Academic Course Catalogs

Drop Shadow

Political Science

J. Michael Williams, JD, PhD, CHAIR
Del Dickson, JD, PhD
Casey B. K. Dominguez, PhD
Patrick F. Drinan, PhD
Emily Edmonds-Poli, PhD
Virginia Lewis, PhD
Vidya Nadkarni, PhD
Noelle Norton, PhD
Lee Ann Otto, PhD
Michael R. Pfau, PhD
David Shirk, PhD
Avi Spiegel, JD, PhD
Randy Willoughby, PhD

The Department of Political Science and International Relations offers two majors. For information on the International Relations major, please see the International Relations section of this course catalog.

The Political Science Major

The political science major focuses attention on the shared and contending ideas, values, institutions, and processes of public life. The major is expansive in its reach and accommodates a wide range of student interests. Political science courses range from the specific study of politics in one country (for example, the U.S., Mexico, or France) or of a single institution or political process (the judiciary, Congress, the presidency, or elections), to more general offerings such as courses on political development, revolution, research methods, human rights, and legal theory. The Political Science Department relates theory to practice by providing students with opportunities for simulations, writing workshops, internships, community service, study abroad, semesters in Washington, D.C., and trips to Sacramento. Our faculty are committed to the success of individual students by fostering intellectual curiosity, analytical skills, and a heightened awareness of values. The major prepares students for careers in politics, public service, law, teaching, research, and business, as well as international, national, and local government and nongovernmental-organizations.

Preparation for the Major

POLS 100, 125, 175, 250
Major Requirements
24 units of upper division coursework to include
POLS 301 and 302.

The Political Science Minor

POLS 125, 100 or 175, 301 or 302, and nine Upper-Division Units.

USD/Washington Center Internship Semester

University of San Diego students have the opportunity to enroll in a semester-long internship program in Washington, D.C. and earn academic credit toward their major. These internships are coordinated through the Political Science and International Relations Department and the Washington Center, a nationally recognized internship program that pioneered the development of full-time internships in the nation’s capitol. The internship program combines real-world work experience with academic learning in a unique environment that fosters success and achievement. Students earn 12 semester units for participating in a full-time fall or spring semester program, and 6-9 units in the summer.

Political Science/International Relations Research Seminar Capstone

Political Science majors have an option and are encouraged to take an upper division political science research seminar capstone, offered each fall. This will help students to conduct research and write scholarly papers on a variety of American, theory, international, and/or comparative political topics.
All political science majors who plan to go on to graduate school are strongly encouraged to enroll in the research seminar capstone during their junior or senior year.
All students who would like to write a senior thesis, or who want to conduct independent research in political science, should enroll in the research seminar capstone in lieu of independent study.
All honors students who are political science majors are required to enroll in the research seminar capstone the semester before their honors thesis seminar.

Political Science Courses (POLS)

POLS 100 Introduction to Political Science (3)
This course presents an overview of the discipline, including the basic theories, concepts, approaches, and enduring questions of political science. It provides students with a foundation of knowledge and the analytical skills necessary to understand modern politics in historical context.

POLS 125 American Politics (3)
This course offers students a fundamental overview of American politics by analyzing the origin, development, structure, and operation of all levels of the American political system. This course also examines how politics are practiced in the United States in order to analyze the uniqueness of the American political system.

POLS 175 International Relations (3)
This course examines major theoretical approaches in the discipline of international relations. Students are introduced to the study of the causes of war and the conditions of peace, international law and organizations, international political economy, great power politics, and foreign-policy decision making. The course also explores issues such as global poverty, economic development, human rights, and the environment as they affect international politics.

POLS 250 Research Methods in Political Science (3)
This course introduces students to the various stages of the research process, from conceptualization of the research question to interpretation of findings. Students not only learn to develop efficient research strategies to evaluate empirical relationships from a theoretically informed perspective, but they also design and conduct empirical research of their own.

POLS 301 Political Thought: Ancient and Medieval (3)
The objective of this course is to consider the issues raised by political thinkers in the ancient and medieval periods. We will learn how to ask relevant questions about politics: What is the nature of politics? What is the role of the citizen in political life? What is justice? We will closely examine original texts to enlarge our understanding of political life and we will relate the ideas of the past to contemporary political challenges. Typically offered every Fall.

