Curriculum

Our curriculum, class format, and practical experiences are designed to maximize individual attention, encourage contribution and participation, build analytical skills, and engage in original research.

Throughout your studies, you’ll be able to explore the areas of your interest in detail and build relevant expertise. You’ll begin the thesis process by taking two core courses—Government and Politics in the United States and Research and Thesis I—which introduce the basic tenets of government and politics and the methodology of social inquiry.

You’ll continue through the program completing your eight electives and furthering your research, culminating Research and Thesis III—the twelfth and final course in the curriculum.

Concentrations

If you are looking to focus on a particular area of the governmental studies, you can choose one of the three optional concentrations:

  • Democracy Studies and Governance focuses on the intersection of law and politics, as well as law enforcement issues.
  • Political Communication gives you an opportunity to study with practitioners in the field: reporters, political operatives, journalists, and campaign and news and media professionals.
  • Security Studies covers the fundamentals of administering and preserving American security.

If you choose to concentrate, you must take four classes in that area of study.

Degree Requirements

To graduate with a Master of Arts in Government degree, you will need to complete 12 courses: four core and eight electives.

Core Courses

You must take the core and required classes in the following order.

This course offers an overview of power and politics through the study of the government of the United States. All governments combine coercion and legitimacy. In a stable and legitimate system of government, coercion is hardly noticed. Government comes to be seen as a source of benefits. The purpose of the course is to look behind institutions, practices, and benefits to appreciate how, for what, and for whom we are governed. We shall examine some of the major institutions of American government, some of America's political processes, and some of the key forces competing for power in the U.S. to see how decisions in the areas of economic, social and foreign policy are reached. This is a core course of the Government Program but is open to all students.

(Core course for the MA in Government) The purpose of this core course in the Government Program is for students to refine their thesis topic, develop their research design and complete a working outline for their thesis. Students will begin to research and write their thesis during this class in earnest. The course format is working sessions focused on specific research-oriented tasks. Emphasis will be placed on completing the literature review and methodology sections of the thesis. Students will also complete by semester end a preliminary chapter of their thesis papers and work with the professor to develop a plan for the other two papers that will comprise the portfolio thesis.

(Core course for the MA in Government. Please note that 470.709 Introduction to Quantitative Methods may be substituted for this requirement with permission from the instructor) This directed research course is designed to help students complete the second paper of their thesis portfolio (and in some cases if a student has two papers ready for revision, both their second and third papers). Students will work closely with the instructor to revise a current paper, turning it into a research paper that 1) is tightly linked to the theme of the student's first paper and overall thesis portfolio; and 2) meets research and writing standards for being included in the thesis portfolio. Class meetings are designed to give guidance on the methods of research and on the clarity and focus of the research question the student is pursuing. Prerequisite: Students must have passed Research and Thesis I or Research and Thesis II: Global Security Studies.

Solutions to both political and policy problems increasingly require an understanding of how to understand and analyze data. Campaigns collect data to identify potential supporters and donors. Government agencies analyze data to evaluate programs. Research organizations use data to support their policy positions. This course will provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to perform a cutting-edge statistical analysis. You will learn how to design and test regression models using Stata, an incredibly powerful and widely-used statistical software package. Other topics include interaction terms, measures of fit, internal and external validity, logistic and probit regression, and translating statistical findings for broad audiences. The focus of the course will be on using statistical methods in an applied manner. We will concentrate on using statistics to answer political and policy questions, not on the underlying mathematical theories. Recommended prerequisite: 470.681 Statistics and Political Analysis

(Core course for the MA in Government) Directed research in an appropriate subject determined in consultation with the student's adviser is the focus of this final course. Students are expected to propose research topics based on their classwork and/or on material derived from professional experience. Class meetings are designed to give guidance in the clarification of issues, collection of data, assembly of various parts, and the final writing of the thesis. Graduation is subject to approval of the thesis by the thesis committee. Students may enroll in this course and take their last elective with it. They must have completed 7 electives and all other core classes before registering for this course. Although for financial aid reason, they may take their last elective along with this course. Research and Thesis III is offered in all three terms—in the summer, fall, and spring—to provide as much scheduling flexibility as possible. Prerequisite: Students must have passed either Research and Thesis II or Research and Thesis II: Global Security Studies or have passed 470.709 Introduction to Quantitative Methods.

Democracy Studies and Governance Concentration Electives

Select four.

