The Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota has a strong tradition of providing undergraduate instruction of the highest quality. Many of our faculty have received all-university teaching awards. Whether you are just taking a class or two, or are planning to major in Political Science, you will find that the department and its faculty are committed to undergraduate teaching and students. The department offers a wide range of classes, from lecture-based instruction to smaller seminars as well as an internship course. The diversity of the faculty means that the department is able to offer a broad range of courses every semester.
What is Political Science and how does it fit into the liberal arts objective?
Politics has been defined as the authoritative allocation of values, and, less grandly, as who gets what, when and how. Political Science is a shorthand expression for the "systematic, theoretically oriented study of political phenomena." But no simple definition can capture the broad range of subject matter that is included in political science. You can get some idea of the scope of the discipline from the main areas of specialization that make up the undergraduate curriculum: Political Theory, Comparative Government and Politics, International Relations, and American Government.
Among the central concerns of political scientists are such topics as the exercise of power and influence; sources and resolution of conflicts; the relation of politics to the economy, culture, and other aspects of a society; the adoption and implementation of public policies; the development of political systems over time; and the normative judgments in which institutions, policies, and actions are evaluated. These topics are studied at all levels, from local communities to the global community.
However politics is defined, it is clear that actions in the political arena have vital effects on our lives, liberties, and well-being. From this standpoint, political science deals with how we reach the collective decisions that shape our common fate.
A liberal education centers upon free inquiry into a wide range of subjects—the arts, the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities—which in turn constitute the foundation for a broad range of specialized studies.
The aim of a liberal education is the multi-faceted understanding of the complex, richly textured world in which we live. This world is increasingly being shaped—intentionally or not, for better or for worse—by political factors and forces. To understand, to participate in, and to help to shape this world requires that we comprehend the nature, the causes, and the consequences of these political phenomena.
Far from being a narrowly specialized field of study, then, political science deals in a rigorous and intellectual way with the problems and paradoxes of an increasingly politicized world.
Director of Undergrad Studies