Dear Prospective Major:
On behalf of the majors, I offer you some advice about majoring in the department based on my first two years as a major. One of the department’s strongest features is the faculty. The professors are passionate about their fields of expertise and bring that excitement and enthusiasm into their courses. Like the faculty, the majors enliven the courses as well. While the intro-level courses can have up to thirty-five students in them, the upper-level ones typically have less than twenty-five, the writing intensive cap at only sixteen, and the seminars may be even more intimate. The results are excellent class discussions and great relationships among the majors and the faculty.
Step one to becoming a major is picking an advisor within the department. While you do not necessarily need to have had the professor before, you should think about whom you choose. You may look for someone who teaches courses that interest you. Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to the faculty before picking your advisor. Take advantage of their office hours.
After you pick your advisor, he or she can help you design a schedule that satisfies your requirements while still preserving your flexibility to study abroad or take additional courses that interest you. Required introductory level courses are American Government, International Relations, and Political Philosophy. Other requirements include a comparative politics course and a seminar. You need a total of ten courses, so in concurrence with the five required courses, you are free to choose five additional courses that interest you.
With that kind of freedom, there is plenty of opportunity to study in Washington, D.C. or abroad. There are three programs that stand out for political science majors; however, that does not mean you are limited to just them. One of these programs is spending a year in Bologna, Italy; another increasingly popular program among political science majors is spending a year in Norwich, England. The other program, and the one I will be attending, is a semester at The Washington Center in Washington D.C. The Washington Program allows you to get your credits through an internship, one class, and an independent study with a Dickinson professor.
I also encourage you to take advantage of the various lectures and events the department sponsors. My personal favorite department activity is the annual Political Science Quiz Bowl. The Quiz Bowl takes place every year around the end of March. Teams of four compete by answering a variety of questions submitted by the professors directly related to their courses. President Durden and his Presidential Team have competed in the last two bowls. The winning team receives a $300 prize. It’s a lot of fun to either compete in or watch, and it is definitely very competitive.
Even if you are not sure that political science is the major for you, if you are considering it, I strongly suggest taking courses in the department. Not only do they serve as division II general education requirements, there are also courses that serve as requirements in other majors, such as International Studies, Policy Management, Law and Public Policy, and American Studies.
I hope this is helpful as you move further into your college experience. My last bit of advice – talk to upperclassmen. Almost anyone you meet will be willing to talk about their experiences and give you hand. Please contact the Majors Committee if you have any questions or would like to take a leadership role in the department. Best of luck!
Alyssa L. Salman ‘08