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Political Science

Department Overview

Quite a lot, actually. One of the most common misconceptions is that political science is a great major for students who want to go on to law school, but not for people who wish to go on to other careers. In reality, we’ve designed our major to provide a rigorous and broad-based education that promotes the following goals:

  • critical thinking and analytical reasoning
  • excellent writing skills
  • the ability to speak persuasively
  • an understanding and appreciation of diverse intellectual and cultural perspectives
  • an understanding of quantitative research and methodology

These skills are important in almost any profession, so it’s not surprising that our graduates pursue careers in politics, law, education, journalism, business and finance, as well as going on to advanced graduate work.

Don’t get us wrong—if you are interested in going on to law school, our department has a great track record, having placed graduates at the top law schools in the country (including Stanford, Columbia, New York University, and Georgetown). But our graduates also have gone on positions such as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the manager of the Benson Hotel, a public relations manager for Nike, and the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia. Many have taken jobs overseas.

Check out these brief profiles from some of our alumni to see the wide range of career possibilities one can enjoy with a political science degree. And if you ever have any questions, just come talk to us in person.

Alumni profiles

Barbara Nellor, Class of 2010—Operations Associate at M Financial Asset Management, Portland, OR

As an operations professional in the financial services industry, I am responsible for the day to day functions of investment advisory accounts. I work closely with financial advisors and analysts to meet the strict regulatory and reporting requirements that the industry is subject to as we perform the day to day client needs of trading and movement of assets. Being a political science major at LC prepared me to work in an industry full of stressful time deadlines; complex and ever-changing regulations; and type-A personalities. The department encouraged me to be a critical thinker and question rather than blindly follow directions.  Most importantly, the program taught me the necessary skills to be a clear and thoughtful communicator.

Dexter Pearce, Class of 2013—1L at Duke University School of Law

I am currently a 1L (first year student) at Duke University School of Law. Unlike some of my peers here, who took multiple years off to work as a paralegal, manage campaigns, or just had a history in contracts, I went straight from undergrad to law school. Despite my lack of “real world” experience, the political science department prepared me to be as competitive, if not more so, than many of my peers right from the beginning. The benefit of knowing how to read and brief cases allowed me to manage the reading load early on and to be prepared for the notorious “cold-call.” The department also taught me how to see and argue both sides, which is a necessary skill in legal writing and it taught me to be clear and concise. The learning curve is still steep, but the value in the transfer of skills from Political Science to Law is immeasurable.

Samantha Robinson, Class of 2008—Founder and Directer of aptART, Mozambique, Africa

I am the founder and director of aptART, an international organization of artists and activists working with conflict affected youth to give them a voice. Through the creation of street art we help children and their communities build awareness about issues affecting their lives. As the director of an international organization I deal with a myriad of cultures and ethical standards different to my own. The Political Science department taught us never to dismiss an idea outright, rather to think critically about everything presented and create diplomatic and well-argued approaches. This approach resonates strongest in the Middle East where one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. I am often presented with difficult situations that demand personal initiative and ingenuity. The professors at Lewis and Clark prepared us by holding high expectations and encouraging self-reliance while supporting creativity and freethinking.

James Atkin, Class of 2006—Public Affairs for Palantir Technologies, Palo Alto, CA

I have managed two successful state senate campaigns and a nationally competitive U.S. congressional race. I have also worked for the President of the Oregon Senate and served as a senior advisor and communications director for a U.S. Congressman in Washington, D.C. I’m currently coordinating Capitol Hill outreach for a technology company in Palo Alto, CA where I regularly meet and brief elected officials and their staffs on technology issues. LC’s Political Science Department set me up with the skills necessary to excel in both the government and private-sector arenas. 

Ben Brysacz, Class of 2009—Third-year law student at Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, CA

Since graduating from Lewis & Clark, I have been a congressional aide in Washington, D.C., and have spent the last several summers in various jobs including as a clerk in a federal prosecutor’s office, a summer associate large law firm, and an intern for a national environmental NGO working on climate change policy.  In the political science department at LC, I learned how to develop the strongest arguments possible. I remember my political theory professor suggesting that while writing papers I should ask myself how Plato or Tocqueville would respond.  That advice has made me a better advocate by helping me predict and counter responses to my arguments.

Danny Cochran, Class of 2009—Program Manager at YogiPlay, Menlo Park, CA

I graduated in 2009 and currently work as product manager at an educational technology startup, YogiPlay, in Menlo Park. I work with programmers and designers to create new technologies that enhance children’s learning experiences through mobile applications. I am also getting my Masters in Learning, Design, and Technology at Stanford because I love working in this field. My background in political science has been immensely useful in a space dominated primarily by computer scientists, as I am able to analyze complex user challenges from an objective and critical standpoint. 

Erika Harris, Class of 2011—Research Associate for Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

I am about to move to the Czech Republic, where I will be conducting research on the lasting effects of Communist political rhetoric in Bohemia, and the implications of communist propaganda and influence on the current Czech government its citizens.  Three years in the Lewis & Clark Political Science department taught me how to stop waiting and follow a passion, no matter how lucrative it may or may not be; how to stick my neck out and be brave! 

Karen Hooper, Class of 2006—Director of Latin American and Africa Analysis for Stratfor, Austin, TX

I am Karen Hooper and I graduated with my BA in political science from Lewis & Clark in 2006. I am currently the director of Latin America and Africa analysis for Stratfor, where I manage the production of geopolitical reports using the intelligence method of analysis. By examining open and proprietary source information, my teams identify shifting global trends that affect businesses and governments abroad. Lewis & Clark’s political science department taught me to be rigorous in my understanding of domestic and international politics. I learned to understand the uses and limits of legal systems and the pressures that shape the decision-making of political leaders. These analytical skills were complemented by an education in a clear, consistent writing style that has stuck with me ever since. 

Marie Steinrücke, Class of 2010—Language and Cultural Officer in training, Royal Danish Army

!سلام علیکم ملګرو

I’m currently studying Pashto, which is a language spoken in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The army needs many specialists including interpreters and experts on local culture in deployment areas. The Language Officers of the army provide such services, which includes involvement in political reconstruction negotiations and high-level military meetings. One would think there to be irreconcilable differences between a liberal arts college and the army, but critical thinking and a strong work ethic will get you far in every profession. At the political science department students are constantly encouraged to consider different perspectives and to adhere to the highest possible academic standards. In my experience these skills may be exported to any future walks of life. 

Michael Strout, Class of 2007—Vice President, Investment Banking Division, Sandler O’Neill & Partners, New York, NY

As an investment banker, I act as a consultant of sorts to clients in the financial institutions industry (i.e. commercial banks, specialty finance companies, insurance companies, asset managers). In my five years at Sandler, I have marketed, managed and closed a number of merger and capital markets transactions, some upwards of billion in transaction value. On the day-to-day, I’m primarily responsible for financial analysis and valuation, as well investor and legal negotiation. It’s been great to reflect on how important the skills of quick, critical thinking and persuasive discourse - all honed in the Political Science Department – have been in effecting my success in negotiating some complex, market-moving transactions. 

Rhett Tatum, Class of 2006—Attorney for Clackamas County, Oregon City, OR

My name is Rhett Tatum and I graduated from Lewis & Clark in 2006. I am an assistant county counsel for Clackamas County and work primarily on issues and litigation related to planning and zoning, code enforcement, property tax, and real estate. The political science department taught me how to frame questions and problems and analyze the potential solutions. I use this skill set everyday to provide my clients with both sound legal advice and broader policy recommendations.

Political Science

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