This course offers an overview of power and politics through the study of the government of the United States. All governments combine coercion and legitimacy. In a stable and legitimate system of government, coercion is hardly noticed. Government comes to be seen as a source of benefits. The purpose of the course is to look behind institutions, practices, and benefits to appreciate how, for what, and for whom we are governed. We shall examine some of the major institutions of American government, some of America's political processes, and some of the key forces competing for power in the U.S. to see how decisions in the areas of economic, social and foreign policy are reached. This is a core course of the Government Program but is open to all students.

Americans traditionally have viewed the courts as—in the words of a constitutional scholar—"the least dangerous branch of government." They are seen as reflectors, not agents, of change. But in an age of government downsizing, the role of the courts bears renewed examination. Students explore the historical and philosophical roots for the notion that American courts, and whether the lawyers who appear before them, can and should make law and policy, and the alternatives to this function. Students consider prominent areas of public policy that have been shaped by the courts, such as civil rights, family and domestic law, environmental and safety regulation, and the regulation of business and commerce. This course counts towards the Legal Studies Concentration.

This course considers the historical and contemporary relationship between money and government. In what ways do moneyed interests have distinctive influences on American politics? Does this threaten the vibrancy of our representative democracy? Are recent controversies over campaign finance reform and lobbying reform signs that American government is in trouble? This course is reading, writing, and discussion intensive, and we consider the large academic literature on this subject, as well as the reflections of journalists and political practitioners. Election law and regulations on money in politics are always changing, and so part of the course is designed to give students tools at tracking these developments. The overall goal of the course is to foster an understanding of the money/politics relationship in ways that facilitate the evaluation of American democracy.

Much of international politics in the last century can be described as a conflict between liberal democracy and its modern critics. During this period the values and political structures of liberal democracy have been extended to more parts of the world than ever before. Yet the same era also saw the emergence of powerful challengers to liberal democracy from both the right and the left. The resulting clash of ideologies defined such conflicts as World War II and the Cold War. In this course we will survey the intellectual roots of Fascism, National Socialism, and Communism. We will also examine the question of Islam and democracy looking at both its proponents and its radical critics in the Islamic world. Among those whose writings we will examine are Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Benito Mussolini, Carl Schmitt, Charles Maurras, Syed Qutb, Ali Shariati, Muktedar Khan, and Ruhollah Khomeini. This course counts towards the Security Studies concentration.

The separation of powers is America’s most profound and useful political contribution to the world. Studying its principles, development, and decay is a requirement for understanding American politics and is as well a potential benefit to students of aspiring democracies throughout the world. For the separation of powers enables self-government, putting democratic principles of equality and liberty into practice while moderating the powers of majorities. We will study the principles and practice of the separation of powers by examining how each elected branch of government protects its rights, while checking the rights of others. The separation of powers can be said to have produced a more just and moderate democratic form of government, but it has also occasioned the complaint that it has produced gridlock and incompetence. To investigate the strengths and drawbacks of the separation of powers, we will pay close attention to the classic texts advocating the separation of powers, such as The Federalist Papers; the great changes in American politics effected by the Civil War, the Progressive movement, and the New Deal; and the domestic and foreign policy debates in recent administrations. Special attention will be paid to the seminal opinions of the unelected branch of American government, the Supreme Court. The course will note in particular the contemporary challenges to the separation of powers, evidenced in the rise of the administrative state, the expanding powers of courts, and the growth of party government. We will also note instances of how parliamentary and presidential governments throughout the world might benefit from separation of powers principles.

Corruption is ubiquitous. It is a universal phenomenon that has always been around and that can be found almost anywhere. Recent years have seen much focus on the relationship between it and democratic governance. Indeed corruption and politics more generally, are inextricably and universally entwined. In this seminar we will take an in-depth look at the relationship between the two. We will ask: What is Corruption? Is it always the same thing everywhere, or does it vary depending on context or place? Do pork barrel politics and political clientelism count as corruption? What are the implications of corruption? Is it necessarily always a bad thing or can it be beneficial? Is the corruption experienced in developed countries qualitatively different from that in developing ones such that democracy suffers more in developing countries? We will seek to answer these and other questions by taking a critical look at the politics of corruption. We will look at the origins, extent, character and significance of corruption from both a developed and developing country perspective. We will cover various theories relating to corruption as well as look at a number of empirical cases.

The relationship between religion and politics in the American context is one of peculiar complexity in the American context. This course has 3 main objectives: 1) to examine in general terms the role of religion in American public and political life as reflected in the debates concerning the use of religious symbolism and discourse in the public sphere; 2) to analyze how religiously informed moral argument has helped to shape public debate on key issues of public policy including the issues of civil rights, abortion, war and peace, and economic policy; and 3) to provide the necessary historical and philosophical context to help understand the present day intersection of religion and politics, and to see how previous generations of Americans approached similar problems.

