Degree Requirements

Politics and Public Affairs Major:

  • 7 courses in Politics and Public Affairs;
  • 1 statistics course from an approved list of courses to be completed before the end of the Sophomore year (e.g. Math 120: Elements of Statistics; DA 101: Introduction to Data Analytics; Econ 307: Introductory Econometrics; ANSO 351: Survey Research Methods; similar courses available in a new Social Science concentration);
  • 3 cognate Track courses;
  • Off-Campus Experience;
    • We take as our point of departure for this component of the Politics and Public Affairs major the practice of students in the Lugar Program, who are required to engage in an off-campus activity depending on their declared inclination (or “track”). Lugar students in Track 1 (American politics) intern in a congressional office; students in Track 2 (national security and foreign policy) select an off-campus study program abroad that includes an internship or experiential component. Similarly, PPA majors will select a Track of study that reflects their interests and will participate in an off-campus experience that will reinforce the emphasis of their declared Track. We offer some sample possibilities for the Off-Campus Experience under each Track in the section below. We note that PPA will not require students to participate in a formal Off-Campus Study program; this requirement may also be met by participation in an off-campus learning activity such as an internship, Model UN, Moot Court, etc.
    • As with other recent programmatic additions to the Denison curriculum, we consider the off-campus component as essential part of the student experience (i.e., Global Commerce, Data Analytics, the minor in Middle East and North African Studies).


A key departure from the current POSC major is the division of majors into “Tracks.” We develop more fully the rationale for this aspect of the proposal below, followed by a discussion of some of the modalities of implementation.

Traditionally, the study of political science has been organized into four subfields (American politics, international politics, comparative politics, and political theory). We find these divisions unconstructive for the purposes of undergraduate liberal arts education in a globalizing era. Though as scholars we each focus on one of the subfields, we seek to bridge these divisions as much as possible in the new major. This is reflected in our approach to introductory courses, which rather than the previous model of mirroring the disciplinary subfields will instead adopt a thematic focus. While it may seem contradictory that we then call upon our majors to choose Tracks of study as they proceed through the proposed curriculum, we see the proposed Tracks less as a route to specialization, and more as a path to provide augmentation and coherence to their academic major. Indeed, under the proposed curriculum, PPA students will take a common core of introductory courses, and then have a shared seminar both during their sophomore and senior years. We anticipate that this will better integrate our curriculum and provide cohesion in each individual student’s course of study. 

Additionally, we are enthused by the prospect that this “ladder” will build a community of learners as students ascending collectively through our hierarchy of requirements. As our students explore their individual interests as reflected in their track of study, they will be grounded in a common foundation with a shared set of theories, concepts, and questions. They will utilize this common foundation cooperatively during Sophomore Seminar as each develops their own focus of future study in particular directions. By having our students select a substantive focus, we hope to use the Sophomore Seminar experience to facilitate structured reflection and conversation among our students regarding their academic interests, aptitude, and aspirations. We believe this structure during the first two years at Denison will create an esprit de corps among our majors, a shared learning platform that will, during their Senior Seminar, lead to reciprocal learning as each student’s unique experience is shared in an environment of mutual exploration. Throughout their experience in the department’s courses, inquiry will center on the core issues of understanding, interpreting, and evaluating the interactions of individuals and institutions that drive politics and policy.

We believe this structure will promote student learning about politics and public affairs, while providing students with the opportunity to partner with existing areas of strength in Denison’s curriculum in Economics, Data Analytics, Global Commerce, History, Philosophy, and International Studies. At the same time, we welcome the chance to provide interested PPA students with the opportunity to work in concert with any other social science program that might emerge in the future.

As part of their Sophomore Seminar experience, each PPA major will establish their Track of focus through the submission of a formal proposal that will be approved by a departmental committee. In their proposals, students will indicate how their selected three cognate courses relate to their area of interest and describe how their chosen off-campus experience brings coherence to their selected major track. The courses taken outside the department will provide PPA students with a substantive policy focus and area of emphasis. In addition to the established Tracks described here, students will be able to propose their own track (e.g. Environmental Policy) subject to Departmental approval. Regardless of whether our majors opt for one of the established tracks below or propose their own, they will complete their Sophomore Seminar with a department approved roadmap to guide the second half of their Denison academic experience.

By bookending our majors’ journeys through PPA with a common core of study consisting of the three introductory courses and Sophomore Seminar at the outset, and Senior Seminar at the close, we help our students explore the various ways to think about and study politics. Having a foundation established by sophomore year, PPA majors will be equipped to decide which public affairs questions most engage their interests, move forward to complete their track, and then come together in Senior Seminar with their class to share what they’ve gathered about our field using the common foundation of theory, disciplinary language, and method constructed at the start of their journey.

