College of Arts & Sciences

Political Science Department

Why Political Science?


Frequently, people assume that political science is primarily about elections and policy debates, particularly in the United States. While American politics and policy on the local, state, and national levels are certainly important topics, the field is actually much broader. If you are interested in learning about why some countries are successful democracies, while others aren’t, why nationalism can be so destructive in some settings and a positive force in others, how leaders construct crises and use them for political goals, why conflict emerges and how building peace is complex but possible, or probing the ideas of great political philosophers, then political science may be the major for you. You can take courses on the many facets of American politics, the politics of different countries around the world, the ways in which collectivities such as ethnicities, countries, international organizations, and terrorist groups interact, and the nature of politics according to important thinkers.

Do you like to read the newspaper, watch the Sunday morning talk shows, or have favorite Internet sources of information? Do you like to talk about what is going on in your hometown, the nation, and/or the world? Political science majors typically have a fascination with current events and want to learn more about both what is happening and why. Majors like to read, research, analyze, and write about contemporary issues, exploring their roots, explaining their origins, and considering their implications

Political science is an excellent liberal arts major that will help you develop your reading, writing, research, presentation, and analytic skills and, as such, is a great place for students considering law school or careers in government, communications, journalism, the non-profit sector, or the corporate world. To help students develop their interests and enhance their chances of finding a rewarding job, SJU’s political science department encourages students to become involved in internships in the greater Philadelphia region (for course credit) or at the Washington Center ( (for a semester’s worth of credit). We also promote experiential learning, where students study abroad (some sites provide opportunities for international internships), take study tours, or participate in the Model European Union program. Our majors become corporate executives, teachers, government employees, attorneys, policy specialists, and advocates in non-profits. You can go any where you want with a political science degree, hard work in developing your skills, and determination.  See our recommended courses for business savvy political science majors. 

The political science major is designed to acquaint you with the substance of politics and to develop your reading comprehension, research, writing, speaking, and analytic skills. Our goal is to provide you with interesting courses that will also give you the tools that will serve you well in your professional careers, law school, or graduate school.  In addition to completing the Political science major, students often pursue a minor––in such fields as history, economics, philosophy, American studies, or a foreign language. Many majors choose to spend a semester studying abroad or interning in Washington, and each year, some students graduate with General or Departmental Honors.

A minor in Political Science is a great choice for students who are interested in the world around them. In addition to learning about U.S. or world politics, minors can take advantage of the many experiential learning activities (local internships, Washington Center, summer study tours, study abroad) that Political Science offers. The minor also helps students sharpen and broaden their reading, research, presentation, writing, and analytic skills.  A minor in International Relations allows students to combine courses in Political Science, Modern History and International Economics. The Justice & Ethics and the Law minor emphasizes the ethics, corporate, social and political structures that underline the law.

Many members of the political science faculty have been recognized within the University as outstanding teachers and scholars. They have received awards for their work in the classroom and have published their research in first-rate outlets.  Class sizes are generally small. The introductory courses for first-year majors tend to have a maximum of twenty students. Upper division classes are capped at twenty-five. This small size allows for students and faculty to develop strong relationships and for interesting classroom presentations and interactions. Faculty are energetic and expert in the material they teach, and their enthusiasm infuses the classroom.

Political science faculty want to make the educational experiences of their students first-rate. Students are encouraged to consult their teachers frequently and freely. As academic advisors, over the course of a student’s SJU career, faculty spend multiple hours discussing course selection, career development, and other issues with their advisees. Not surprisingly, given the high quality of their advising, several faculty in the department have been rewarded for their outstanding efforts in advising.

Learning does not begin and end in the classroom at SJU.  Topics in the classroom are supplemented by vast amounts of outside information - available to students who actively seek ways to learn more.  Newspaper features and podcasts provide instant and up-to-date digests, but do not always address deeper issues.  They do not provide a ready made forum for students to share and discuss connections they make with material they read.  In the classroom, discussions cannot address every newsworthy event - after all, exams and paper topics demand that attention be devoted to the subject at hand.

The Political Science Department has found a way to keep students interested and informed outside the classroom with a series of presentations by authoritative figures, such as General Barry McCaffrey, Professor Tim Byrnes, and even SJU's faculty.  A variety of different subjects are addressed, for example:  security concerns in the U.S.; the influence of religious institutions on foreign policy; and nuclear plant disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima.  These presentations give students a way to learn that is as easy as sitting down in a seat at the right time!

Coming to one of these lectures is not a passive affair - Q and A sessions ensure that students can actively engage with the topics being presented and further hone their understanding of the subject.  The wealth of knowledge and insight imparted at these lectures gives the avarage Political Science major the unparalleled opportunity to seek out information and become more well-versed in subjects that are attractive to the student, making for a more fulfilling college experience overall.  The talks are current, exciting, and provide rich "food for thought" that puts any student who does not take advantage of them at a disservice.  When information is as easily obtained as a free lecture during free period, it is hard to think of an excuse not to show up.