This course explores the political struggles that emerge from the U.S. constitutional system. During the course, we will read contemporary and classic cases in U.S. constitutional law in light of constitutional and political theory. Course discussions will focus on the law as well as the related policy, political, and societal implications of constitutional interpretation. Through paying particular attention to recent decisions and issues before the Court, the course will explore the roles and powers of the branches of federal government, separation of powers, federalism, and the commerce clause. It will also cover individual rights, due process, equal protection, and religious freedoms.

This course examines the process of drafting legislation and the consequences of legislative language in the implementation and adjudication of federal policies. Focusing on the various stages of the legislative process, this course considers the expert and political sources of the legislative language in the U.S. Congress and the importance of language in coalition-building for policy passage. Examining the interactions of Congress with the other branches of government, the course also considers how presidents, the executive branch, and the judiciary interpret statutory language.

This course uses the comparative method to look at the varieties of democracies that exist today. In the course, we will ask what is democracy, how do we measure it, and how does it vary across space and time? We will look at how democracy manifests in different constitutional forms e.g. parliamentary versus presidential. We will examine how different electoral and party systems influence variation in outcome within the set of democracies, and how social cleavages interact with, and are molded by, these systems. Further, we will use the answers to these questions to explore the issue of democratic consolidation and to ask why some countries become and stay democratic, while others do not. Case studies will be drawn from Europe, Latin America and Asia.

This course will seek to give students a deeper understanding of where the idea of American exceptionalism comes from and what its implications are for America, both domestically and abroad. Students will gain this understanding from reading classic works in the area that trace America’s political development, starting with its Puritan heritage. Early American works will be studied from this period, along with Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Seminal works of modern political science scholarship on this question will also be assigned, including works from Seymour Martin Lipset, Louis Hartz, Daniel Boorstin, and others. The course will then extrapolate from these historic roots to contemporary issues of America’s foreign policy and rationale for its foreign interventions. The course will conclude with questions of America’s standing in the world, which has in recent years, declined and seek to understand why this is so and what it means for the future understanding of American exceptionalism.

Congress is the First Branch, “the People’s Branch,” and one of the most powerful legislatures the world has ever known. At this moment in history, however, the people do not assess the institution favorably and political scientists and pundits have declared it the “broken branch.” Is Congress “broken” or merely reflective of our political times? In an era of “unorthodox lawmaking” is a return to “regular order” and “textbook lawmaking” realistic or a fantasy? This course will discuss these questions in the context of the evolving nature of Congress as an institution. The class will examine the institutional development of Congress and explore changes in its representative and legislative functions, as well as constitutional responsibility of holding the “power of the purse.” Congress remains a dynamic institution and it behooves citizens to understand its complexity and centrality to governance in the U.S.

Federalism the division of power and sovereignty between a central authority and local governments has emerged as one of the most important themes of contemporary Western politics in both the United States and Europe. For the United States the division of power between the Federal and State governments lies at the very heart of the American Constitution. At the same time disputes over the precise balance of Federal and State power has been a major fault line in American politics since Federalists and anti-Federalists at the time of the founding. For Europe the destruction of two World Wars showed the destructive side of nationalism and acted as an impetus to leverage Europe’s common history and cultural inheritance to forge a supranational political and economic union dedicated to peace and prosperity. Since the end of the Cold War and the Treaty of Maastricht the process of European integration has speeded up rapidly resulting in a common European currency as well as common legal and political institutions. At the same time concerns about the perceived loss of sovereignty, national identity, and democratic accountability have led in some places to backlashes against Brussels and resurgent nationalism. There is also the broader question of the European Union’s goals and identity is it principally an economic union or is it a super-state in the making? In this course we will explore Federalism in its institutional, legal, philosophical, and historical aspects in both America and Europe.

This course examines the factors that promote stability and change in American politics. Broad in historical scope, this course considers the development of the American state and its institutions as well as the continuities and complexities of American political culture by analyzing key moments of institution-building and policy change from the American Founding to the present. Key questions include: What explains the character of the American state? What are the consequences of the American state and its policies? Is America “exceptional” in these and other regards? What roles and functions do political institutions perform? What roles do culture, ideas, and rhetoric play in social, political, and economic life? How have these various roles and functions changed over time?