We envision three principal tracks of study in the PPA major: 

  1. International Affairs: How are actors in the global domain constrained, driven, or impeded in the international system absent a central authority? To what extent does the international system reflect what Hedley Bull (1977) referred to as an “anarchical society,” and to what degree does collective international governance emerge as a result?
    1. 2 additional language courses beyond Denison’s foreign language requirement
    2. An additional cognate course on their “theme” of emphasis (e.g., ANSO 342, Non-Governmental Organizations, Development and Human Rights; HIST 122, History of the Modern Middle East; REL 220, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Environmental Rights.)
    3. Off-campus experience: 
      1. A semester abroad in a program reflecting on their “theme” of emphasis;
      2. Model UN;
      3. Internship with an internationally-focused organization.
  2. Policy Analysis: Emphasizes the evaluation of public policy and explores the conditions under which the exercise of political power is most likely to be successful. This track provides a foundation for the evaluation of the efficacy of policy.
    1. 3 additional courses focusing on the analysis of empirical data (e.g., calculus; advanced statistics; Data Analytics; courses in any new social science concentration that may emerge)
    2. Off-campus experience:
      1. Internship in government entity, or policy-oriented non-governmental organization;
      2. A semester of study at the Philadelphia Center, the HECUA program in Minneapolis, MN  (a domestic, study away option), a semester or summer at The Washington Center.
  3. Government and Legal Affairs: How does the structure of government shape the interactions of individuals and institutions? How does debate over public affairs, legal arguments, and/or the political process, generate policy outcomes?
    1. 3 cognate courses such as:
      1. Ethics;
      2. Narrative journalism;
      3. Philosophy of law;
      4. Constitutional law; jurisprudence;
    2. Off-campus experience (or experiential engagement):
      1. An internship in a governmental agency (e.g., a congressional office); a non-governmental organization; or media outlet;
      2. Moot Court;
      3. A semester at The Washington Center.

Cognate courses may also fulfill GE requirements. No more than two cognate courses can come from a single department or program. Two need to be courses above the introductory level (199).

  • Because off-campus study is an integral part of the PPA major, courses taken off-campus cannot be brought in to replace any of the seven required PPA courses; however, one course from an off-campus program may fulfill a cognate course requirement.
  • Students will take two 300-level PPA elective courses to complete the major, reflecting their track-defined interest. (As this new program will have two FTE vacancies, we cannot specify at this time the choices from which our students will select their electives.)

Politics and Public Affairs Minor

Minors in PPA would complete six courses: the three introductory courses; the sophomore seminar; and two upper-division electives in PPA. Minors would not declare a Track of emphasis nor would an off-campus experience be required.

Political Science Major

For a major in Political Science, students must complete nine courses, only three of which may be at the 100-level and only two of which may be completed in an off-campus experience. Political Science, as a discipline, is divided into four subfields:

  1. Political Theory – focus on normative issues such as the purpose of government and notions of liberty, justice, and governance;
  2. American Politics – seeks to explain political phenomena in the United States;
  3. Comparative Politics – the study of domestic-level politics around the world;
  4. International Relations – concentrates on the interaction between and among states, as well as with transnational non-state actors.

We strongly encourage students to take courses in each of the four subfields for breadth, and to develop a depth of knowledge by choosing elective courses that create an area of expertise in one of the subfields.

All majors must take:

  • one course in American Politics (course numbers ending with 01-19);
  • one course in Political Theory (course numbers ending with 80-89);
  • one course in either: Comparative Politics (course numbers ending with 20-39) or International Relations (course numbers ending with 40-59);
  • POSC 201 - Analyzing Politics. This is the research methods course for the department and should be taken in the sophomore year.
  • A second 200-level course. In order to further refine students' research and writing skills in political science, we have designated a number of courses to follow on and expand the skills taught in POSC 201 - Analyzing Politics. These courses have a substantive area in one of the four subfields of the discipline as well as a stronger focus on skills such as reading, writing, critical thinking, and research methodology/approaches. This course should be taken in the semester following POSC 201 - Analyzing Politics.
  • POSC 491 - Senior Seminar. Senior seminars are offered in the fall semester each year and should be taken in the senior year; juniors may take a senior seminar if space allows.

Additional rules:

  • A maximum of three 100-level courses may count towards the major;
  • Students studying off campus may transfer a maximum of two major courses for a one semester off-campus experience and three for a year long off-campus experience;
  • Neither directed study nor independent study courses may be used to fulfill major requirements;
  • The two-semester senior research sequence counts as one course for the major.

Political Science Minor

A minor in Political Science is six courses and must include:

  • one course in American Politics (course numbers ending with 01-19);
  • one course in Political Theory (course numbers ending with 80-89);
  • one course in either: Comparative Politics (course numbers ending with 20-39) or International Relations (course numbers ending with 40-59).

Additional rules:

  • Neither directed study nor independent study courses may be used to fulfill minor requirements;
  • Only two 100-level courses may count towards the minor.

Additional Points of Interest

The Richard G. Lugar Program in Politics and Public Service

For further information, consult Lugar Program.

Other Programs

The Political Science Department participates in the interdepartmental major in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). The department also participates in the interdisciplinary International Studies, Environmental Studies, Black Studies and Women's and Gender Studies programs.

Off-Campus Study

The department of political science strongly encourages students to globalize their education by completing some portion of their undergraduate education abroad. A majority of Denison students spend a semester abroad during their junior year and many more spend a summer (or two) abroad. Denison offers a wide range of opportunities to study off-campus that are highly relevant to both your major and general education. Many include either independent research opportunities or internships.

Going abroad allows students to enhance their knowledge of politics while experiencing another culture and way of life. Students gain valuable international experience that will benefit future career goals and/or graduate school opportunities. Political Science majors who are fluent in another language will have special advantages in the job market!

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