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Political Science & Public Administration

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Undergraduate programs

Political Science

Undergrad major Undergrad minor

As a social science, political science is the systematic study of how politics ​— "who gets what, when, and how" — works. Students take courses in U.S. politics and policy, international relations (politics among countries)​​​, comparative politics (politics within countries)​​​​, and political theory. Political science challenges students to ask questions that address some of the most challenging issues of our times, including:

  • What is democracy?
  • Why are some countries democratic, but others are not?
  • How do different political institutions affect the lives of ordinary people?
  • Why do countries fight wars?
  • What causes terrorism?
  • Why can’t Democrats and Republicans in Congress cooperate?

Public Administration

Undergrad major Undergrad minor

Public Administration refers to what government does. It covers law, regulation and the executive function. It also includes organizing and managing people and resources to achieve the goals of government and implement public policy. Students who major in public administration take courses in public policy and administration, public and non-profit management, economics, research methodology and more.

Legal Studies

Undergrad minor

Legal studies is an academic field focused on how the law works and the legal ideas and processes behind it. It offers undergraduate students a means to prepare for law school and law-related careers. While there is no particular major required for law school admission, a legal studies minor is an excellent supplement to a wide variety of majors as it provides legal background and desirable skills to prepare for law school.

Featured courses

  • The American Legal System
    POL 221 | 3 credits
    An introductory survey of the American legal system in operation; utilizing case materials, class discussion, and hypothetical conflict situations to illustrate and study the range of problems, proceedings, actions, and remedies encountered. Offered Fall, Spring.
  • Debate
    CST 310 | 3 credits
    An introductory course covering the concepts, formats and strategies of debating. Emphasis is on the development of personal skills of argumentation. Prerequisite: CST 110. Offered Occasionally.
  • Crime and Punishment in America
    HIS 357 | 3 credits
    An introduction to crime and punishment in America from colonial times to the present with an overview of the law and basic institutions of the criminal legal system. The class explores how different groups of people experienced these institutions, how crime patterns and punishment have changed, the differences between crime and violence, different types of crimes (violent, property, white-collar), and why America has the criminal legal system it does. Course makes extensive use of evidence from inside and outside the criminal legal system including police reports, court records, crime data, program evaluations, newspapers, and popular culture. Offered Alternate Years.
  • The American Legal System
    POL 221 | 3 credits
    An introductory survey of the American legal system in operation; utilizing case materials, class discussion, and hypothetical conflict situations to illustrate and study the range of problems, proceedings, actions, and remedies encountered. Offered Fall, Spring.
  • American Presidency
    POL 301 | 3 credits
    The American Presidency will emphasize the development of the office, selection and institutional relations with Congress coupled with an assessment of presidential power in the modern era in domestic and foreign policy making. Prerequisite: POL 101 or POL 102. Offered Occasionally.
  • Identity Politics
    POL 309 | 3 credits
    Examines the role various identities, such as class and race, play in shaping who gets what, when, and how from the political system. The course draws on theoretical and historical debates to evaluate the political, social, psychological, and economic implications of processes like socialization and mobilization to explain participation and voting behavior by different groups in society. Prerequisite: POL 101 or POL 102. Offered Occasionally.
  • Politics of Democratization
    POL 331 | 3 credits
    An examination of the processes by which countries attempt to transition from authoritarian to democratic forms of government, along with the political, economic, social, and historical factors related to their potential for success or failure. The course focuses on both theoretical explanations and empirical outcomes across a diverse set of cases from around the world. Prerequisite: POL 202 or POL 234 or junior standing. Offered Fall.
  • Middle Eastern Government and Politics
    POL 336 | 3 credits
    This course explores the people, politics, and governments of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with a comparative politics approach, i.e., it focuses on the politics within MENA countries but with a cross-national perspective. To do so, we draw on theories in comparative politics about regime types, regime change, development, identity, and political violence and apply them to understand the political, economic, and social trajectories of countries across this diverse region. Prerequisite: POL 202 or POL 234 or junior standing. Offered Spring - Even Numbered Years.
  • Modern and Contemporary Political Theory
    POL 353 | 3 credits
    The development of political theory from the 17th century to the present. The course will analyze leading political theorists in their historical contexts, and evaluate ideas according to the preceding tradition of political theory and their implications for political thought and practice. The survey includes studying the work of philosophers including: Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Burke, Mill, Nietzsche, and Foucault. Prerequisite: POL 251 or junior standing. Offered Fall - Every Third Year.
  • Constitutional Law I: Powers of Government
    POL 370 | 3 credits
    An examination of the United States Constitution, and the role of the judiciary in elaborating its fundamental principles: judicial review, the federal system, the range of national power, and presidential-congressional relations. Prerequisite: POL 101 or POL 102 or POL 221. Offered Occasionally.
  • Public Budgeting and Finance
    PUB 320 | 3 credits
    An examination of the public budgetary process. Included are studies of the various approaches to taxation, decision-making and policy evaluation. Prerequisite: PUB 210. Offered Fall.
  • Health Policy
    PUB 334 | 3 credits
    An intensive, in-depth analysis of health policies - their development, administration, effects and relationship to the broader political system. The perspectives of the policy maker and public policy analyst are emphasized. Prerequisite: POL 102 or junior standing. Offered Alternate Years.
  • Environmental Policy
    PUB 338 | 3 credits
    An in-depth exploration of environmental politics and policy making beginning with American environmentalism in the 1960s and concluding with global environmental politics in the 21st century. Environmental issues, ethics, institutional problems, philosophical approaches, economic analyses and implementation problems will be studied. Prerequisite: POL 102 or junior standing. Offered Occasionally.
  • Ethical Decision Making in Government
    PUB 346 | 3 credits
    This course familiarizes students with a set of concepts, frameworks, and approaches for reasoning, arguing, and writing about the normative issues that confront public administrators. We will connect concepts from political philosophy and applied ethics - including utility, liberty, justice, rights, and deliberative democracy - to assess real-world challenges facing government administrators. The course also addresses why ethical failures occur by explaining such concepts as administrative evil, lying, blind spots, moral hazard, and how deviancy is justified. Last, students will understand the various ways of combating unethical behavior, to include whistleblowing, inspectors general, and expressing loyal dissent. Prerequisite: PUB 210 or legal studies minor. Offered Annually.
  • Civic Engagement and the Wisconsin Idea
    PUB 451 | 3 credits
    The study of the Wisconsin Idea of Community Service and late twentieth century communitarian and service learning philosophies are examined. The course includes service learning work in non-profit and local governmental agencies as well as the study of the meaning of democracy, citizenship, personal political efficacy, leadership and political culture. Lect. 1, Lab 4. Prerequisite: junior standing. Offered Occasionally.
  • Nonprofit Organizations
    PUB 453 | 3 credits
    The management of nonprofit organizations has become an increasingly important field of study given the importance and role of nonprofit organizations within our society. This course will provide students with a general overview of management practices that are specific to nonprofit organizations. Specifically, this course will examine the scope, dimensions, and roles of nonprofit organizations, particularly those designated by the IRS as 501(c)(3), in order to understand their distinctive characteristics and functions in society. Prerequisite: POL 102 or junior standing. Offered Occasionally.