POLS 302 POLITICAL THOUGHT: MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY (3)
This course examines questions raised by political thinkers in the modern and contemporary periods. The questions concern the nature of the state, political rights, obligation, consent, authority, liberty, law, equality, and community. The course uses close textual analysis and conceptual analysis to elucidate theory and to connect it to current political issues. Typically offered every Spring.

POLS 304 AMERICAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT (3)
This course examines the enduring ideas, ideologies, institutional, and intellectual trends in the American polity. It treats developments historically and thematically as it surveys the leading thinkers and periods from pre-revolutionary times to the present. It also goes beyond the main currents of American political life to see the diversity of traditions and worldviews that have contributed to American political development.

POLS 306 Political Ideology (3)
This course examines the nature and content of modern ideologies and the role they play in the political life of states. Students are introduced to the ideologies of liberalism, conservatism, fascism, socialism, and nationalism, and consider how assumptions about human nature in general, and political ideals of order, liberty, equality, and justice, in particular, affect choice of ideology.

POLS 307 Politics and Religion (3)
This course examines the relationship between religion and politics. The focus is on the dynamic interplay between religion and politics and politics across various faith traditions, and legal and political systems.

POLS 308 POLITICS AND LITERATURE (3)
This course examines political concepts, issues, and dilemmas through literature. It focuses on types of politics, moral predicaments of citizens, psychological dimensions of leadership and political change, human relations, and political structures and rules. It explores how literature expresses political culture through language, differently from statistics, policy analysis, interviews, and the many other social science tools that are available in the discipline: the role of interpretation itself is one of the subjects of the course.

POLS 310 The Presidency (3)
This course focuses on the American presidency as an institution. The class examines the origins of the president’s domestic and international powers, how those powers have grown and changed over time, and how they are both enhanced and limited by other actors in the political system.

POLS 312 Congress (3)
This course examines the history, organization, operation, and politics of Congress. Nomination and election, constituent relations, the formal and informal structures of both houses, relations with the executive branch, and policy formulation are discussed. Students participate in a simulation of the House of Representatives.

POLS 313 PARTIES AND INTEREST GROUPS (3)
This course considers the ways that American citizens can work together to affect government policy. It examines the origin, nature, structure, and operation of American political parties, interest groups, and social movements, and the challenges they must overcome in order to create change

POLS 314 Campaigns and Elections (3)
This course analyzes how rules and laws affect the roles that parties, candidates, voters, and other political actors play in elections. It also investigates the behavior of political actors during elections by examining campaign strategy, staffing, polling, advertising, turnout, and symbolic communication. Its main emphasis is on American federal elections, but also considers elections in a comparative context and sub-national elections in the United States.

POLS 316D Sex, Power, and Politics (3)
This course offers an analysis of gender in politics from historical as well as theoretical perspectives. Topics examined include: gender power, leadership, and governance; social, economic, and political factors explaining women’s political status and participation in relation to men’s; and the women’s movement as a political movement.

POLS 321 Constitutional Law and American Government: Federalism and Separation of Powers (3)
This course begins with an examination of the early development of American constitutional law, including the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention, and the Federalist Papers. Students also explore the development of Supreme Court doctrine regarding judicial review, conflicts among the three departments of government in domestic and foreign affairs, and the ongoing struggle to define the responsibilities of state and federal governments.

POLS 322D Constitutional Law: Civil Rights and Liberties (3)
This course examines constitutional law and politics, with a focus on civil rights and individual liberties. Topics include free speech, racial and sexual discrimination, church and state, privacy, voting rights, and the rights of the accused. (Note: POLS 321 is not a prerequisite for this class).

POLS 323 Judicial Behavior (3)
This course explores judicial politics and decision-making, with particular emphasis on judges, lawyers, and juries. Topics include judicial selection and appointment, the limits of judicial power, the roles that lawyers play in our legal and political systems, and the development of trial by jury.

