Why Study Political Science?

Monroe Hall

Monroe Hall – Home to the Political Science and International Affairs Department

Are you interested in law, policy, trade, social politics, and/or political thought? This major would be perfect for you! Political scientists can change the world with just a thought.

If you have a specific question, click on the section your question falls under here:

If you just want to learn more about the major, scroll through the sections! And, if you have a question that is not answered here, explore the website and write to our chair, Professor Elizabeth Larus.

 

What is Political Science?

Political Science scholars are primarily interested in understanding the role of power, material and other interests and political institutions in society.

  • Why do we have certain political institutions  – say a bicameral legislature – and not others? What impact do they have on our politics and policy?
  • What political factors explain the variations in levels of economic development within our country?
  • How does the media affect politics?
  • Why are we so far from achieving proportionate representation that gives voice to women, people of color?
  • Should religion be taught in schools?
  • Are presidential or parliamentary systems better in efficient policymaking? Is efficiency important or is equity?
  • Why is it easier to change policies in some issue areas and not in others?
  • And finally, why does this all matter?

Political science students are curious about the world around them. Here are some student testimonies for why they chose the Political Science major:

“I chose to study political science because in my very first political science class, Introduction to Political Science, the professor asked us “why are roads in some countries curved and in others straight? Well democracies have curved roads and authoritarian governments tend to have straight roads. Now tell me, why?” Just a small thing like roads affects how we live our daily lives and they are created based on what is important to a country’s government and who has power. This one lesson made me want to learn more about and be involved in how our daily lives are shaped by politics.”

“I decided to take political science because I wanted to increase my knowledge of our government, as well as our relations with other powers. I also found it interesting as a study of people, specifically people in power and how when given power how they deal with situations that affect the well being of not only themselves but the millions of people that rely on them.”

“I was drawn the political science because I enjoyed learning to trace how institutions and incentives push people to act. I also found the classes challenging and rewarding. I am going to law school in fall 2020 and I made the decision to go because of the classes I took here at UMW. They gave me the tools to understand and appreciate the arguments presented in legal cases; and they prepared me to give those arguments as well.”

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What will I learn from political science and international affairs courses?

The department faculty are teacher-scholars in the best tradition of the liberal arts. Each of our permanent faculty has a PhD in their field and has an active research program. Above all, they are dedicated teachers who engage their students inside and outside the classroom in learning and research using innovative pedagogy. From their experienced professors, political science and international affairs students hone and learn to utilize the following skills, all highly sought after by employers and graduate schools:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Analytic writing skills
  • Nonpartisan discussion skills
  • In-depth research skills
  • Clear presentation skills

They learn to look at the world and understand how and why it operates the way it does. They learn to critically assess policies and events around us. You can expect to learn about the foundations of political theories, the interplay between citizens and their governments, why countries have different political systems, how to present your ideas factually and persuasively, and how to apply all that you’ve learned to your life and the world around you.
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What can I do as a political science major?

International Affairs majors have many co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities available to them. They participate in research and study abroad. They engage in the UMW community through clubs and organizations, volunteer in the Fredericksburg community, intern in Fredericksburg, Richmond and Washington D.C.

Extra Curricular

Political Science students like to be involved in the UMW community and engage in civic action. There are many opportunities on campus to utilize your skills and meet like-minded peers:

  • Citizens for Democracy
  • Young Democrats
  • College Republicans
  • Pre-Law Club
  • UMW Mock Trial
  • Women’s and Gender Studies Student Association
  • The Center for Leadership and Media Studies
  • Feminists United
  • Young Americans for Freedom
  • NAACP @ UMW
  • UMW Votes
  • And many more!

Co-Curricular

Political Science Study Abroad

All UMW students have the opportunity to study abroad, but as a Political Science student study abroad takes on a new meaning. Despite where you go or what you study there, you see things through the lens of a political scientist. If you are interested in going abroad with a specific focus on political science, you might want to look carefully at these programs:

Honors and Research

A Political Science degree from UMW is highly distinguished. Our majors have many opportunities available to them. Some examples are:

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What can I do with a political science degree after college?

Studying political science at UMW is also unique because of its close proximity to Washington D.C. and Richmond. There are many connections to jobs and internships in our national and state governments. For a more in-depth look at possible internships, click here.

  • Hill senate and house offices
  • State senate and house offices
  • Various Government Departments
  • Intelligence Agencies
  • Federal, state and local government Agencies
  • Lobbying firms
  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Corporations
  • Political campaigns
  • And many more!

Students who study political science can take a variety of paths after graduation. Politics is in everything from the Hill to your community. For a more in-depth look at possible careers, click here.

  • Top graduate programs
  • Top law programs
  • Peace Corps
  • Policy Analyst
  • Government Affairs
  • Ambassadors
  • Political Reporter
  • Campaign Managers
  • Social Media Manager
  • Community Organizer
  • Lobbyist
  • Political Mapping/GIS
  • Public Relations
  • Political Consultant
  • Legislative Assistant

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What is happening in the field?

Current prominent research happening in political science:

  • Gender and party politics
  • Impact of social network on politics
  • Politics of alliances
  • Voters and fake news
  • Political Polarization
  • Foreign policy and competition for influence
  • Trade and American politics

Our faculty is very involved in cutting edge research. They each specialize in subfields within political science; if you have a certain interest you can learn from and aid a professor in their research. To learn more about our excellent faculty and their research interests, click here. To find professor’s contact information, click here.

Students are also encourage to participate in research by doing an honors thesis or independent study. They work hands on with a professor to dig deeper into their own interests and develop their ideas through research. To see a list of Spring 2020 honors theses and individual studies, look at our Spring 2020 Newsletter. Or, click here to learn more about student research opportunities.
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What if I am also interested in another major?

One of the great things about UMW’s liberal arts education is the ability to learn a variety of things. The political science and international affairs department offers a minor that pair well with a political science major and/or international affairs major, but there are many others that work well with the major as a double major or minor.

If you are interested in any of these fields and political science or international affairs, consider double majoring or minoring! Reach out to the department with any questions you have and figure out what is best for you.
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