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Undergraduate Thematic Concentrations

Students majoring in Political Science draw on courses across the department to construct a plan of study that reflects their interests. Some students opt to specialize in a particular topic while others explore a broad range of issues and areas. The department helps students identify interesting clusters of classes by suggesting a few thematic concentrations that focus on particular questions or concepts central to the study of politics. Each concentration identifies a key theme or topic and suggests classes from across the subfields in which it appears. Our goal is to make it easier for student to see how diverse courses can be put together to explore important themes.

Students opting to pursue a thematic concentration should take four courses in the concentration including three 300 level courses and one 395 course. These concentrations are optional and do not appear as part of a student’s formal record or transcript.

We encourage students to take advantage of our drop-in advising hours to talk more about the concentrations or other ways to tailor the major to your interests.

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Optional thematic concentrations in:

Law and Politics

The law and politics concentration investigates the interaction between law and politics at the national and international levels. Students pursuing this concentration will examine different ways in which politics influences law-making, legal interpretation, and the application of the law. Students will also gain a sense of how legal solutions sometimes promote justice, but can also affect–for better or for worse– other goals such as democratic participation, individual or group self-determination, and the achievement of socio-economic or other types of human rights. This concentration spans the typical political science sub-field distinctions of American Politics, Political Theory, Comparative Politics and International Relations. We encourage students to embrace this diversity, taking courses that examine the dynamics of law and politics in different countries, at both the national and international level, and both conceptually and in practice.

List of Courses

300 level electives
  • POLI_SCI 307 Deportation Law and Politics
  • POLI_SCI 309 Political Theories of the Rule of Law
  • POLI_SCI 330 U.S. Refugee Policy and Localities
  • POLI_SCI 332 Constitutional Law I
  • POLI_SCI 333 Constitutional Law II
  • POLI_SCI 343 Politics of International Law
  • POLI_SCI 347 Ethics in International Affairs
  • POLI_SCI 356 Constitutional Challenges in Comparative Perspective
  • POLI_SCI 382 Politics of Religious Diversity
Example 395 Seminars
  • Criminal Justice Politics and Policy (Burch)
  • Politics of Corruption (Gans-Morse)

Course Descriptions

Faculty Point Person: Galya Ben Arieh

Other faculty working in this area: Karen Alter, Jordan Gans-Morse, Ian Hurd, Elizabeth S. Hurd, Jacqueline Stevens, Bill Hurst, Traci Burch

Peace and Conflict Studies

The concentration in Peace & Conflict Studies addresses topics in national security, international conflict, and related topics.  Students will become acquainted with the mindset and skills necessary for understanding and participating in activities related to humanitarian crises, national security threats both military and civilian.

List of Courses

300 level electives
  • POLI_SCI 345 National Security
  • POLI_SCI 344 US Foreign Policy
  • POLI_SCI 347 Ethics in IR
  • POLI_SCI 348 Globalization
  • POLI_SCI 376 Civil Wars
  • POLI_SCI 377 Drugs and Politics
  • POLI_SCI 380 Refugee Crises
  • POLI_SCI 390 Strategy and the Politics of War
Example 395 seminars
  • Politics of Africa’s Civil Wars (Reno)
  • Civilians in War (Arjona)
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Pearlman)
  • Tyranny and Resistance (Dietz)
  • Military Interventions (Henke)

 Course Descriptions

Faculty Point Person: Will Reno

Other faculty working in this area: Hendrik Spruyt, Daniel Krcmaric, Marina Henke, Jeff Rice

Political Economy

Political economy is one of most prominent subjects of study in political science. It focuses on the ways that the economy affects politics and politics affects the economy. It crosses all three of the major empirical subfields in political science – American, Comparative, and International Relations – which is reflected in the list of courses below. The concentration has considerable topical relevance given trends like the role of public policy in rising inequality and the influence of the rich on politics. It should further appeal to the large number of undergraduates with a second major in economics, as there are many courses with intersecting themes.

List of Courses

300 level electives
  • POLI_SCI 328 – The Politics of Public Policy
  • POLI_SCI 341 – International Political Economy
  • POLI_SCI 348 – Globalization
  • POLI_SCI 368 – Political Economy of Development
  • POLI_SCI 374 – Politics of Capitalism
  • POLI_SCI 390 – Global Development (offered consistently by Professor Mahoney)
Example 395 seminars
  • Politics of Corruption (Gans-Morse)
  • Wealth and Power in America (Page)

 Course Descriptions

Faculty Point Person: Andrew Roberts

Other faculty working in this area: Jordan Gans-Morse, Jim Mahoney, Chloe Thurston, Stephen Nelson

Public Policy

The Public Policy concentration engages a variety of approaches to investigate how, why, and under what conditions cooperation emerges to address social, political, and economic problems in domestic and global public spheres. Students pursuing this concentration will develop analytical skills to evaluate different approaches to public policy, identify and unpack how diverse ethical and value commitments shape public policy processes and outcomes, and understand how the complexities of organizations and institutions impact the pursuit of broader public policy objectives in addressing social concerns.

