Political Science

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The program for the political science major has two dimensions. First, it seeks to have students gain knowledge about the political world on a comprehensive basis: that is, to see the political world as one extending from human relations in small groups all the way to the stage of international politics.

Second, the political science program assists students in coming to understand the relevance of politics and their place in the fully human life. The student majoring in political science must gain some knowledge of the facts of politics, but, more important, the major must come to grips with the theoretical issues involved in knowing about politics as well as those involved in shaping political life itself. Within the major program, students progress from fact to theory to application of theory. Courses are offered in the four principal subfields of political science: namely, American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory.

Students graduating with a political science major are prepared to continue with graduate study in political science or to pursue professional training in law, journalism, or public administration. Alternatively, a student is prepared to pursue a career in journalism, business, government, education, or public interest groups. A student who chooses to major in political science should select an adviser from the political science faculty and, in conjunction with the adviser, plan a program that is appropriate to the needs and objectives of the student. The adviser should be selected no later than the beginning of the junior year.


To earn a bachelor of arts degree with a major in political science, a student must satisfy the following minimum requirements:

  1. General College Requirements (see “Curriculum” section), including the following requirements to satisfy the major:
  2. POSC 100: Introduction to Politics
  3. Twenty-four credit-hours in political science with at least one course in each of the four subfields of the discipline (listed below), two of which must be at the 200-level and the remaining courses at the level of the student’s choice:
    1. American Politics
    2. Comparative Politics
    3. Political Theory
    4. International Politics
  4. POSC 300: Political Analysis I
  5. One 400-level seminar course in any one of the four subfields of political science (or POSC 408: Studies in Public Policy).
  6. Capstone experience in political science: Students must satisfy either option (a) or (b) below:
    1. In conjunction with the seminar requirement in 5. above, the student must complete a senior-level paper and complete eight additional credit-hours of coursework in political science. A student selecting option (a) must: (1) file a declaration of that intent with the course instructor and the department chair by the end of the sixth week of the semester in which she or he is enrolled in the seminar for which the paper is written; and (2) submit a copy of the seminar paper to the department chair no later than the last day of exam week for that semester.
    2. Complete an eight-credit St. Mary's Project in political science. With the permission of the chair of the Political Science Department, students may do a St. Mary's Project in another department, provided the project topic is related in content and methodology to the discipline of political science.
  7. The cumulative grade- point average of courses used to satisfy the major must be at least 2.00.
  8. The 44 credit-hours of major requirements may include field experience and independent study approved by the department chair.

While each student who majors in political science should construct, with the advice of a member of the political science faculty, a program suitable for his or her particular objectives, the following model is suggested as a possible basic program that will satisfy the above requirements.

First Year:
One 100-level course

Sophomore Year:
Two 200-level courses in political science

Junior Year:
POSC 300, and two or three 300-level political science courses

Senior Year:
One or two 300-level course(s), 400-level seminar in political science, and senior experience requirement.


To earn a minor in political science, a student must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. General College requirements (see “Curriculum” sections).
  2. At least 24 credit-hours in political science as specified under the required and elective courses. The cumulative grade- point average of courses used to satisfy the minor must be at least 2.00.
    1. Required core course (four credit-hours): POSC 100: Introduction to Politics
    2. Elective courses (20 credit-hours) consisting of eight credit-hours in political science courses at the 200-level and 12 credit-hours in political science courses at the 300 or 400-level.


A Master of Arts in Teaching program is available at St. Mary’s College of Maryland after completion of the baccalaureate degree. Students who are interested in becoming teachers should contact the chair of the Department of Educational Studies or an education adviser in their major field of study for suggested coursework in Human Studies, Educational Studies, and their specific major. These consultations should take place during the first semester of the sophomore year.


Michael J. G. Cain (department chair), Mehmet Fevzi Bilgin, Todd Eberly, Susan E. Grogan, Walter W. Hill, Sahar Shafqat.


POSC 100. Introduction to Politics (4E)

Political science is concerned with how power is assembled, how and why political decisions are made, and the conditions of politics and government in different types of regimes. This course introduces students to major theories and themes and concepts in political science. The purpose of the course is to provide students with an introductory overview of important perspectives on political power and its sources, political systems and governance, democratic principles and institutions, as well as the sources of conflict and cooperation in domestic and international affairs. This course satisfies the Core Curriculum requirement in Social Sciences.


POSC 201. American Politics (4E)

The study of politics in the United States, addressing such topics as interbranch rivalries, public participation in the political process, and intergovernmental relations. The course will emphasize modes of explanation and analysis of contemporary political phenomena. It is recommended that this course be taken before other work in the American politics subfield. Not open to students who have received credit for POSC 101.