POLS 326 Comparative Law (3)
This course presents a cross-national, historical, and comparative analysis of constitutional, administrative, and criminal law. Subject countries vary, but include representative judicial systems within the Civil Law, Common Law, and other legal traditions.

POLS 327 International Law (3)
This course examines the theory and practice of international law, including efforts to create effective legal means to define, proscribe, and punish war crimes, crimes against humanity, and terrorism. We discuss the negotiation, ratification, and enforcement of treaties and study multinational legal institutions such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, and the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

POLS 329 Law of the Sea (3)
This course introduces students to the study of regimes of the sea including fisheries, pollution control, and coastal management zones. The politics of ocean regulation are examined with particular attention to law of the sea negotiations.

POLS 340 State and Local Government (3)
This course examines the current political issues that confront state and local governments and their interaction with the national government in the American intergovernmental system. The course focuses on the challenges that arise from population growth or decline, and population diversity. Particular attention will be paid to California and the San Diego metropolitan area.

POLS 342D Urban Politics (3)
This course is designed to introduce students to the major debates that have structured the field of urban politics: interaction among governmental institutions; political actors; private interests; and the marketplace. Other issues such as urban regimes, urban political history, suburbanization, urban growth and renewal, race, class, and gender are examined throughout the course.

POLS 345 Public Administration (3)
This course explores the theory and practice of governmental administration at the national, state, and local levels, and the development and implementation of legislation.

POLS 347 Public Policy (3)
This course examines contemporary public policy debates on contested economic, social, and political issues and the political and administrative processes through which public policy is formulated, adopted, implemented, and evaluated.

POLS 349 Politics and the Environment (3)
This course examines the decision-making processes through which modern societies attempt to cope with environmental and natural resource problems. Students investigate both American and international environmental issues, and consider the historical and theoretical bases of current environmental policies and initiatives.

POLS 350 Comparative Politics (3)
This course examines the major theoretical approaches to comparative politics as well as the political histories of individual countries. It is designed to introduce students to a variety of themes central to this field, including state-society relations, state capacity, the role of institutions, nationalism, cultural/ethnic pluralism, political culture, and democracy. Typically offered every Fall.

POLS 352 Comparative Politics of Developing Countries (3)
This course examines concepts and theories of development and assesses their utility in understanding political, economic, and social change in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia. Particular emphasis is placed on issues such as: state building; the bureaucracy; civil-military relations; national identity; economic development; and democratization.

POLS 354 Revolutionary Change (3)
This course is a comparative study of the revolutionary process focusing on the meaning of revolutionary change, the causes and development of revolutions, and the conditions influencing their outcomes. Special attention is devoted to the French, Russian, Chinese, Cuban, and other revolutions.

POLS 355 POLITICS IN WESTERN EUROPE (3)
This course offers a survey of the political history, institutions, processes, and policies in Europe defined broadly from England to the Balkans and Spain to the Baltics, and including European wide institutions like the European Union.

POLS 357 POLITICS IN LATIN AMERICA (3)
This course examines the dynamics of politics in Latin America from the 20th century to the present. There is a particular emphasis on the causes and consequences of cyclical economic development and recurrent waves of democratization and authoritarianism.

POLS 358 Politics in South Asia (3)
This course is designed to introduce students to the study of contemporary South Asian politics by examining historical as well as contemporary issues relating to socio-economic change, political development, regional relations, and international links. The course focus is primarily on India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but the politics of Nepal and Sri Lanka are also considered.

POLS 359 Politics in the Middle East (3)
This course offers an introduction to the comparative and international politics of the Middle East. The focus is on the persistence of authoritarianism, the dynamics of protest, and the development of democracy in this changing region.

POLS 360 Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa (3)
This course provides an introduction to Sub-Saharan African political systems and the relationships that exist between governments and their citizens in this region. We examine some of the main factors that shape contemporary African politics, including the legacy of colonialism, the rise of authoritarian states, ethnic, national, and racial conflict, and political and economic reform.

POLS 361 Politics in South Africa (3)
This course is designed to examine the major issues and challenges facing South Africa today. The goal of the course is to introduce students to contemporary South African politics and to situate the current political challenges into the broader historical context. We will analyze the processes of democratic consolidation, state building and nation building since the end of apartheid in 1994.

