Political Science Department
Political science is the study of political values, institutions, processes, and policies. It focuses on the system of governance by which societies set their public priorities and policies and on how government touches the individual. Political science deals with basic questions about power, authority, social values, and political manipulation—the ways that societies determine their collective priorities and attempt to bring them into being.
At Lewis & Clark, our political science majors are grappling with some of the 21st century’s most enduring questions and concerns: What is the best use of government power? How do individual and group behaviors affect political institutions? What are the consequences of public policies? What can we learn from the history of politics, and how can we apply that to contemporary political practice? Armed with the tools and methods of the social sciences, our students are thinking critically about political institutions and processes.
The department is organized into four major fields of study: American government and institutions, political theory, comparative politics, and public law. Other subfields—methodology, public policy and political economy—intersect with these main areas and provide avenues for more focused and advanced specialization. Courses are offered in each concentration at the introductory and advanced levels. Course sizes are small, ranging from fewer than five students (at the upper level) to 34 students (at the introductory level). In addition, political science majors can undertake independent study under individual faculty supervision, including practical applications and experiences such as internships with elected officials, interest groups, and government agencies. The department’s biennial semester of study in Washington, D.C., one of the more distinguished programs of its kind in the country, includes interviews with some of America’s most influential politicians and decision makers, combined with a rigorous curriculum of in-class instruction.
Examples of Recent and Ongoing Student Research
- Reid Sata, “Online Credit Recovery and Graduation Rates in Oregon Public High Schools”
- Owen Gartner and Gemma Baumer, “The Role of Group Perception in Intergroup Apology”
Examples of Recent and Ongoing Faculty Research
- Professor Leah Gilbert, “Authoritarian Learning and the Arab Spring: An Analysis of Civil Society Regulation in the Arab World and Beyond,” (with Payam Mohseni).
- Professor Todd Lochner, “Karma Police: Prosecutorial Strategies in Obscenity Cases and the Broader Culture War,” (with Dorie Apollonio)
- Professor Ben Gaskins, “Trust Me, I Believe in God: Theistic Appeals and Candidate Trust.”
- Professor Ellen Seljan, “Ready to Bargain: The Effect of Fiscal Stress on Supermajority Requirements to Raise Taxes.”