POSC 266. Women and the Law (2F)

This course will introduce students to the legal system and to the Constitution as they have traditionally affected women in American political history. There will be a close study of current legal issues pertaining to women: divorce, custody, abortion, rape, employment discrimination, discrimination within the educational system, and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

POSC 303. Law, Courts, and Judges (4AF)

This course is designed to familiarize the student with central concepts in legal theory; with the structure and operation of trial and appellate courts in the United States, especially in terms of the role of the courts in the larger political process; and with basic legal terminology and research methods.

POSC 311. Public Policy (4S)

An introduction to public policy theory; analysis; comparative public policy; the policy-making process; and selected fields of public policy such as taxation, environmental protection, and employment. This course is cross-listed as SOCS 311. Formerly POSC 211 and SOCS 211. Not open to students who have received credit for POSC 211 or SOCS 211. Students may receive credit for either course but not both.

POSC 312. State and Community Politics (4AS)

The study of politics at the subnational levels in the United States. Various types of state and community political systems are examined. Research in the area of community power structures and the factors that explain such structures will be emphasized. Formerly POSC 268. Not open to students who have received credit for POSC 268.

POSC 315. Policy Evaluation (4S)

An introduction to the issues and techniques used in policy evaluation and in analysis: the fit between policy statements and program strategies, evaluation designs and the use of evaluation results. Specific case studies such as health, welfare, and employment will be evaluated. This course is cross-listed as SOCS 315. Students may receive credit for either course but not both.

POSC 316. Religion and the U.S. Constitution(2S)

The course focuses on the "free exercise" and "establishment" clauses of the First Amendment. It will involve discussions of significant Supreme Court decisions and, to some degree, other cases moving through state and federal courts involving the religion clauses. Various approaches to Constitutional interpretation will be evaluated and discussed.

POSC  325. Politics and the U.S. Defense Establishment (4S)

This course is designed not only to educate students about military basics but also to broaden student understanding of the political environment in which the defense establishment exists and the politics within the defense department. The course begins with introductory sessions on each military service to include basic organizational principles, services norms, organizational cultures, and chain of command. Subsequent class discussions cover a variety of contemporary issues such as current military actions, outsourcing, bureaucratic politics, the draft, base closures, women in combat, congressional oversight, "jointness," and the constitutional principle of civilian leadership over the U.S. military.

POSC 330. The United States Congress (4AF)

A study of the U.S. Congress, including major actors, congressional structure, process, and interactions with other branches, levels, and outside groups, etc. The course will focus upon the rise of diverse political interests and their role in public policy, campaign finance, and elections through direct and indirect contact with Congress.

POSC 341. The American Presidency (4AS)

A study of the structure, functions, and problems of the executive branch of government. Emphasis will be on the president’s formal powers, political roles, personality, and relationships with other institutions of government.

POSC 348. Parties and Elections (4AF)

This course examines political parties, interest groups, and elections (including campaigns and voting behavior) within the broader context of American politics. It represents a part of the traditional political science inquiry into the question: “Who governs?”

POSC 351. Constitutional Law I: Struggles over Power (4AF)

The case method approach to the study of the Constitutional powers of and limitations on government in the United States. Topics addressed include federalism, separation of powers, delegation of power, the commerce clause, and executive power.

POSC 352. Constitutional Law II: Civil Liberties (4AS)

The case method approach to the study of the rights of individuals under the Constitution, including First Amendment rights, equal protection, the rights of the accused, and the nationalization of the Bill of Rights. This course was formerly taught under the title, “Civil Liberties.” Not open to students who have received credit for POSC 352, Civil Liberties.

POSC 366. Law and Society (2F)

The American legal system, its dynamics and limits.

POSC 367. Public Administration (4A)

A study of the principles, problems, and theories of public administration, with major emphasis upon American federal practice. Special attention is given to the development of basic concepts of the field.

POSC 375. The American Revolution (4A)

This course examines the events, ideas, and conflicts surrounding the American Revolution. It begins with an overview of British foreign policy during the period of "salutary neglect" and ends with ratification of the Constitution in 1789. Among the themes treated are the political, economic, and religious causes; popular and elite views of the conflict; popular mobilization; changes in social structure; dissent from/alternatives to the Revolution; how the Revolution was both a conservative and a radical movement.

