Political Science

political science

Political science is an ideal field of study if you are seeking to position yourself for leadership, civic engagement, and an exciting career in a complex, diverse, interdependent and rapidly globalizing society.

The political science major at Saint Michael's combines demanding and engaging intellectual coursework with numerous co-curricular programs in which faculty mentor students in academic internships, study abroad, collaborative research, student activism and campus leadership.

Our faculty have a strong commitment to integrating career preparation with a liberal arts education, and have an excellent track record preparing our students to become competitive for graduate school admission as well as the job market.

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. 

Sample Four Year Plan for Political Science Majors

First Year
Fall Spring
PO 101 Introduction to Politics PO 120 Introduction to American Government
Foreign Language I Foreign Language II
First Year Seminar Liberal Studies course
Liberal Studies course Liberal Studies course
Fall Spring
PO 261 European Political Thought PO 200 Political Science Research Methods
PO 285 Introduction to Comparative Politics PO 245 Introduction to International Relations
Political Science sibling course Political Science sibling course
Liberal Studies course Liberal Studies course
Fall Spring
Political Science elective  Political Science elective
Liberal Studies course Liberal Studies course
Liberal Studies course Liberal Studies course
Elective Elective
Fall Spring
PO 410 Senior Seminar Political Science elective 
Elective Elective
Elective Elective
Elective Elective

This is just one of many possible course plans.  If you choose to complete a minor, study abroad, or do an internship your plan can be adjusted accordingly.

Jeffrey Ayres, PhD

Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College
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Contact Professor Ayres

Founders Hall 105
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B.A. University of Virginia
M.A. and Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Areas of Expertise:

Globalization, Global and Regional Governance, International Relations, Social Movements and Contentious Politics, Canadian and North American Politics

Courses I Teach:

  • Globalization and Resistance
  • Global Governance
  • Global Problems
  • International Relations
  • Politics of the World Economy
  • Social Movements and Contentious Politics
  • U.S. Foreign Policy

Michael Bosia, PhD

Associate Professor of Political Science
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M.A., Ph.D. Northwestern University
B.A. California State University, Sacramento
Fellow, Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

Courses I Teach

Democratic Transitions
Film and Politics
France and Empire
Introduction to Comparative Politics
State Violence and Justice
The Politics of Food
Comparative European Politics
Comparative Politics of Oppression
First Year Seminar on Race, Gender and Sexuality

My Saint Michael's

Before starting doctoral studies, I was a staff director in the California State Senate working with communities affected by HIV/AIDS, one of a handful of out LGBT staffers in the state capitol at the time.  This experience inspired my research on politics between global and local, including activism on race, gender, and sexuality, questions of marginalization and citizenship, and processes of community building and participation.  I look at these in terms of economic change, in responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in the new politics of food, and in local and transnational organizing against a wave of what I call “state homophobia.”  My research and teaching also focus on economic justice, democratic practice, and state violence and human rights – by exploring the ethical in the political.  While I pay attention to the key concepts and theories in comparative politics, I ask students and colleagues to think about the moral framework that informs politics and the ethical consequences of choices made within such frameworks.

I have conducted field research in France, Uganda, and Egypt, and travelled to India, Ecuador, Argentina, Spain, and Cuba as part of my educational responsibilities.  I am active in both the American Political Science Association and the International Studies Association, having served as Program Chair and President of the Organized Section on Sexuality and Politics and Program Chair of New Political Science at APSA, and in various capacities with the LGBTQA Caucus of ISA.  At Saint Michael's, I have worked with faculty, staff, and students to bring speakers to campus addressing human rights, LGBT politics, gender identity, international development, food politics, political violence, and democratic process in important contexts around the world.  I am currently co-adviser for Common Ground, our LGBTQI and Ally student organization.

Prior to moving to the Burlington area, I lived in the rural Northeast Kingdom, where I was a co-founder of Claire’s Restaurant and Bar, an innovative localvore and community supported restaurant.  