Nationalism and democracy have been two of the most significant forces shaping the contemporary world. The sense of nationality has provided peoples with a strong sense of shared belonging based around the ideas of a common language, land, and heritage. It has sometimes fuelled the demand for collective freedom and democratic self-determination. At the same time it has been a volatile force generating conflicts within and between nations across the globe. In Europe, the effort at forging a common European identity must confront the challenge of resurgent nationalism in traditional countries like Britain, France, and Austria. Meanwhile traditional states like Britain and Spain must themselves confront secessionist nationalism in Scotland, Catalonia, and elsewhere. The modern Middle East has been shaped in part by the conflicting goals of two major nationalist movements - Arab nationalism and Zionism. In Asia, nationalism is emerging as a dominant theme as countries like China and India rise to political and military power. In spite of economic globalization and the development of international laws and institutions, it is pivotal to understand nationalism if we are to understand world politics today.

Political Communication Concentration Electives

Select four.

This course will assist leaders in identifying their personal approach to leadership; provide tips on motivating staff by building trusting relationships and shoring up their credibility; suggest influence and persuasion strategies that leaders need to employ when working with bosses, colleagues, direct reports, and critical stakeholders, including funding agencies; develop strategies to build effective work teams; and consider approaches to monitor organizational performance in an ongoing fashion.

The theory and practice of speechwriting are the focus of our study of the great political speeches of all time and especially those of the American political tradition. We will examine the content, structure, and purpose of high rhetoric ranging from Pericles to Solzhenitsyn, from Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to contemporary politicians. Based on their knowledge of the best models, students will draft and deliver their own speeches.

This course considers the historical and contemporary relationship between money and government. In what ways do moneyed interests have distinctive influences on American politics? Does this threaten the vibrancy of our representative democracy? Are recent controversies over campaign finance reform and lobbying reform signs that American government is in trouble? This course is reading, writing, and discussion intensive, and we consider the large academic literature on this subject, as well as the reflections of journalists and political practitioners. Election law and regulations on money in politics are always changing, and so part of the course is designed to give students tools at tracking these developments. The overall goal of the course is to foster an understanding of the money/politics relationship in ways that facilitate the evaluation of American democracy.

Conflict is part of organizational life. People in public sector agencies and nonprofit and for-profit organizations disagree over the meaning of regulations, the use of financial resources, office space, leave time, and many other issues. Managers must have the ability to diagnose disputes and to negotiate effectively to resolve conflicts. This course provides the theoretical background and conceptual framework needed for successful negotiation and mediation. Through presentations and discussions students become familiar with the tools necessary for conflict resolution in their agencies and organizations. Analysis of a party's interests, identification of the necessary style, awareness of communication skills, and planning and feedback are part of the process of becoming an accomplished negotiator.

You can see yourself now – taking the oath of office, giving speeches, and making critical decisions impacting thousands or millions of people. But how do you get there? This class provides a practical guide for students who are interested in exploring a run for elected office. Students will learn how to assess if and when they are ready to run, which office to run for, and most importantly, develop the critical skills needed as a candidate to wage and win a contested campaign. These skills include writing a campaign plan and budget, hiring staff and consultants, learning how to fundraise, and working with the media. This class dispels the myth that only those independently wealthy can serve in office by giving students a real understanding of what it takes to run and win.

Security Studies Concentration Electives

Select four. Any course offering in the MA in Global Security Studies counts toward this concentration.

This course provides an overview of the manifold challenges and opportunities for United States security in the current disordered and changing world. It aims to help students assess why events occur and what policies are developed in response. In that endeavor, the course has three major objectives. First, the course will review the major perspectives on, and debates about, U.S. security and the institutions through which policy is made and executed. Second, the course will review some U.S. security issues through scholarly, policy, political, and historical lenses. Third, the course will help students write for both policy and academic audiences. This course is not open to students who have had 470.606 American National Security.

Counterintelligence information regarding and operations against foreign intelligence services has always been central to the intelligence process. In many places and at various times, it has been clearly the most significant part of that process. For reasons that will be discussed during the semester, this has not been true in American intelligence for the last half century or so. This class will examine the doctrine and processes of counterintelligence through the 20th century, with the second half of the class pivoting to address the challenges posed by a volatile information and communications environment, a geopolitical environment in which non-states operate as both potential threats and potential partners, and in which insider threats may be as great as those emanating from foreign actors. Finally, the course will address the challenges of operating effective counterintelligence operations in a manner that respects democratic processes and values.