POSC 419. African-American History in America (4AS)

Significant aspects of African-American history in the United States from its colonial origins to the present are dealt with, using a variety of discussion techniques and intensive examination of pertinent historical studies. Related sociological, psychological, economic, and political aspects will be considered. The course seeks to make students aware of the richness of these studies and their impact on American society. This course is cross-listed as HIST 419. Prerequisite: Consent of the instructor.

POSC 451. Supreme Court and Public Policy (4AS)

This seminar examines the role of the Supreme Court in shaping public policy in the United States. Individual students will direct their focus to some aspect of the Court's policy- making by looking at, for example, the justices, the decision-making process at the Court, specific policy areas, or the impact of Court decisions. Prerequisite: POSC 201, American Politics, or permission of the instructor.

POSC 461. Studies in American Politics (4S)
An intensive study of selected themes, structures, processes, or concepts in the fields of American government, politics, and political behavior. Seminars in the area of the Congress, the presidency, the judiciary, and public policy will be offered as feasible. Other topics may be chosen as well. Formerly POSC 368. Not open to students who have received credit for POSC 368. May be repeated for credit with consent of the instructor.


POSC 252. Comparative Politics (4E)

An introductory survey of major political systems around the world, and of the theory and methods of the field of comparative politics. The ultimate objective is to develop a theoretical background to understand and explain variations in political culture, political behavior, political institutions, and other aspects of national politics. Topics include democratization, ethnic conflict, and globalization. This course focuses on different political systems and cultures, rather than specific countries or regions. This course fulfills the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives. Formerly POSC 267. Not open to students who have received credit for POSC 267.

POSC 333. Asian Politics (4AF)

This course examines the major trends and developments in Asian politics. An important theme in this course is how Asian countries respond to competing policy needs in their pursuit of growth, political order, and national unity. The course casts a wide net, and examines politics in the three major sub-regions of Asia: East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. The course pays special attention to issues of political economy and political culture in the region. The course also examines the Western and specifically U.S. relationship with Asia.

POSC 405. Democratization (4AS)

The late 20th century has been a time when democratic government has spread dramatically around the world. From Latin America to Africa, in Europe and Asia, authoritarian regimes have yielded to democratic forces, making their governments more responsive to ordinary citizens and their societies more open. Many states have embarked upon a process of democratization for the first time. Others have moved to restore their democratic roots. However, many new democracies are not yet stable, and there is nothing about these transitions that is pre-destined or irreversible. This course introduces students to different types of transitions to democracy throughout the world and the consequences of these processes. This course will provide an overview of the major theoretical problems associated with the process of democratization as well as an understanding of specific policy issues associated with promoting democratic rule in transitioning countries. Students will gain empirical and theoretical understandings of the major factors associated with democratic transitions. Prerequisites: POSC 252 or POSC 262 or permission of the instructor.

POSC 462. Studies in Comparative Politics (4AS)

An intensive study of selected topics and/or areas in comparative politics. Specific topics will vary from semester to semester. Formerly POSC 369. Not open to students who have received credit for POSC 369. May be repeated for credit with consent of the instructor.


POSC 269. International Politics (4F)

Examination of cross-national conflicts and cooperation. This course fulfills the Core Curriculum requirement in Cultural Perspectives.

POSC 320. International Political Economy (4AS)

This course develops theoretical approaches to the study of the interrelationship between international political and economic factors. It then applies these approaches to analyze the historical development of the international political economy and specific issues and problems.

POSC 364. U.S. Foreign Policy (4S)

The formulation and implementation of foreign policy. America’s emergence as a superpower. POSC 455. Seminar on International Security after the Cold War: Problems and Prospects (4S) This course is designed as a seminar on the problems of international security during the post-cold war period. Most generally, international security is concerned with how human collectivities - primarily but not exclusively states - relate to each other in terms of threats and vulnerabilities. The seminar examines major concepts and frameworks related to security at the domestic, regional and global levels, and considers substantive issues such as conflict management and intervention, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and international terrorism. Prerequisite: POSC 269 or permission of instructor.

POSC 468. Studies in International Relations (4AF)

An analysis of selected relationships in the international arena. May be repeated for credit with consent of the instructor. Prerequisite: POSC 269 or consent of the instructor.


POSC 300. Political Analysis (4F)

This course presents the basic elements of formal logic in political science. The core section concentrates on descriptive and inferential statistics with applications in political science. Additional topics may include research design and research ethics.

POSC 301. Individual Rationality and Group Politics (4S)

This course introduces students to rational actor theories of politics. These theories consider how people make choices in different political environments and the effect of these choices on interest groups and political parties. Would you expect people to be less selfish or more selfish in politics? Do people join interest groups because of their commitment to social ideals or because of what they get from the group? Why do groups fail to achieve goals even when the achievements of these goals are likely to benefit everyone in the group? The material in this course is useful for students interested in mass politics or grassroots organizing, since we discuss the main variables influencing successful collective actions.


