Teaching and Mentoring

The Political Science and International Relations faculty are teacher-scholars in the best tradition of the liberal arts. Each of our permanent faculty members has a doctoral degree in the discipline and an active research program. At the same time, they are dedicated to undergraduate teaching through both class-room and co-curricular engagements such as individual studies, research and supervised internships.

In the classroom

Our introductory classes seek to strike a balance between teaching analytical frameworks and employing a combination of pedagogical tools such as group-based activities, discussion of current events and case studies to make sense of how and why political actors behave the way they do in both national and international politics. Our upper level seminars familiarize students with cutting-edge scholarship in Political Science and International Relations. Through these, we introduce students to analytic frameworks in our respective areas of teaching and research and offer them tools to assess decisions and policies and address problems in a variety of issue areas.

The faculty engage students through active learning pedagogical practices such as case studies, debates, simulations and enhance student learning by requiring assessment methods that develop their analytical, speaking, research and writing skills. For example, Professor Davidson’s course on Security and Conflict Studies features a crisis simulation wherein teams of three students make sense of raw intelligence (e.g., a transcript of an intercepted phone call or foreign intelligence service report) on a hypothetical but plausible security crisis. Similarly, Professor Martinez has her students in U.S.-Latin American Politics class simulate meetings at the United States National Security Council. Professor Cooperman’s Women and Public Policy class puts together posters and podcasts as their final project. Students in her Campaigns and Elections freshman seminar produce political advertisements. Professor Gupta uses case studies in her course on International Political Economy to engage students in real-life decision-forcing situations such as access to medicine and responses to economic crises. Our faculty regularly organize guest lectures by scholars from other institutions and practitioners working in federal, state and local governments and agencies, international and non-governmental organizations.

Academic Advising

As soon as our students declare their major, they are assigned to an academic advisor in the department:  our permanent faculty serve as academic advisors. Every semester, our majors meet with their advisors to plan their courses and to get advice on their post-UMW plans.

Undergraduate Research, Individual Study, Internships and Study Abroad

In addition to learning opportunities inside the classroom, our faculty offer multiple opportunities to our students to learn through such high-impact practices such as individual research, supervised internships, study abroad programs and undergraduate research. Each of these build skills that are attractive to future employers and graduate schools.

  • By engaging in individual research, students can pursue an area of interest in greater depth through a semester-long reading or research course in which a faculty member works one-on-one with the student.
  • Study Abroad programs offer students opportunities to earn credits towards a UMW degree while attending a recognized program in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle-East and Latin America.
  • Our students can get hands-on experience in professional settings while earning academic credit through supervised internships.
  • Undergraduate Research (URES) offers our students an opportunity to conduct research as part of a faculty member’s research project while earning credit towards graduation.

Student achievements

By taking advantage of these opportunities, Political Science and International Affairs majors have accomplished the following:

  • Since 1997, Political Science and International Affairs majors have won the highly competitive and prestigious essay competition sponsored annually by Pi Sigma Alpha, the national Political Science Scholastic Honorary, nine times, a feat unmatched by any other academic institution in the country.
  • Our students have co-authored articles with our faculty and have been published in a variety of outlets.
  • Our students also regularly present at various research forums within the UMW campus and win campus-wide writing and research awards.
  • Our students have presented their research at scholarly conferences such as the annual convention of the International Studies Association, the Virginia Social Science Association and at prestigious student conferences such as the Pi Sigma Alpha annual conference.
  • Students write senior theses and honors theses on a variety of topics such as the impact of emotions on political decision-making, curricular choices in public schools and implications for democracy, the participation of Latinas in the U.S. Congress, sexual violence and women’s identity during and after wars, LGBTQ politics in India, state politics and the Affordable Care Act to name a few.
  • Students engage in internships in Fredericksburg, Richmond and Washington D.C. in a variety of fields including communications and media, law, education, health, technology, counterintelligence, advocacy and lobbying among others.
  • Our students have assisted faculty with their research projects on topics ranging from land conservation in Northern Virginia to the history and politics of America’s alliances to India’s relations with China and other neighboring countries.