Political Science (PSCI)
Assistant Professors: Payne, Williamson (Chairperson)
The major is designed to provide a systematic understanding of government and politics at the
international, national, state, and local levels. Majors are encouraged to develop their skills to
make independent, objective analyses which can be applied to the broad spectrum of the social
Although the political science major is not designed as a vocational major, students with such
training may go directly into government service, journalism, teaching, or private administrative
agencies. A political science major can also provide a solid foundation for the study of law, or for graduate studies leading to administrative work in federal, state, or local governments, international organizations, or teaching at the university level. Students seeking certification to teach secondary school social studies may major in political science but should consult their advisors and the Education Department.
Students interested in teacher certification should refer to the Department of Education listing.
A major in Political Science consists of ten courses as follows: PSCI 110; two other introductory courses from PSCI 130, 140 and 160; PSCI 300; PSCI 400 and five others. These five courses must cover at least two subfields of Political Science—American Politics and Public Policy (Designated by course numbers in the 10s or 20s), Legal Studies (Designated with course numbers in the 30s), Comparative Politics (Designated with course numbers in the 40s), or International Relations (Designated with course numbers in the 60s). In addition two of these five courses must be at the 300 level or above.
The following courses satisfy the cultural diversity requirement: PSCI 140, 241, 331, and 367.
The following courses, when scheduled as W courses, count towards the writing intensive requirement: PSCI 220, 242, 331, 334, 400.
The department offers four minors:
1) Political Science—any five courses, three of which are numbered 200 or above.
2) American Politics—PSCI 110 and four courses selected from those with course numbers
ending in the 10s or 20s.
3) World Politics— PSCI 140 or 160 and four courses selected from those with course numbers
ending in the 40s or 60s.
4) Legal Studies—PSCI 130 and four courses selected from those with course numbers in the
Students are encouraged to consult with department members on the selection of a minor.
U.S. GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
The ideologies, institutions, and processes of American politics at the national level, with attention to the internal workings of government and the extra-governmental actors including voters, political parties, and interest groups—that influence policy.
THE AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM
An introduction to all aspects of the American legal system. Students examine the historical development of the American court system, its current incarnation and organization, the "players" who participate in this system (i.e., lawyers, judges, interest groups), and the stages of the trial process. In addition, students explore the special role that the Supreme Court plays in the American legal system, focusing on the structure of the Court, which cases the Court agrees to hear and why, judicial decision-making, opinion assignment and bargaining, and the notion of constraints on the Court.
COMPARATIVE POLITICS AND GEOGRAPHY
The politics and geography of states in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South America in a search for comparisons and patterns. Includes history, institutions, cultures, borders, regions, and map exercises.
The basic factors and concepts of international relations, such as international systems, national interest and security, wars, decolonization, nationalism, economic development, trade blocs, and international law and organizations.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
An examination of the general principles, major problems, and political processes of the states and their subdivisions, together with their role in a federal type of government. Alternate years.
The role and impact of political parties in America, focusing on theories of individual partisan attitudes and behavior, party organizations and activities, and partisan performance in government. Alternate years.
Study of the U.S. Congress emphasizing internal structure and operations, rules and procedures, party leadership, committee system, external influences, incentives for congressional behavior, and elections. Alternate years.
The structure and behavior of the American presidency, including elections, organization of the office, and relation to other national institutions. Alternate years.
PUBLIC POLICY IN AMERICA
An investigation of the public policymaking process in the United States. Students examine how issues get on the public policy agenda, the processes policymakers work through in making policy choices, the challenges and associated politics of implementing policy, and the substantive issues that remain once policymakers address a problem. To illustrate the concepts and principles of the public policy process, the course also explores controversial issues ranging from abortion and climate change to gun control and same-sex marriage. Alternate years.
LAW IN AMERICA
A survey of the sources and functions of American law. Students examine the various types of law (e.g., business, civil, constitutional, criminal, family, etc.) to determine the capacity and limitations of law and legal processes to deal with social problems.
POLITICS OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
General understanding of what developing countries are and how they compare to the developed world. Critical discussion of the sources of underdevelopment, the issues which plague contemporary developing countries and prevent advancement, possible solutions, and the general future of a developing/developed divide. Alternate years.
Examination of the historical, philosophical and religious documents in which contemporary human rights are grounded, accompanied by discussions of how these rights change over time and space. Analysis of the future effectiveness of human rights legislation and organizations. Alternate years.
Exploration of the international organizations that purportedly facilitate cooperation within the international system. Discussions focus on the origins of these institutions, their past and present functions, as well as the role they might play in the future of international politics and international law. Students will examine these issues in the context of IOs such as the United Nations, European Union, African Union, Organization of American States, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Alternate years.
