The political science major has three core learning goals:
- building a discipline-specific knowledge base in the four major political science areas of American government, international relations, comparative politics and political theory
- developing critical thinking, problem-solving, oral and written communication and research skills
- preparing students to participate in a democratic community and globally interconnected society through life-long civic engagement
Studying political science at Saint Michael's gives you the foundation to understand how traditional governments operate, but we do more than that; we look beyond the formal institutions of government. In this major, you will explore and examine political parties, interest groups, corporations, the media, other nations, and the allocation of values and goods. And because politics is an inherently moral enterprise, one involving the pursuit of justice, we are concerned not only with how societies are governed, but also with how they ought to be governed. You'll take classes such as International Relations, Western Political Thought, Comparative Politics, and American National Politics and expand your outlook about social phenomena through courses from other departments: Anthropology and Sociology, Economics, Geography, History, and Psychology.
As a political science major at Saint Michael's you will have numerous opportunities to complement your academic work with co-curricular activities that promote leadership skills, enhance employment prospects, and promote opportunities for greater cross-cultural and global understanding.
Political science students go on study and research trips with faculty mentors to places such as India, Canada, Tanzania, Cuba, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. Many political science majors study abroad for a semester in countries across Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Political science majors have one of the highest rates of participation in academic internships on campus, earning academic credit and essential vocational and career experiences each semester in businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies.
Political science majors often do internships in the offices of Vermont's Congressional delegation - Senators Patrick Leahy '61 and Bernard Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch. Other sites include the Vermont Democratic and Republican parties, the Chittenden County Public Defender's Office, Democracy for America, the Vermont Worker's Center, the Vermont Council on World Affairs, the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, and many private law firms and businesses.
Saint Michael's encourages students to pursue independent research and there are many opportunities for close student-faculty research collaboration and mentoring.
Political science majors consistently receive summer research grants from the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Social Science Research Center. Recent student research projects have focused on the prospects for national and Vermont electoral reform, universal healthcare, the financial crisis in the European Union, and the United Nations Millennial Development Goals.
Campus Leadership and Activism
Political Science majors at Saint Michael's are especially active in leadership positions and in student organizations engaged in political activism on campus and beyond.
Student clubs led by political science majors include SLAM (Student Labor Action Movement), SGAC (Student Global AIDS Campaign), Green UP, Food for Thought, the Fair Trade Committee, and Democracy Matters. These clubs are engaged in ongoing campus campaigns for political reform, labor and women's rights, and environmental sustainability.
After graduation, our majors go on to careers like:
- Environmental Science Conservation
- Trial Preparation Assistant
- Clinical Operations Associate
- Border Patrol Agent
- Marketing Coordinator
- Case Worker for the Disabled
Majoring in political science provides excellent preparation in critical thinking, communication and writing skills, and basic quantitative and statistical analysis - valuable tools for landing a job in the current marketplace.
Our students have found success in careers in law, business, marketing, advertising, banking, finance, government and politics, journalism, the non-profit sector, and education. Many of our majors have gone on to pursue advanced degrees at leading graduate institutions too, in political science or related fields.
For examples of the varied career paths taken by recent political science alumni, see our alumni profile page.
We believe the study of politics is valuable for several reasons. Foremost of these is that political science offers the student excellent preparation for the role of a lifetime, that of an informed and self-reflective citizen. Only a hermit can avoid the burdens of citizenship. Since none of us can really escape politics by retreating wholly into our private lives, our choice is limited to either the active participation in the political process or the passive acceptance of political decisions made by others.
Educated people bear a special responsibility to bring to their community an enhanced understanding of the nature of society and its governance. The liberal studies component of the Saint Michael's College curriculum (described in detail in the college catalogue) is predicated on four principles, among which is the empowerment of women and men "to participate constructively in society and its institutions." The Department of Political Science shares this goal, and seeks through its program to develop in its students the understanding and the habits of mind that will enable them to become leaders in their civic and political communities.
The Department of Political Science does not ignore the vocational needs of its students. The third principle of the Saint Michael's College Liberal Studies curriculum states that the academic program should "promote the ability to think critically and to communicate thoughts in a clear and persuasive fashion." The discipline of political science exposes students to critical normative evaluations of social processes, as well as to the analysis of quantified empirical data. Insightful reading, critical thinking, and effective oral and written communication are important skills developed through the study of political science.
These analytic and communicative skills are admittedly difficult to acquire, but are universally applicable in the careers students typically seek after college. They are useful for getting one's first job, but essential for getting one's first promotion.
The second principle of the liberal studies curriculum proposes that students should "develop an understanding and appreciation of the intrinsic value of the liberal arts and sciences." The Department of Political Science hopes that students who choose to study political science will find the subject interesting and personally fulfilling. In fact, this is the best reason for becoming a political science major. When we study politics, we learn more about ourselves and about the world we have built. The political science program should stimulate the student's growth, both intellectually and morally, and should provide them with the opportunity realize their fullest human potential, to lead useful and gratifying lives.