College Bulletin - Course Catalog 
    Apr 19, 2019  
College Bulletin - Course Catalog

Political Science



TYRENE WHITE, Professor1
BENJAMIN BERGER, Associate Professor
AYSE KAYA, Associate Professor1
KEITH REEVES, Professor and Chair
DOMINIC TIERNEY, Associate Professor
SAMUEL HANDLIN, Assistant Professor
EMILY PADDON RHOADS, Assistant Professor
JONNY THAKKAR, Assistant Professor
OSMAN BALKAN, Visiting Assistant Professor
GINA INGIOSI, Administrative Assistant
DEBORAH SLOMAN, Administrative Assistant

1 Absent on leave, fall 2018.
2 Absent on leave, spring 2019.

The Academic Program

To graduate with a major in political science, a student must complete 8.5 credits in the department- at least eight courses in the department, plus the 0.5 credit requirement for completing the senior comprehensive exercise. At least five of these eight courses must be taken at Swarthmore, including all of the distribution requirements (see below), and two introductory level courses (POLS 002, 003, 004, 010) must be completed at Swarthmore before acceptance as a major. Introductory level courses will count as distribution requirements.

Honors majors and minors, course majors, and special majors may take one course in the department credit/no credit after all distribution and department requirements have been fulfilled. 

Distribution of courses within the department

Political science majors are required to take one course or seminar in each of the following areas: 1) American politics; 2) comparative or international politics; and 3) political theory.  All distribution requirements must be met by courses taken at Swarthmore.

Courses in American politics include: Environmental Politics, Constitutional Law, American Elections, Lesbians and Gays in American Politics, Political Parties and Elections, Congress and the American Political System, Polling, Public Opinion and Public Policy, Politics of Voting Rights, U.S. Presidency, Race and American Development, Urban Underclass, Democratic Theory and Practice (POLS 019), Politics of Punishment, and others.

Courses in comparative and international politics include: Latin American Politics, China and the World, Defense Policy, American Foreign Policy, The Causes of War, Globalization, International Political Economy, and others.

Courses in political theory include: Practical Wisdom, Ancient Political Thought, Modern Political Thought, Democratic Theory and Practice (POLS 019), and others. Only POLS 011, 012, 100 or 101 will satisfy the distribution requirement for theory in the department.

Majors and minors may take one directed reading within the department for credit with approval from the department chair. 

Other courses eligible for Political Science credit are PEAC 003 and PEAC 053. These courses count towards the major/minor but do not satisfy distribution requirements.

Political theory requirement

At least one course in ancient or modern political theory is required of all majorsand minors. This requirement can be met by enrollment in either one course or one honors seminar, listed below. It is strongly recommended that all majors and mninors complete this requirement no later than their junior year.

Eligible courses are:

  • POLS 011. Ancient Political Thought
  • POLS 012. Modern Political Thought
  • POLS 100. Ancient Political Thought
  • POLS 101. Modern Political Theory

Only ancient or modern political theory, either the course or the seminar, count as fulfilling the political theory requirement. Courses taken abroad or outside of Swarthmore are not considered the equivalent of these courses. This requirement must be met at Swarthmore, in the Political Science Department.


Sometimes courses have to be lotteried. If a student is lotteried for a course one semester, their name will go on a list and they will not be lotteried for that same course the next semester that the course is offered.

Course Major

  1. Course prerequisites. Students must have completed two introductory courses at Swarthmore (POLS 002, 003, 004, 010) by the end of their first semester of sophomore year. This is the prerequisite for further work in the department and acceptance into the major. Majors will be deferred from acceptance into the department until both intros are completed. Only one intro can be a first-year seminar.
  2. Grade requirements. We consider student applications to join the department individually, taking into account each student’s background and college performance to date. Normally, the following expectations apply:
  1. For acceptance as a course major, the department expects performance at the 2.33 level in all college courses and at the 2.67 level in courses in political science (including courses graded Credit/No Credit).
  2. For acceptance as a double major, the department expects performance at the 3.0 level in all college courses and at the 3.33 level in courses in political science (including courses graded Credit/No Credit).
  1. Prerequisites for individual courses. Students should note that certain courses and seminars have specific prerequisites.
  2. The senior comprehensive requirement. To graduate from Swarthmore, all majors and special majors in the Course Program need to fulfill the senior comprehensive requirement in the Political Science Department. This can be done in one of two ways. The preferred option is POLS 092: the Senior Comprehensive Exam, which is a 0.5 credit graded exercise. Working with a faculty adviser, students will produce a short paper in the spring semester of their senior year, which connects work they have done in two different sub-fields of political science (political theory, American politics, comparative politics, and international relations). Students will then present their work at a department conference. Option two, POLS 095 is a one-credit graded written thesis, which may be chosen by students who meet the eligibility requirements and get the approval of a faculty adviser and the chair. All junior and senior course majors (unless abroad) are required to attend the department senior comprehensive exercise conference in March.
  3. Recommended courses in other departments. Supporting courses strongly recommended for all majors are Statistical Thinking or Statistical Methods (STAT 001 or 011) and Introduction to Economics (ECON 001).

Honors Major

  1. Political science honors majors must meet all current distributional requirements for majors, including the political theory requirement, preferably with the honors versions of ancient or modern political theory.
  2. They must have a minimum of ten credits inside the Political Science Department.
  3. Six of these credits will be met with three (3) two-unit honors preparations which will help prepare honors majors for outside examinations, both written and oral. These two-unit preparations will normally be either a two-credit honors seminar or a “course-plus” option.

Of these three (3) two-unit preparations, no more than two may be in a single field in the department, and no more than one may be a course-plus option.