POLITICAL SCIENCE RESEARCH METHODS
An examination of the conceptual and analytical tools in political science research. Topics include research design, issue of measurement and empirical analysis. Prerequisite: Junior standing having completed 2 prior courses in Political Science, or consent of instructor.
PUBLIC OPINION AND POLLING
A course dealing with the general topic and methodology of polling. Content includes exploration of the processes by which people’s political opinions are formed, the manipulation of public opinion through the uses of propaganda, and the American response to politics and political issues. Prerequisite: PSCI 110, or consent of instructor.
An investigation of the Constitution’s distribution of political power among coequal branches of the federal government (separation of powers) and between the levels of government (federalism). The venue for studying constitutional law will be the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. The investigation will require students read, critically analyze, and discuss cases pertaining to controversial issues ranging from the authority to tax, spend, and declare war to the impact of national emergencies and terrorism. Prerequisite: PSCI 130 or 231, or consent of instructor. Alternate years.
CIVIL RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES
An investigation of the Bill of Rights and its place in American democracy. The venue for studying civil rights and liberties will be the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. The investigation requires students to read, critically analyze, and discuss cases pertaining to controversial issues ranging from abortion and flag burning to obscenity and zoning restrictions. Prerequisite: PSCI 130 or 231, or consent of instructor. Alternate years.
LEGAL RESEARCH AND WRITING
Designed to develop the skills needed to find, read, and analyze legal sources in order to write persuasive briefs, memoranda, and pleadings. While useful for all, this skill set provides a great advantage to students hoping to attend law school or work in the legal profession. Some class meetings may be held at the James V. Brown Library. Prerequisite: PSCI 130 or 231, or consent of instructor. Alternate years.
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLITICS
An examination of the law, institutions, actors, processes, and context influencing American environmental policymaking. Students investigate contemporary environmental issues including pollution, resource depletion, urban congestion and sprawl, and extinction. Alternate years.
JUDICIAL POLITICS AND BEHAVIOR
An exploration of the academic scholarship on judicial politics and behavior designed to develop students’ ability to read and critically analyze such research. Questions examined in the course include: Why do judges decide cases the way they do? What effect does public opinion have on judicial decision-making? How do interest groups pursue their objectives in the court system? How are state and federal benches staffed? What effect do institutional differences have on judicial decision-making? Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing and PSCI 130 or 231, or consent of instructor. Alternate years.
Examination of the contemporary dominant form of conflict: civil war. Discussion of the political, economic, and institutional sources of civil conflict; determinants of length and intensity; the actors involved and their diverse motivations and actions; the various consequences; and finally, some potential solutions. Prerequisite: PSCI 140, 160 or CJCR 346; or consent of instructor. Alternate years.
Application of the various theories of interstate conflict, grounded in traditional theories of international relations. An examination of the following questions: where, when, and why do wars start? Why should we care? Can war achieve peace? Or are there alternative paths to peace? Prerequisite: PSCI 160, or consent of instructor. Alternate years.
Examination of the causes and strategies of terrorism as well as potential solutions. Students engage a variety of theories and debate whether terrorism has psychological, religious, cultural, and/or rational causes. Terrorism as a strategy is also studied, with particular attention to primary texts on insurgency and counterinsurgency. Application of what we have learned in an effort to evaluate a number of potential solutions. Prerequisite: PSCI 140, 160 or CJCR 346; or consent of instructor. Alternate years.
WAR AND PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Is the Middle East an exceptionally dangerous region? If so, why? Examination of the geography, history, religions, and politics as well as the region’s chances for peace. Prerequisite: PSCI 140 or 160, or consent of the instructor. Alternate years.
AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
The U.S. role in the world in geographic, strategic, historical, and ideological perspectives, plus an examination of the domestic forces shaping U.S. policy. Prerequisite: PSCI 160, or consent of the instructor. Alternate years.
Capstone course required of majors, normally taken in their senior year, integrates and deepens knowledge and methods of the study of politics by means of empirical political inquiry and quantitative techniques. Open to non-majors with consent of instructor. Prerequisite: PSCI 300.
INTERNSHIPS (See index)
Students may receive academic credit for serving as interns in structured learning situations with a wide variety of public and private agencies and organizations. Students have served as interns with the Public Defender’s Office, the Lycoming County Court Administrator, and the Williamsport City government.
INDEPENDENT STUDY (See index)
Current studies relate to elections—local, state, and federal—while past studies have included Soviet and world politics.
INDEPENDENT STUDY FOR DEPARTMENTAL HONORS (See index)