Mission Statement, Goals, Objectives and Priorities
The mission of the Political Science Department is to provide programs that foster critical, independent thinking about politics and public life among our students. Courses provide an understanding of political concepts and the organization and functioning of political systems. Our major programs equip students with the ability to understand political theories and to gain knowledge and experience through written work, lectures, reading, active learning and internships. The department offers courses that are a central part of Western's General University Requirements and that are requirements for other programs and joint majors in the college and in the University. In addition, the department plays an important role in the broader arena of civic education in the university, the community and the state.
We are committed to providing the liberal arts education of students that will prepare them for responsible citizenship in a democracy. The political science department makes an important contribution to the liberal arts curriculum through the courses it offers for General University Requirements (GUR). The department faculty views teaching GUR courses as central to our mission. We are committed to preparing students to take their place as thoughtful citizens cognizant of the institutions and processes of government and aware of the public policies and historical events that shape their lives. Our aim is to give students a foundation for lifelong learning. We hope to provide them with a basis for independent judgment on future political events and public questions. We want them to be motivated to participate in the political process.
Our goal is to graduate majors with a firm grasp of the American political system and other political systems within the context of global forces, international conflicts, social movements, ideological systems, and cultural diversity. Courses are designed to help students establish the basis for independent judgment and critical awareness and to familiarize students with library and Internet information sources available as lifelong learning tools. To this end, political science majors are required to take sixty credit hours distributed among three areas: American politics and public policy, international and comparative politics; and political theory. Majors are required to complete core courses in all fields, take at least fifteen additional credits in one area; at least ten additional credits in a second field; at least four additional credits in the remaining field; and a senior “capstone” seminar. These requirements are aimed at insuring that graduates are familiar with different substantive areas of the discipline and are introduced to various research models and analytical frameworks.
Expected student learning outcomes include substantive knowledge in the student’s area of concentration; analytical skills in interpreting data and identifying value conflicts in public issues. In addition, students must attain writing proficiency and the ability to engage in independent research. Our program objectives include providing students with the skills necessary to apply political science knowledge in the appropriate job setting; preparing them for responsible informed citizenship, teaching students to test ideas and theories against evidence in dealing with complex questions of fact and value; and preparing the most academically inclined for graduate studies.
Our program objectives are achieved by maintaining high academic standards. Political science professors systematically require heavy reading schedules in courses designed for majors. Course performance criteria include essay exams and writing assignments that require independent research, use of analytical frameworks, formal citation of sources, and coherent presentation of material. Most written assignments oblige students to draw and defend conclusions based on the research. Since many students come to political science courses with preconceived notions and assumptions about politics we attempt to provide information for critical self awareness and objective criteria for assessing various points of view as a basis for mature judgment. Most classes emphasize student participation in classroom and on-line discussion. Political science faculty members are mindful of the need to accommodate diverse perspectives and respect differences.
Political science maintains a strong intern program that places students in the state legislature, the national Congress, various state and local government agencies, and in many other countries. Intern supervisors have expressed satisfaction with the academic preparation of the students selected and high quality of the internship portfolios they are required to prepare as the basis for academic credit. Interns have also voiced satisfaction with the background and skills learned in the classroom as preparation for their internship. The emphasis on applied knowledge in the internship is particularly appreciated.
The graduate program has been successful in preparing students for community college instruction, for Ph.D. programs at major doctoral institutions, and for professional positions in both the public and private sectors. Students in the program have been invited to deliver papers and serve on panels at Political Science conferences. Students have collaborated with faculty members in research projects that have resulted in joint authorship of conference papers and publication in political science journals.
In general both at the graduate and undergraduate level faculty are committed to involving students in their research. Faculty-student research collaboration is common and we are working to expand opportunities in this area in the future.
The quality of the program in political science is reflective of the strong emphasis on teaching and quality education. Another measure of quality is the ability to keep current with changes in the discipline to offer our students courses that reflect the complex forces affecting all levels of government, including, but not limited to, environmental issues, international markets, state policy, and emerging conflicts both domestic and international.
- To continue to support the research agendas of faculty members to encourage professional visibility through delivering papers at professional conferences and through publication.
- To continue to offer multiple sections of quality GUR courses to contribute to the overall mission of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the University to provide a liberal arts education for our students.
- To continue to meet the university goal of providing civic education for students who major in political science and take political science GUR’s. Our goal is to provide students with a foundation and the tools for life-long learning as participants in democratic political processes.
- To continue to offer political science majors a curriculum that reflects the current standards of the discipline and sets high academic expectations through emphasis on writing, analysis, critical thinking, and independent research.
- To foster independent thinking through active learning and service learning.
- To continue and to expand the involvement of students in faculty research both in classroom instruction and through independent study.
- To increase the use of technology in instruction particularly through the use of computers for data analysis and the use of the Internet for data sources and other information resources including published articles, monographs, and public documents.
- To maintain the strength of our graduate program in preparing students for community college instruction, for Ph.D. programs at major doctoral institutions, and for professional positions in both he public and private sectors.
- To maintain our strong intern program and increase intern opportunities as much as possible to provide this educational experience available for an increasing number of students.