This class will examine the role of Congress in the making of American foreign policy. In particular, this class will discuss the role of Congress in war powers, economic sanctions, human rights advocacy, the approval of international agreements including treaties, international affairs budgets and spending, investigations and oversight of the conduct of foreign policy by the executive branch as well as the impact of Congress on the general direction of American foreign policies and priorities. Special attention will be given to the role of Congress in U.S. policy toward Iran over the past few decades, the use of military force in Iraq and Syria, the role of the legislative branch in U.S policy toward China and Taiwan and the promotion of human rights as a component of American foreign policy. The class will seek to examine the specific actions of Congress on these matters, and their causes and consequences. The class will use books, articles and original source material from committee deliberations and floor action. As we examine these topics, we will come back to larger themes – the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, the impact of partisan and bureaucratic politics, and the changing role of the United States on the world stage. All this will be discussed with a mind to the role of foreign policy practitioners.

This course focuses on transnational security issues and considers how many of these myriad challenges constitute threats to global peace and security. The combined effects of issues such as drug, weapons, and human trafficking, piracy, terrorism, infectious diseases, and deliberate environmental destruction, along with such critical enablers as corruption, and money movements, are not strangers on the world stage. What is new is their global reach and destructive potential. As a result, these issues have made policy makers consider different conceptions of security and, at times, to move beyond sole considerations of state sovereignty into the realm of human security. Not only are transnational security issues varied in nature and scope, but their effects often are obscured by the fact that many are nascent with gradual and long-term consequences. Further, while some transnational issues may not constitute direct threats to global security, they may threaten the world economy, and quality of life of its citizens. Still others compound and reinforce each other, generating mutations of the original threats. This course will examine a small number of these transnational security issues and relevant policy-making efforts.

Much of international politics in the last century can be described as a conflict between liberal democracy and its modern critics. During this period the values and political structures of liberal democracy have been extended to more parts of the world than ever before. Yet the same era also saw the emergence of powerful challengers to liberal democracy from both the right and the left. The resulting clash of ideologies defined such conflicts as World War II and the Cold War. In this course we will survey the intellectual roots of Fascism, National Socialism, and Communism. We will also examine the question of Islam and democracy looking at both its proponents and its radical critics in the Islamic world. Among those whose writings we will examine are Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Benito Mussolini, Carl Schmitt, Charles Maurras, Syed Qutb, Ali Shariati, Muktedar Khan, and Ruhollah Khomeini. This course counts towards the Security Studies concentration.

This class will examine the interplay between the laws and the practices and policies of the United States’ Intelligence Community and national security system, both foreign and domestic. While discussion of the history of intelligence activities and laws dating from the origins of our colonial days will necessarily shape the framework of the class, the focus shall particularly be on current debates and challenges faced by the United States in the 21st Century.

This course explores the political struggles that emerge from the U.S. constitutional system. During the course, we will read contemporary and classic cases in U.S. constitutional law in light of constitutional and political theory. Course discussions will focus on the law as well as the related policy, political, and societal implications of constitutional interpretation. Through paying particular attention to recent decisions and issues before the Court, the course will explore the roles and powers of the branches of federal government, separation of powers, federalism, and the commerce clause. It will also cover individual rights, due process, equal protection, and religious freedoms.

"A key function of national security analysis is to dissect and explain foreign militaries—to lay bare for senior authorities the perceptions, intentions, and capabilities of potential opponents and allies. This course prepares participants to perform such assessments. It explores what senior decision makers need to know, potential sources of information and the most important questions to ask of analysts, and the analytic tools to parse and understand a complex and partially hidden world. It uses a variety of materials including in-depth case studies, exercises, and discussions to develop the necessary knowledge and skills. The course addresses topics such as the operational level of war, manpower, training, morale, and readiness, technology, weapons assimilation, logistics, the prediction of outcomes. It also discusses how these considerations apply to cyber war.

This course examines the role that intelligence plays in the formation of national security policy. The course explores the forces and events that have shaped U.S. intelligence. It examines the steps involved in producing intelligence from requirements through collection, analysis and the actual making of policy. The role of intelligence in the major intelligence issues facing the United States today will be discussed as well. The main text for the course will be Dr. Lowenthal’s book of the same title published by CQ Press which has been called the “best introduction to the role of the U.S. intelligence community in the national security policy-making process.”

This course introduces students to the R programming language. The R language is one of the most popular tools used today for performing data analytics, statistics, machine learning, data visualization, and much more. By the end of this course, students will understand fundamental programming concepts that apply to all programming languages. These concepts include variables, functions, loops, data structures, and data types. The course will also cover the use of these tools to solve challenging data problems that students may encounter in their academic or professional careers. Note: The course overlaps a bit with 470.681 Statistics and Political Analysis, but this course focuses much more heavily on the fundamentals of programming.

Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.

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