About the Department

The Department of Political Science (POLS) at UH Mānoa College focuses on critical study of political power. We stand out in the fields of international relations, political theory, law & policy, futures studies, Indigenous politics, and comparative politics. We have 21 full–time faculty, who teach and conduct research in and across these areas. A truly international department, our students and faculty are diverse, and we embody UH’s mission to be a “globally-connected Hawaiian place of learning.” We prioritize small student-centered classes that catalyze critical thinking and promote effective communication.

Our department values interdisciplinary and transdiciplinary approaches to research and teaching. We encourage students to draw from various disciplines to address political problems. By taking classes across our subfields, students can benefit from the strengths our department has in environmental politics, Asian politics, politics of media and technology, feminist theory & methods, and social justice orientations. While ideologies range across the political spectrum, there is a shared preoccupation with the critique of dominant historical forces and centers of power.

The Department of Political Science began in the 1940s as a joint department with History. The two separated in 1942 with courses on government taught by the vice president of the University and by Paul Bachman, then the Dean of Academic Affairs. Within several years, the department recruited its first professor, Allan Saunders, from Amherst College, who wrote the curriculum and began planning for the growth of an autonomous faculty. The department quickly gained momentum with the recruitment of its faculty from premier institutions known for political science, primarily the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University. The department began offering the B.A. degree in 1945 and the M.A. degree by 1947. The department grew in size and visibility, gaining national stature by the time it offered the Ph.D. degree in 1962.

The Department offers programs of study leading to degrees at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral levels. Students are encouraged to broaden their perspectives by taking courses in other departments and through the many interdisciplinary programs associated with the university such as Asian Studies and the Pacific Islands program.

The Department makes a considerable effort to practice as well as to teach democracy. Faculty and students participate together in department meetings and most of the department's committees. In accordance with departmental philosophy, students are encouraged to participate in all levels of departmental decision–making. Meetings to discuss and decide on affairs of concern to the Department are held on a regular basis, and all interested members of the departmental community are welcome to attend, participate and vote on issues that require such action.

Put Your Degree to Use

With a degree in Political Science, students enter fields such as law, government, journalism, social and civil service, diplomacy, education, business, and research. Our graduates have transferred the skills learned in Political Science to different employment opportunities, such as:

  • Government and Law - State legislators and staffers, electoral campaign managers, regional planners, foreign service and diplomats, law enforcement officers, lobbyists, attorneys, military officers, and public advocates.
  • Nonprofit - Executive directors and managers, conflict resolution facilitators, public relations officers, grants developers and funds development professionals.
  • Business - CEOs, managers, human resource professionals, and sales & marketing specialists.
  • Journalism and Publishing - Editors, reporters, authors, circulation managers, and broadcast journalists.
  • Education and Research - Teachers at all levels (PreK – 12 and university), librarians, and educational leaders.

Degrees Offered

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • 5-year BA/MA program
  • Minor in Political Science
  • Master of Arts
  • Doctor of Philosophy