The goal of the Political Science Department is to help build within students the knowledge, skills, and desire to be life long public and global citizens. Students are challenged to think critically about their beliefs and understandings of the world around them, while developing the language, analytical and writing skills necessary for them to present these ideas effectively to others. Beyond the classroom we hope to provide students with the inspiration and opportunities to engage with politics in its multiple forms and locations.
The Political Science Department emphasizes small classroom learning situations. Aside from the introductory courses, and occasional special offerings, classes typically will have no more than 25 students. In all of our courses, students come to know different members of the faculty personally and become familiar with different approaches to the study of politics.
Throughout our curriculum we promote active learning where students are expected to engage in the intellectual enterprise of discussing ideas with their peers and professors.
To further facilitate classroom engagement several faculty utilize intricate simulations of the United Nations, U.S. Congress, and Presidential Elections.
In choosing a course of study, students select among a wide variety of classes focusing on U.S. politics, international affairs, comparative politics, and political philosophy. All courses emphasize the development of analytic thinking and writing skills; and at all levels students are expected to think critically about course material.
Political science majors must complete 12 courses, including at least two introductory-level courses, research-intensive courses, and the Senior Project.
Learning Outside of the Classroom
The Political Science Department believes strongly in the value of political experience, political engagement, and field learning to complement classroom learning.
In recent years students have taken part in a number of political action projects, conducting research that has led to reports that have become influential in community politics. More specifically, students have worked on an evaluation of the Schenectady County Drug Court, written a Juvenile Justice reform proposal, and carried out research for several community organizations. The work of many students is influencing the political process.
The department also runs internship programs in Albany with the New York State Legislature and in Washington, D.C. More than 30 students enroll in these programs each year. We also maintain continuing internships with local government agencies in Schenectady County, including the public defender, district attorney, and social services agency.
In the increasingly interconnected world it is essential for students to develop skills and have experiences that will make them familiar with the global community.
Accordingly, majors are required to either learn a foreign language or participate in one of Union’s Term Abroad programs throughout the world, where courses or projects are often available concerning political questions. Faculty members sometimes serve as resident directors of these programs.
The Senior Project
The capstone of the political science major is the senior project, a two-term endeavor in which students are expected to conduct original research. Students pick their own topic and are closely supervised by a faculty member who is a specialist in that sub-field. Students employ a range of methods in conducting research for the senior project. Some students, for instance, travel outside the U.S. to gather information, others analyze large data sets, while others meticulously comb original texts. Students are also encouraged to consider less traditional projects. Over the years, some students have written plays or novels, made documentary films, designed political websites and formed political interest groups. Many graduates look back on their senior project as their most important undergraduate accomplishment.
College funding is available to support research costs, and some projects have been subsequently published jointly by the students and their advisers. Many political science majors are selected to present their senior research publicly, on campus, at the Steinmetz Symposium in May. Others do so off campus at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and/or at professional conferences together with their adviser.
The Department of Political Science is located in Lippman Hall (which is building number 59 on the campus map). Lippman Hall is between the Reamer Campus Center (number 14 on the map) and Schaffer Library (number 54). Visitor parking is available in the lot in front of the gym, though the spaces in this lot fill up quickly.
The Political Science office is on the first floor, room 117. Faculty offices are located throughout the building.
Department of Political Science
Schenectady, New York 12308
Phone and Fax:
Main office: (518) 388-6224
Fax Machine: (518) 388-6656
Directions to the Union College Campus are available from the Union College home page.