The “course-plus” option will normally consist of two one-unit courses that have been designated to count as an honors preparation, or in some cases a one-unit course and a one-unit seminar that have been so designated. It is up to the student to arrange a course-plus option with a specific faculty member and to have this approved by the chair.

  1. To fulfill the senior honors study requirement for honors majors, students will revise a paper written for one of their department seminars. This paper will be submitted to the appropriate external examiner as part of the honors evaluation process.
  2. To be accepted into the Honors Program students should normally have at least an average of 3.67 inside and 3.5 outside the department, and should have given evidence to the departmental faculty of their ability to work independently and constructively in a seminar setting. Seminars will normally be limited to eight students and admission priority will go to honors majors, first seniors and then juniors, including special majors.
  3. Honors majors are strongly encouraged to attend the department senior comprehensive exercise conference in March.

Admission to Seminars

Placement in honors seminars is normally limited to honors students. Occasionally, there is room in a seminar for highly qualified non-honors students, but this is rare and at the discretion of the teacher. Honors seminars in the Political Science Department are normally full. Students should request placement in scheduled honors seminars by including the seminar in the Sophomore Plan or by including it in the application for participation in the Honors Program. All honors students in the department must get the approval of the Chair of the department for their Honors Program by meeting with the chair. The department maintains priority lists for enrollment in every seminar we anticipate offering in the next two academic years. We add the names of qualified students to these lists in the order their requests for seminar placement are received, with honors majors always receiving priority over non-honors majors. Seniors, including special majors, are given priority over juniors and non-honors majors. If a seminar is full, the names of students who wish to be placed in that seminar are added to a waiting list.

To be fair to everyone, we ask each student not to request placement in more than two seminars in any one semester. In addition, there is an overall limit of three seminars for majors and one seminar for others.

We make every effort to offer the seminars we announce. But inclusion on a priority list is not a guarantee that the seminar will be offered, or that a student will get in. Sometimes seminars are lotteried. It is best to discuss participation in a seminar with the faculty member who is teaching it.

Honors Minor

  1. Honors minors in political science will be required to have at least five credits in political science. Among these credits there must be one introductory course (POLS 002,  POLS 003  or POLS 004 ; a first-year seminar does not count), one course in political theory (POLS 011, POLS 012, POLS 100, or POLS 101), one other political science course and one (1) of the two-unit honors preparations offered by the department.

Honors Exams

The honors exams will normally consist of a three hour written exam in each of the student’s seminars, and an oral exam in each seminar, conducted by an external honors examiner.

Special Major

All special majors must have a designated faculty adviser and consult with the chair to receive approval for the proposed program. Within that approved program, 6.5 credits must be taken in the department, including one introductory course (POLS 002, POLS 003 POLS 004 ; a first-year seminar does not count),  and the distribution requirements must be met by courses taken at Swarthmore including theory and two other subfields (see Distribution of Courses within the department section).  The political theory requirement for special majors can only be met by completing one of the following: POLS 011 POLS 012 POLS 100  or POLS 101 . All special course majors are required to participate in the department’s Senior Comprehensive Exercise  (see item #4 under Course Major) for .5 credit.

Special Honors Major

All special honors majors must have a designated faculty advisor and consult with the chair to receive approval for the proposed program. Within that approved program, 6 credits must be taken in the department, including one introductory course (POLS 002, POLS 003, POLS 004; a first year seminar does not count), and the distribution requirements must be met by courses taken at Swarthmore (see Distribution of  Courses within the Department section) plus one honors seminar in the department.  The political theory requirement for special honors majors can only be met by completing one of the following:  POLS 011, POLS 012, POLS 100 or POLS 101.  At least one course in all three subfields (American, theory, and international/comparative) must be completed at Swarthmore.

Application for the Honors or Course Major

All applicants to the major are required to have completed two introductory courses before applying to the major or their application will be deferred.

Application for the Honors Minor

All applicants to the minor are required to have completed one introductory course before applying to the minor or their application will be deferred.

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Credit

No more than one Advanced Placement credit will be accepted for credit.

Transfer Credit

Transfer credit is offered on the same basis as study abroad credit. Students taking classes elsewhere should consult the chair in advance on the amount of credit likely to be available. As with study abroad, students may be required to retain  written assignments and present copies to the chair for assessment.

Off-Campus Study

The department supports student interest in study abroad. Students are reminded that no more than three of their eight credits (ten credits if in the Honors Program) may be taken outside the Swarthmore department and all of the distribution requirements must be met by classes taken at Swarthmore. Expectations about off-campus study should be incorporated in the Sophomore Plan. Students planning to study abroad should consult the chair and obtain approval prior to making final course selection. Any change in course selection must ultimately be approved as well. Upon return from a study abroad program, political science syllabi, papers, and other course materials may be required for credit evaluation. Pre-estimated credits do not guarantee any particular transfer of credit. The actual transfer of credit depends on the assessment of work done abroad by the department.

The Engaging Democracy Project

The Engaging Democracy Project comprises the Department’s connection to what the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility calls “Engaged Scholarship.” Ernest Boyer coined the term “Engaged Scholarship” to describe teaching and research that connect “the rich resources of the university to our most pressing social, civic, and ethical problems” (Boyer, 1996). The Department of Political Science employs Engaged Scholarship to incorporate academic theory and political practice to promote a richer understanding of democracy in America (and abroad). Program director Ben Berger (also Executive Director of the Lang Center) practices Engaged Scholarship techniques to involve students with local communities; works with student groups to bring a wide range of speakers and activists to the Swarthmore campus; and supports other faculty offering Engaged Scholarship courses, including fellow Political Science faculty Prof. Keith Reeves (Director of the Urban Inequality and Incarceration Program at the Lang Center), Prof. Ayse Kaya, and Prof. Emily Paddon Rhoads.

Political Science Courses