POLS 362 Politics in the United Kingdom (3)
This course examines the development of a democratic political culture in the United Kingdom. It explores the frameworks within which people in the UK experience, express, and construct political identity by considering shared and contending ideas, values, beliefs, and practices of political life. It also studies Parliament, political parties, policies, and devolution.

POLS 363 POLITICS IN FRANCE (3)
This course examines contemporary French politics. It begins with a survey of French political history, continues with an examination of ideologies and parties, incorporates coverage of the political institutions and processes of the 5th Republic, and includes analysis of French domestic and foreign policies.

POLS 364 Politics in Germany (3)
This course introduces students to German politics by examining contemporary as well as historical issues that challenge the unified Germany. The course’s main focus is on the post-Cold War and post-unification era, with particular emphasis on the current political, social, and economic agendas, and on explaining and predicting German national and international politics.

POLS 365 Politics in Russia (3)
This course examines the development of the political institutions and culture of Russia since the collapse of Communism, with a focus on the role of the Presidency, the Parliament, political parties, and the public in shaping the life of the Russian Federation.

POLS 366 Politics in Mexico (3)
This course provides an overview of the contemporary Mexican political system. The primary focus is on explaining the breakdown of the dominant party system in the late 20th century and the subsequent recalibration of executive-legislative relations, decentralization of power, and emergence of democratic political culture, and electoral competition.

POLS 367 Politics in Japan (3)
This course examines the development of contemporary Japanese politics by analyzing Japan’s pre-WWII political and social systems, its domestic capabilities, and Japanese policy-making processes. The course also evaluates current, and speculates regarding future Japanese politics by assessing historical and current political, economic, and social conditions in Japan.

POLS 368 Politics in China (3)
This course examines politics and political issues in the People’s Republic of China from the mid-1800s to the present. Throughout the course students assess factors such as China’s traditional political, social, and economic systems, ideology, and current policy-making structures that shape China’s policies in order to understand contemporary Chinese political issues.

POLS 370 Theories of International Relations (3)
This course analyzes the major theoretical perspectives in the field of international relations by reflecting upon the writings of the most important scholars in the discipline. Students study the mainstream realist and liberal approaches and explore theoretical alternatives to these paradigms. The relationship between theory and practice is also examined. Typically offered every Spring.

POLS 371 AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY (3)
This course provides an in-depth exploration of the challenges and opportunities facing American foreign policy in the 21st century. Students examine the historical legacy and internal and external constraints on foreign policy decision making. Students also study theoretical approaches in the discipline of international relations and discuss their relevance to an empirical analysis of American foreign policy.

POLS 374 U.S.-LATIN AMERICAN RELATIONS (3)
This course explores the history of economic and political relations between the U.S. and Latin America to understand the basis of contemporary U.S. policy. Topics examined include military intervention, drug trafficking, immigration and trade policies, and relations with Cuba.

POLS 376 U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY (3)
This course examines contemporary American security. It explores the evolution of military technology, nuclear weapons history, strategy and arms control, nonproliferation policies, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, conventional force postures, budgetary politics, and terrorism.

POLS 377 REGIONAL SECURITY (3)
This course examines security dynamics in four important regions of the world: Europe, East Asia, Middle East, and Latin America. It addresses the political and historical foundation of comparative security, military technologies, diplomatic regional relations, and transnational challenges like drug trafficking and terrorism.

POLS 378 TRANSNATIONAL CRIME AND TERRORISM (3)
This course focuses on how the law enforcement community has responded to the unprecedented increase in crimes and terrorist acts that cross international borders. The course examines those factors that have led to this increase in transnational crime and terrorism, the types of crimes that pose the greatest threat to lawful societies, the responses that have been developed to combat transnational crime, and the extent to which transnational crime threatens the national security interests of the United States and the world community.

POLS 380 INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ECONOMY (3)
This course offers an introduction to the study of the history, issues, and dynamics of political/economic interactions in the international economy. The course covers both advanced industrial societies and less developed countries. Special topics such as international energy, the international debt crisis, and international migration are considered. ECON 101 and 102 are recommended prerequisites.