POSC 262. Introduction to Democratic Political Thought (4F)

This course will serve as both an introduction to political theory, in general, and a survey of theories of democracy, in particular. The class will analyze the historical and theoretical underpinnings of democratic forms of political organization, and it will probe many of the key issues faced by any democracy—such as legitimacy, authority, order, and dissent. Students will study a number of the early modern social contract theorists such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau. The course will also investigate the work of democratic theorists and critics such as Marx, before turning to contemporary debates and alternative approaches to understanding democracy.

POSC 362. Classical Political Thought (4AF)

This course will address a number of the most important and vexing questions of political philosophy: what is justice, what is the relationship between knowledge and politics, how is political power created and maintained, and what is the best regime? We will consider the relationship between philosophy and politics, asking what it means to think theoretically about politics. And finally, we will analyze crucial issues concerning class, gender, and subordination that remain inextricably connected to these primary questions. The class will survey the thought of a range of ancient political thinkers, such as Sophocles, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Lucretius, Epictetus, and Sextus Empiricus. And we will study Christian political thought and the demise of classical idealism through writers such as Augustine, Aquinas, More, and Machiavelli.

POSC 363. Modern Political Thought (4AS)

This course will survey key issues, themes and concepts associated with modernity, including some of the following: origins, limits, and legitimacy of political authority; rights and equality; freedom and power; individualism, individuality and citizenship; and radicalism and revolution. We will also study the relationship between politics and economics, history, and morality, respectively. The course will explore the fundamental principles of modern political thought as well as key components in the critique of modernity. Readings will be drawn from the work of authors such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant, Descartes, Mill, Tocqueville, Burke, Paine, Wollstonecraft, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.

POSC 431. Early American Political Thought (4A)

This course examines, in depth, American political thought from 1630 to 1800. It analyzes the major Anglo-European intellectual traditions that shaped the thought of early Americans—classical liberalism and classical republicanism as they emerged from the thinking of early modern Britain and the Enlightenment; and reformed Protestantism in America. It examines how the American revolutionaries drew on these traditions to justify revolution and then explore how they both used and modified the same traditions of thought to create the American republic.

POSC 469. Political Theory (4AS)

A seminar in political theory. Various topics, authors, or traditions in empirical or normative theory are selected for systematic examination and critical analysis. The subject areas investigated by members of the seminar may vary with each offering. Cross-listed as PHIL 410. Students may receive credit for either course, but not both. The seminar may be repeated for credit with consent of the instructor. Prerequisites: POSC 100 and a course in political theory or philosophy.


POSC 408. Studies in Public Policy (4S)

This 400-level seminar represents a capstone experience for students majoring or taking courses in political science. Its focus may change depending upon the instructor or students’ interests. Topics may include federal, state, or local public policy, comparative public policy, international policy as well as specific areas such as the environment, monetary, food, agricultural, social welfare, or taxation policy. Students majoring in political science may fulfill the senior experience requirement with this course. This course is cross-listed as PPOL 408, “Studies in Public Policy,” and may be used to meet the senior experience requirement in public policy.

POSC 493/494. St. Mary’s Project in Political Science (1-8E)

The project, which may take many forms, draws on and extends knowledge, skills of analysis, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work. The student initiates the project, identifies an area to be explored, and proposes a method of inquiry appropriate to the topic. The project should include a reflection on the social context, the body of literature, or the conceptual framework to which it is a contribution. It must be shared with the College community through posters, presentations, or other means. The project may be within this discipline, across disciplines, or in established cross-disciplinary studies option. The project is supervised by a faculty mentor. Prerequisite: Approval of faculty mentor and department chair of the student’s major(s). Consult faculty mentor for project guidelines.

POSC 398, 498. Off-Campus Internship (4-16E)

A variety of off-campus experiential learning opportunities can be arranged through the director of internships. The off-campus internship is an individually designed experience that allows the student to explore the relationship between learning in the classroom and the practical application of knowledge in everyday work situations. Prerequisites: Admission to the Internship Program and approval of department chair. (See “Internships” under “Academic Policies” section.) Credit/No credit grading.

POSC 199, 299, 399, 499. Independent Study (1-4E)

This course consists of an independent creative or research project designed by the student and supervised by a political science faculty member. The nature of the project, the schedule for accomplishment, and the means of evaluation must be formalized in a learning contract prior to registration. (See “Independent Study” under “Academic Policies” section.)