The Political World Awaits...
Political Science at The W
Political science introduces you to the many means whereby humans coexist in a world of scant resources. Politics normally conjures a picture of power struggle, formalized in governmental process (e.g., law-making procedures) but sometimes revealing a raw side of our nature---a side willing to fight to secure human well-being.
Take for instance this provocative image:
This heroic depiction of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) is an appeal to a heritage and identity and could be perceived as a call to (armed) action. Thus, unity and weapons give the IRA power to agitate for an ideal, in this case political separation from the United Kingdom and union with the Republic of Ireland. This stirring symbol reminds us that process, preferably one that is thorough, inclusive and credible, is needed to prevent politics from devolving to a rudimentary tendency to always "fight it out."
However, process introduces its own challenges to politics. Needs can simply outstrip a government's capacity, and clashing agendas can make government response slow and incoherent. Such is likely the case in this image:
Las Vegas has an ever-growing service sector. So where do you house the thousands of newcomers without creating traffic gridlock and without stressing schools, hospitals and the overall environment? The government has indeed struggled to meet demand without compromising the quality of life for residents. Judging by this picture---not available as a postcard in casino gift shops!---process is not enough.
Where Political Science Comes In...
Political science relishes the chance to investigate specific cases, such as those above, but mainly to set them in larger patterns of social behavior. Consider the larger questions raised by the Northern Ireland case:
- What compels groups to resort to armed conflict?
- How do the ideals of groups/movements stack up to reality both before and after the fight?
- What intervening measures (by the government, the fighters, or an outside force) may encourage peaceful conflict resolution?
- What must happen to make the peace durable and meaningful?
Likewise, note some of the larger questions raised by the Las Vegas case:
- Which values win out when material needs exceed the political system's capacity to consider them in a deliberate way?
- Which challenges arise when the all-important urge for economic development drives the political process?
- Who represents the "sides" in the discourse over economic development and the challenges that follow it?
- Is a reformed political process possible, or are participants forever caught in the momentum of economic and social trends?
The College of Arts and Sciences at the Mississippi University for Women offers a B.A. degree in political science, training students to acquire the knowledge and develop the skills to answer important questions of our time---both broad and case-specific. Courses in the major ultimately prepare students for careers in government and public service, and train them for graduate study in political science, public affairs/administration, public policy, and related fields.
The program offers the following options:
What are political science courses like at The W?
Lower-level courses (100 level) introduce students to core concepts. The professor takes special care to clarify reading material and integrate course information with current events. Tests stress factual knowledge through a format that includes multiple choice and true-false questions. Students are encouraged to begin to hone critical thinking skills through short answer/short essay questions on exams and through paper assignments. The papers are designed to focus the students' thinking upon a topic of importance, training them to write concisely and convincingly.
Upper-level political science courses (300 and 400 level) explore advanced topics in depth. Class time is more dependent on student discussion, student presentations and in-class projects such as case studies. Tests emphasize student writing, to connect together important concepts, illustrate the link between theory and reality, and argue persuasively for or against a particular position. Paper assignments are broader and require the practice of library research skills, critical thinking, and argumentation.
We hope you will consider political science as your major at The W, to better prepare you for challenges that await us all in the political world.
For more information about political science at The W, contact:
Dr. Brian Anderson
Painter Hall 212-B
Photos: B. Anderson (Belfast, Las Vegas); MUW (Painter Hall)