POLS 382 INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS (3)
This course examines contending approaches to human rights. The focus is on the role of institutions and organizations in establishing human rights norms, monitoring human rights abuses, and punishing and prosecuting human rights violators

POLS 383 International Organizations (3)
This course provides an introduction to the study of international organizations in world politics. The focus is on the United Nations and other selected organizations.

POLS 430 Field Seminar in California Government (1)
Students attend a three-day seminar on California government and politics in the California State Capitol building in Sacramento. The seminar is offered only during the spring semester at the end of February. Students attend seminar presentations featuring elected state legislators, legislative and executive staffers, journalists, lobbyists, and academic experts on current issues confronting California.

POLS 434 Washington, D.C.: The Press and the Presidency (3)
This course provides an analysis of U.S. politics and decision-making as seen through an extensive evaluation of the U.S. press and the U.S. presidency. Students meet during the first two weeks in Washington, D.C., during intersession.

POLS 435 Washington, D.C.: Directed Study in Political Science (3)
This course requires students to complete a research paper while interning in Washington, D.C. The paper will address an issue in political science that relates to the internship experience.

POLS 436 Washington, D.C.: Internship in Political Science (6)
Students work 35-40 hours a week in Washington, D.C., at an internship related to political science. The internship must be approved by the Department of Political Science and International Relations. Students receive 6 units of credit, of which 3 units may apply toward the major.

POLS 437 Washington, D.C.: Class in Political Science (3)
This political science course is taken in Washington, D.C., during the internship. The course must be approved by the Department of Political Science and International Relations.

POLS 444 Special Topics in Political Science (3)
Special topics courses offer an examination of a topical issue affecting politics in the United States. The course number may be repeated for credit provided the topics of the courses are different.

POLS 448 Internship in Political Science (1-6)
This course involves participation in a governmental office at the local, state, or national level. Students are required to complete a research paper under the supervision of the instructor. This course is open only to junior or senior political science or international relations majors with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Students may not enroll in more than 6 internship units, and only three units may be used toward the major.

POLS 449 Independent Study in Political Science (1-3)
This course involves advanced individual study in public policy, American politics, public law, political behavior, or political theory. This course is open only to junior or senior Political Science or International Relations majors with a grade point average in political science courses of 3.3 or higher. Approval of instructor and department chair is required, and substantial prior coursework in the area is expected.

POLS 480 Model United Nations (1)
This course involves a simulation of the decision-making process of the United Nations. Students participate in at least one conference per semester where they have the opportunity to represent an assigned country and compete against other universities. This course may be repeated once for credit.

POLS 485 Washington, D.C.: Directed Study in International Relations (3)
This course requires students to complete a research paper while interning in Washington, D.C. The paper will address an issue in international relations that relates to the internship experience

POLS 486 Washington, D.C.: Internship in International Relations (6)
Students work 35-40 hours a week in Washington, D.C., at an internship related to international relations. The internship must be approved by the Department of Political Science and International Relations. Students receive 6 units of credit, of which 3 units may apply toward the major.

POLS 487 Washington, D.C.: Class in International Relations (3)
This international relations course is taken in Washington, D.C., during the internship. The course must be approved by the Department of Political Science and International Relations.

POLS 494 Special Topics in International Relations (1-3)
Special topics courses offer an examination of a topical issue affecting the domestic politics of foreign countries or the international political system. This course number may be repeated for credit provided the topics of the courses are different.

POLS 498 Internship in International Relations (1-6)
This course involves participation in an internship related to international relations. Students are required to complete a research paper under the supervision of the instructor. This course is open only to junior or senior political science or international relations majors with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Students may not enroll in more than 6 internship units, and only three units may be used toward the major.

POLS 499 Independent Study in International Relations (1-3)
This course involves advanced individual study in international relations or comparative politics. This course is open only to junior or senior political science or international relations majors with a grade point average in Political Science courses of 3.3 or higher. Approval of instructor and department chair is required, and substantial prior coursework in the area is expected.