applying for a grant from the College’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship to undertake internships in other countries.
The department awards up to four prizes annually:
The Emerson L. Darnell 1940 Prize Fund: Named in honor of Emerson Darnell, a Quaker alumnus who dedicated his life’s work to advocating peaceful social change and defending the civil rights of the individual. The prize is awarded annually to the student who presents the best paper demonstrating an appreciation of the Bill of Rights as the foundation of American law and the very fabric of American society.
The Harold P. Kurzman Prize: Awarded for the senior who has performed the best and most creatively in political science course work.
The Stephen H. Miller Memorial Award: Presented in honor of Stephen H. Miller ‘62, who lost his life while serving his country and his fellow man in South Vietnam while taking part in village development as a member of the United States Information Agency. This award is presented to the graduating senior in political science who best exemplifies the ideal of political involvement and social service expressed in Miller’s life and career.
The Herman M. Somers Prize in Political Science: Given in recognition of the research and teaching of Red Somers. Awarded to the graduating senior(s) who presents the best senior project that reflects the interest in policy, respect for evidence, and the humane concern for improving society that characterized Somers’ work.