Courses

The curriculum in the Department of Political Science covers the major subfields in the discipline: U.S. politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, research methods, public law, and public policy. Required courses in the major give students exposure to these subfields, while elective allow students to specialize in areas of interest. Students are encouraged to work with their academic advisor and consult the Department’s suggested tracks to find a path through the major that aligns with their intellectual and professional goals.

Each semester, the Department offers a select number of Special Topics courses (PLSC 379).  Special Topics are not yet part of the Department’s permanent catalog but rather are courses that faculty are piloting or have designed to address a timely political issue.  The special topics courses for this academic year are:

  • Politics of Central & Eastern Europe
  • Democracy Around the World
  • Contemporary Democratic Theory
  • Global Environmental Justice

Updated each spring, the course handout contains information on the upcoming year’s courses, including upcoming Special Topics and Senior Seminars, as well as general advising tips.

Political Science

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  • PLSC 220 Introduction to American Government

    Units: 1

    Description
    Basic roles, structures, and functions of American political institutions and introduction to American political process.
  • PLSC 240 Introduction to Comparative Government

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement(s): AI-Social Inquiry (AISO)

    Description
    Concepts, approaches, classifications, and models useful in comparing political structures and processes. Political systems characteristic of countries with different cultures and levels of economic development.
  • PLSC 250 Introduction to International Relations

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement(s): AI-Social Inquiry (AISO)

    Description
    Framework for analyzing contemporary international system: goals of nation-states and other actors; how such actors attempt to achieve their goals; and some forces that help or hinder attainment of goals.
  • PLSC 260 Introduction to Public Policy

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement(s): AI-Social Inquiry (AISO)

    Description
    Contemporary social and economic problems in America, public policies adopted or proposed to deal with them, and ways of analyzing those problems and policies.
  • PLSC 270 Social Science Inquiry

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement(s): IF-Quantitative Data Literacy (IFQD)

    Description
    Introduction to the process of social science research and inquiry. Includes instruction on forming a research question, preparing a literature review, developing a research design, and undertaking analysis using selected quantitative or qualitative empirical analytical tools.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220, 240, 250, or 260

  • PLSC 279 Selected Topics

    Units: 0.5-1

    Description
    May be repeated for credit when topic varies.
  • PLSC 310 Statemanship

    Units: 1

    Description
    (See Leadership Studies 378.)
  • PLSC 311 Classical Political Thought

    Units: 1

    Description
    Enduring basic issues in political theory studied through writings of Plato, Aristotle and other thinkers from ancient Greece through the Renaissance.
  • PLSC 312 Modern Political Theory

    Units: 1

    Description
    Ideas of major political philosophers from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Burke, Hegel, Marx, Tocqueville, and J. S. Mill.
  • PLSC 315 American Political Theory

    Units: 1

    Description
    Political thought in America from colonial times to present with an emphasis on issues relating to liberty, equality, federalism, community, and national purpose.
  • PLSC 323 Money, Politics and Prisons

    Units: 1

    Description
    The connections between the economy, politics, and the prison system in the United States are important for understanding concepts of justice in a democracy. Explores links between privatization of prisons, political incentives, and theories of justice.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 325 Racial Politics

    Units: 1

    Description
    Comparative examination of the history, problems and political role of minority groups in the U.S., with a concentration on the African-American political experience.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 326 United States Congress

    Units: 1

    Description
    Organization and functions of American Congress.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 327 The American Presidency

    Units: 1

    Description
    Political leadership in American political system from perspective of chief executive. Particular attention to expansion and use of presidential power.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 328 American Political Parties

    Units: 1

    Description
    Examines American political parties as organizations and their role in elections, government, and public policy. Also explores how parties have changed over time and the causes and effects of growing party polarization.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 or 260

  • PLSC 329 Campaigns and Elections

    Units: 1

    Description
    Analysis of institutions and process of American electoral system and behavior of American electorate.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 330 Creation of the American Republic

