Select an Area of Emphasis based on your academic or career interests. A minimum GPA of a 2.0 is required in all courses applied to the Area of Emphasis.
- American Politics and Policy
- Elections & Campaigns
- International Relations, Comparative Politics, and National Security
- Pre-Law and Legal Studies
American Politics and Policy
This specialization within the Political Science major is for students who are especially interested in American politics and public policy, and who may aspire to work on political campaigns, in a government office, or for a business that regularly deals with the government. It may also be the ideal specialization if you are interested in understanding how the US government works, and why it produces the kinds of laws and regulations that it does.
The track is composed of two sets of courses. One of these examines the formal institutions of American politics, the American people themselves, and the public-interest organizations they form to affect political actions. The other set of courses considers the complex substantive and political dynamics associated with specific areas of public policy. Taking these courses in tandem will not only make you a better informed citizen who understands crucial aspects of US policy making, you will also better understand how politics varies depending on the people and topics involved, and you will be better prepared to make a difference in these areas yourself.
Elections & Campaigns
Details coming soon! Connect with us to learn more.
International Relations, Comparative Politics, and National Security
Today's globalized world means that what happens in other states affects America more quickly and more deeply than ever before. The study of politics between and within other states is becoming a critical part of understanding politics in America. The Department of Political Science offers a rich set of courses for the advanced study of the world affairs and of America’s place in 21st century international system.
This area of emphasis within the major focuses on international relations, comparative politics, and issues of national and international security. We offer students the ability to tailor this major to their own career goals or personal interests, with plenty of opportunity to study abroad.
The area of emphasis prioritizes three major ways of studying international politics:
Courses in “international relations” focus on the inherently complex interactions of diverse global actors (nation-states, international organizations, and various transnational actors) across the mix of diplomatic-security, economics, human rights, and development issues. Our courses focus on not only the political dynamics of the international system, but also the logic and sources of national foreign policies.
Courses on “comparative politics” explore the dynamics of political systems beyond the United States. Our courses consider the national, regional, and societal diversity of such political systems with respect to their institutional structures, political cultures, and histories. Besides the fact that the study of foreign political systems is fascinating in and of itself, the comparative analysis of these systems provide a deeper theoretical understanding of political science—all in a way that includes insights into character of politics and institutions in the United States.
National Security Analysis
Courses in this area examine question relating to conflict within and between states, and the causes and consequences of war. This includes topics ranging from intelligence gathering to the changing nature of conflict, to the causes of revolutions. Both the definition and practice of national security has changed greatly over time and in different countries, and these courses provide students with a grounding in the issues and trade offs we all face as societies trying to achieve security in the 21st century.
Pre-Law and Legal Studies
The Department of Political Science offers a broad and challenging undergraduate program for students with career interests in law or legal studies. The pre-law and legal studies track is the most popular among the Department’s tracks, and we annually place a significant number of majors in the nation’s law schools and in various public and private agencies that require broadly educated individuals with a background in legal affairs. Many of our graduates have become governors, judges, state and local government officials, partners in major law firms, prosecutors, legal aid representatives, and private attorneys. Although most of the students who enter the Pre-Law and Legal Studies track to apply to law school, many seek careers in other legal fields, such as criminal justice administration, research and analysis in law and public policy, or law enforcement.
It is generally recognized that there is no prescribed set of courses for students who wish to pursue careers in law or legal studies. Instead, most law schools emphasize the importance of developing strong verbal, writing, and analytical skills and a sophisticated understanding of the social, political, economic, and cultural context of our society. In stressing both skills and breath of knowledge, the Pre-Law and Legal Studies curriculum in Political Science combines the best of a pre-legal education with the rich and full tradition of a liberal arts education. As part of their pre-law and legal studies training, our majors select among strong offerings in the Departments of Philosophy, History, Sociology, and Economics.
The curriculum of the Pre-Law and Legal Studies program is rich in several respects. First, our faculty offer a core set of courses on the legal dimensions of the American political process.
Second, across the other Political Science sub-fields of our curriculum, interested students have the opportunity to take courses that address the legal dimensions that extend to broader dimensions covered in the Political Science curriculum. These courses, and each’s respective “subfield”, are: POLS337 Women and the Law (public policy), POLS357 Comparative Law and Politics (comparative politics), POLS363International Law (international relations), and POLS374 Theories of Justice (political theory). Taken together, these courses provide a broader appreciation of the role of law and the legal process in understanding politics and society at the state, national, and international levels. The political theory course provides the opportunity for students to explore the larger philosophical issues that underlay American law and legal processes, e.g., issues of equality, justice, and order.
Third, the Department offers “study abroad” programs specifically designed to “internationalize” the study of law and legal system by Political Science majors. One of these is its three-week Strasbourg Summer Program in European Law and Institutions held in Strasbourg, France. Students who enroll in the the Strasbourg Program take courses on “Comparative European Legal Systems” and “European Union Law and Institutions”. Our other core program is the opportunity to spend a full semester enrolled in the School of Law at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. Students in this program are able to core law courses (such as “torts” and “contracts”) and/or substantive courses in international law, human rights, and European institutions. Not to be missed is that the Manchester pre-law program provides students with a law school educational experience during their undergraduate education. See this website’s section on Study Abroad Programs in Pre-Law, Comparative Legal Systems, and International Law .
Finally, many pre-law and legal studies students take advantage of the Department’s internship programs in order to have a first hand experience in a political or legal setting. Through the Frasure Singleton Student Legislative Program and the Herndon Legislative Internship, the Department sponsors and arranges internships for students in the West Virginia Legislature and with the Governor’s Internship Program. In addition, the Department is affiliated with the Washington Center, an academic center in the nation’s capitol that offers a wide array of internship experiences. Pre-Law and Legal Studies students can work with their advisor in developing a specific internship tailored with their legal and policy interests in national governments.