About the Department

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 mainland 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. Today, we have 23 full–time faculty, who specialize in research and teaching in Political Theory, International Relations, Alternative Futures, Comparative Politics, Conflict Resolution, Indigenous Politics, Law and Politics, and Public Policy.

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. While ideologies range across the political spectrum, there is a shared preoccupation with the critique of dominant historical forces and centers of power. Research interests include classical and critical theoretical perspectives, policy analysis, quantitative computer methods, innovative applications of biological and physical theories to political phenomena, peace and future studies, and many other issues and approaches.

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.