    Units: 1

    Description
    Examines principles and practice of leadership within political context of the founding of the American Republic from 1776 through 1788. Primary focus will be on day-to-day work of the Constitutional Convention and the subsequent debates over ratification of the new constitution. Primary focus historical.
  • PLSC 331 Constitutional Law

    Units: 1

    Description
    Role of United States Supreme Court in American politics studied through examination of landmark constitutional decisions pertaining to distribution of governmental powers.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 or 260

  • PLSC 333 Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

    Units: 1

    Description
    Analysis of contemporary legal status and interpretation of constitutional rights and liberties. Emphasis on landmark Supreme Court decisions involving various provisions of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 or 260

  • PLSC 336 SCOTUS & Criminal Procedure

    Units: 1

    Description
    This course critically analyzes the Supreme Court’s interpretation and application surrounding the constitutional rights of the criminally accused in our American legal system. Emphasis on landmark Supreme Court decisions involving the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendments.

     

    Prerequisites

    Prerequisite PLSC 220 or PLSC 260

  • PLSC 337 The American Legal System
  • PLSC 338 Critical Race Theory

    Units: 1

    Description
    This course introduces students to critical race theory, an intellectual movement that considers why the liberal legal tradition and law address structural and institutional racism.
  • PLSC 339 Jurisprudence and Contemporary American Politics

    Units: 1

    Description
    Explores basic questions about the nature and function of law as an instrument of state power that are deeply interconnected with a wide range of political and legal problems.
  • PLSC 342 Politics of Middle East and North Africa

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement(s): IF-Written Communication (IFWC), AI-Social Inquiry (AISO)

    Description
    This course covers the politics of the Middle East and North Africa region. This includes topics such as oil and climate change, authoritarian regimes, civil war and sectarian conflicts, and Muslim societies.
  • PLSC 343 Politics of Asia

    Units: 1

    Description
    Study of historical, cultural, and social forces shaping contemporary politics of Asia. Comparative survey of major political systems and critical examination of key issues. Attempts to link Asian studies with mainstream political science.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 240 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 344 Europe Today

    Units: 1

    Description
    An examination of political, social, and economic developments in Europe (both western and east-central) since World War II. Topics include European integration and the development of the European Union institutions, postcommunist transitions and their consequences, and the domestic politics of selected European states.
  • PLSC 345 Politics of Contemporary China

    Units: 1

    Description
    Study of China’s political system and policies in the reform era. Topics include party and state institutions, policies of reform, and politics on China’s periphery. Implications for social relationships, national identity, popular culture, and morality will be explored.
  • PLSC 348 Politics of Africa

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement(s): IF-Power/Equity/Identity/Cult (IFPE)

    Description
    Comparative study of state formation, nation-building, political economy, social structure/movements, selected regions and countries in Africa.
  • PLSC 349 Politics of Latin America and the Caribbean

    Units: 1

    Description
    Influence of historical, social, and cultural forces on contemporary politics of Latin America and the Caribbean. Effects of social structure and underdevelopment on processes of democratization, institution building, national integration, and economic development. Case studies of selected countries illustrate major themes and issues explored.
  • PLSC 350 American Foreign Policy

    Units: 1

    Description
    Analyzes the traditions, processes, substance, and goals of American foreign policy, in addition to exploring national security and defense policy, foreign economic policy, international diplomacy, and foreign policy ethics.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 or 250

  • PLSC 351 Globalization

    Units: 1

    Description
    Analysis of the political, economic, and socio-cultural dimensions of globalization. Considers how globalization has affected the nation state, interstate relations, and the democratization and development of countries around the world. Students will evaluate different definitions of globalization; analyze to what extent globalization limits the autonomy of national governments; and consider whether the effects of globalization vary across different regions of the world. (Same as International Studies 351.)