John Hughes, PhD

Professor of Political Science

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Saint Edmund's Hall 346
Box 164
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M.A., Ph.D. New School for Social Research
B.A. William Paterson College of New Jersey

Areas of Expertise:

American Constitutionalism, criminal justice, international terrorism

Courses I Teach:

  • American Constitutional Law
  • American National Politics
  • Civil Liberties
  • Criminal Justice
  • Senior Seminar: War on Terrorism, Capital Punishment

Shefali Misra, PhD

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Gender Studies Program Director

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Saint Edmund's Hall 351
Box 151
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Ph.D. Brandeis University
M.A. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
B.A. University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India; ;

I joined Saint Michael's as an assistant professor of political science beginning with the Fall 2009 semester. I was formerly a financial and political journalist for four English-language national dailies in New Delhi, India, for 11 years. In that role I covered several ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organization in Singapore, Geneva and Seattle, and spent two years reporting for home newspapers from London, Brussels, Geneva, Berlin, Bonn, Paris, and Singapore.

I was visiting assistant professor of political theory at Oberlin College for the 2008-2009 academic year.

Courses I Teach:

  • Introduction to Politics
  • Senior Seminar on Multiculturalism in Theory and Practice
  • Western Political Thought

Patricia Siplon, PhD

Professor of Political Science
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Contact Professor Siplon

Saint Edmund's Hall 347
Box 372
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Ph.D. Brandeis University
B.S., M.S. Utah State University

Areas of Expertise:

HIV/AIDS; health policy in developing countries; U.S. domestic and international health policy and foreign aid policy; sub-Saharan Africa (particularly Tanzania). : I am a long-time AIDS scholar and activist and I am the faculty adviser to Saint Michael's chapter of the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC).

Courses I Teach:

  • Introduction to American National Politics
  • Research Methods
  • Global Politics of the AIDS Pandemic
  • First Year Seminar: Global Studies
  • Intro to Public Policy; HIV/AIDS in East Africa
  • Parties, Elections and Political Participation
  • Senior Seminar: African Politics
  • US Health Policy

My Saint Michael's:

People here take the mission of the college seriously. We sometimes debate the meaning of the mission, but even that suggests to me that we care about what it means and how we make it come to life on campus. Saint Michael's College has been very supportive of my attempts to integrate my teaching, scholarship and service into everything I do. I feel like I have the opportunity to build on the great work of others who have been here longer than me and who have been working on social justice in and outside of the classroom for many years. I also appreciate the chance to work intensively with students who are interested in going beyond the material taught in a class to do service and experiential learning, as well as research and advocacy work.

I like to think that many of the students in my classes and in political science generally are there because they want to help improve the world, and they're interested in learning the tools for doing that. I appreciate that so many of them are open to new ideas and growth opportunities while they are here.

My favorite course to teach is PO 351-- Politics of the Global AIDS Pandemic. This course lets me combine my strongest interests as a teacher, a researcher and an activist. It draws students from all kinds of majors, and gives us all an opportunity to have an extended, semester-long conversation about a critical global problem, and what we plan to do about it.

I think that both PO 351-- Global Politics of AIDS and PO 352-- HIV/AIDS in East Africa are pretty unique opportunities for students. Both allow students to look at a very important issue in depth, and both give students opportunities to put their knowledge into action through advocacy and service learning. PO 351 is a prerequisite for PO 352, which actually takes students to East Africa for a 2-3 week period. I have also done many independent study and independent research projects with students who got interested through these classes and wanted to keep going.

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. 

Study Abroad

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.

Student-Faculty Research

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
  • Attorney
  • Community Outreach Coordinator
  • Trial Preparation Assistant
  • Clinical Operations Associate
  • Data Analyst
  • 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.

Several recent political science graduates are working in the offices of Vermont's Congressional delegation - Senators Patrick Leahy '61 and Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch.  Others work for the U.S. and state governments, for advocacy organizations like NextGen Climate and Outright Vermont, or for volunteer organizations like the Peace Corps.  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.

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 Bernie Sanders and Congressman Peter Welch, or with political campaigns.  Other sites include: 

  • Vermont Democratic Party
  • Vermont Republican Party
  • Chittenden County Public Defender's Office
  • Democracy for America
  • Vermont Worker's Center
  • Vermont Council on World Affairs
  • Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program
  • Vermont Department of Labor

Many private law firms and businesses also provide internship opportunities for political science majors.

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