     

    Prerequisites

    Prerequisite

    PLSC 240, 250, or GS 290

  • PLSC 353 International Security

    Units: 1

    Description
    Investigates international issues that threaten the security and prosperity of societies and individuals in the modern world. Issues include global terrorism, human slavery and trafficking, genocide, civil wars and insurgencies, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. (Same as International Studies 353)

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 250 or MSCL 205

  • PLSC 356 International Political Economy

    Units: 1

    Description
    Politics, processes, and institutions underlying contemporary global economic interdependence, with special focus on international trade, finance, and assistance; alternative theoretical models for understanding these events, processes, and institutions.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 250 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 359 Global Governance

    Units: 1

    Description
    Analyzes themes and selected topics in global governance. It explores how state and nonstate actors work together to confront and solve contemporary transnational challenges. (Same as International Studies 359)

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 250 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 360 International Development Policy

    Units: 1

    Description
    Assistance policies of wealthy nations and multilateral organizations, development policies and problems of poor or underdeveloped nations, and dynamics of economic, political, environmental, and cultural transactions.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 250 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 361 The Politics of Social Welfare

    Units: 1

    Description
    Study of the development and effectiveness of programs in the United States that seek to promote economic equality and alleviate need. A focus on programs for both the poor and the middle class.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220, 260, or SOC 101

  • PLSC 362 Environmental Law and Policy

    Units: 1

    Description
    Examines legal aspects, both regulations and case law, of environmental policy. Central issues are whether legal responses (1) effectively address the needs of the parties most affected; (2) properly weigh such facts as economic efficiency, protection of nonhuman species, and the possibility of unintended consequences; and (3) are diluted by the political process. (Same as Environmental Studies 362.)

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 260 or ENVR 201

  • PLSC 365 U.S. Healthcare Policy and Politics

    Units: 1

    Description
    Examination of political and economic evolution of the American healthcare system: doctors, hospitals, managed care, Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance, public health, epidemiology, mental health, pediatric health, tort reform, and psychopharmacology, among other topics. Includes comparative analysis of other countries' healthcare systems.
  • PLSC 366 Poverty and Political Voice

    Units: 1

    Description
    Examines how well our nation¿s antipoverty policies alleviate the hardships faced by residents of these communities and assesses the ability of the poor to mobilize for effective social change in their communities. Includes a required community-based learning component.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220, 260, and SOC 101

  • PLSC 367 Black Politics and Policy

    Units: 1

    Description
    This course examines how federal and state laws and policies affect Black people in the United States. Emphasis will be given to current controversial policies.
  • PLSC 379 Selected Topics

    Units: 0.5-1

    Description
    Examples include comparative public-policy, constitutional politics, political terrorism, and public policy decision making. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 388 Individual Internship

    Units: 0.5-1

    Description
    No more than 1.5 units of internship in any one department and 3.5 units of internship overall may be counted toward required degree units.
  • PLSC 390 Independent Study

    Units: 0.5-1

  • PLSC 395 Legislative Internship

    Units: 2

    Description
    Combines weekly seminar on the state legislative process with work as assistant to a state legislator, government agency, interest group, or press during session of the Virginia General Assembly.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 220 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 400 Senior Seminar

    Units: 1

    Fulfills General Education Requirement(s): IF-Written Communication (IFWC)

    Description
    Reading and research focusing on important topics in political science. Both topics and instructors change from semester to semester.
  • PLSC 406 Summer Undergraduate Research

    Units: 0

    Description
    Documentation of the work of students who receive summer fellowships to conduct research [or produce a creative arts project] in the summer. The work must take place over a minimum of 6 weeks, the student must engage in the project full-time (at least 40 hours per week) during this period, and the student must be the recipient of a fellowship through the university. Graded S/U.

     

    Prerequisites

    Approval by a faculty mentor.

  • PLSC 490 Research Prospectus

    Units: 0.5

    Description
    Independent study devoted to the preparation of a research prospectus for the honors thesis. The prospectus is completed under the direction of the student’s intended thesis advisor. Department approval required.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC270

  • PLSC 491 Honors Independent Research and Writing

    Units: 1

    Description
    Reading and research toward an honors thesis.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 270 with a minimum grade of D-

  • PLSC 492 Honors Independent Research and Writing II

    Units: 1

    Description
    Reading and research toward an honors thesis.

     

    Prerequisites

    PLSC 270 with a minimum grade of D-