This concentration spans traditional subfields in political science, including Political Theory, American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations. We also encourage students in this concentration to participate in a policy internship through Chicago Field Studies, the Center for Civic Engagement, or the Global Engagement Studies Institute.


List of Courses

300-level electives:
  • POLI_SCI 301 Classical Political Theory
  • POLI_SCI 325 Congress and Legislative Process
  • POLI_SCI 326 Race and Public Policy
  • POLI_SCI 328 Public Policy
  • POLI_SCI 329 US Environmental Politics
  • POLI_SCI 337 Drugs and Politics
  • POLI_SCI 342 International Organizations
  • POLI_SCI 343 Ethics and International Relations
  • POLI_SCI 349 International Environmental Politics
  • POLI_SCI 388 Institutions and Society
Example 395 Seminars:
  • Global Environmental Justice (Suiseeya)
  • Immigration Politics and Policy (Merseth)
  • Criminal Justice Politics and Policy (Burch)
  • COMPASS Community Partnership for Settlement Strategies (Ben-Arieh)
  • Interest Groups, Social Movements, and the Policy Process (Thurston)
  • Studying Public Opinion (Druckman)
  • International Organizations and National Policy (Alter)

Faculty Point Person: Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya

Other faculty working in this area: Chloe Thurston, Jean Clipperton, Julie Merseth, James Druckman, Karen Alter, Sara Monoson, Ian Hurd, Galya Ben-Arieh, Laurel Harbridge-Yong, Traci Burch, Ana Arjona

Quantitative Analytics

Quantitative analytics have become an increasingly important part of politics and broader society, in countries around the world and in international politics, law, and economics. From statistical election forecasting like the work of Fivethirtyeight, through the detection of electoral fraud in countries worldwide and the prediction of civil war and other kinds of international crisis, ways of discovering patterns in large data sets have never been more important or more widely used. The Concentration in Quantitative Analytics gives you a chance to learn how quantitative analytics are used to understand politics at all levels, in America, other countries, and global politics and economics. The concentration will also give you opportunities to build and apply your own quantitative analytics skills.

This concentration is available to, and appropriate for, political science majors with no outside training in quantitative analytics. It also offers students who have enjoyed other departments’ courses in quantitative analytics and data sciences a chance to see how these tools are applied to real-world data and problems.

List of Courses

Note: All students pursuing a concentration in Quantitative Analytics are strongly encouraged to take POLI_SCI 312, a course designed to walk you through the process of inventing a quantitative analytics project, finding or creating the necessary data, and reaching meaningful conclusions.

300 level electives
  • POLI_SCI 323 Public Opinion and Voting Behavior
  • POLI_SCI 325 Congress and the Legislative Process
  • POLI_SCI 341 International Political Economy
  • POLI_SCI 388 Institutions and Society
  • POLI_SCI 390 Immigration Politics and Policy
Example 395 seminars

Students pursuing a concentration in Quantitative Analytics are encouraged to complete a Political Science 395 seminar that includes analytics content, and to use analytics tools in your final paper.

  • Criminal Justice Politics and Policy (Burch)
  • Racial Politics in American Cities (Rogers)
  • Military Interventions (Henke)
  • Public Opinion and Representation in the United States (Bullock)
  • Wealth and Power in America (Page)
  • Studying Political Opinion (Druckman)
  • Polarization in American Politics (Harbridge-Yong)

 Course Descriptions

Faculty Point Person: Jason Seawright

Other faculty working in this area: Sarah Bouchat, John Bullock, Jean Clipperton, James Druckman, Jordan Gans-Morse, Laurel Harbridge-Yong, Mary McGrath

Political Representation

Political representation is the activity of making citizens’ voices and perspectives present in the public policy-making process. While seemingly simple, representation often involves multiple and competing perspectives on how elected officials should respond to the public. In this concentration, students consider the following types of questions: How well do political structures and elected officials represent the views of the people they serves? How does representation vary across groups (e.g., race, gender, wealth, party) and across countries? Students taking courses in this concentration will think critically about what people want from politics, how we know if their views are being heard, and the challenges to effective representation. 

List of Courses

300 level electives
  • POLI_SCI 322: Ideas and Institutions in Urban Politics
  • POLI_SCI 323: Public Opinion and Voting Behavior
  • POLI_SCI 325: Congress and the Legislative Process
  • POLI_SCI 327: African American Politics
  • POLI_SCI 330: U.S. Refugee Policy and Localities
  • POLI_SCI 350: Social Movements
  • POLI_SCI 351: Middle East politics
  • POLI_SCI 356: Constitutional Challenges in Comparative Perspective
Example 395 Seminars:
  • Wealth and Power in America (Page)
  • Representation and Inequality (Reidl)
  • Political Economy of Diversity (Ogorzalek)
  • Racial and Ethnic Politics (Lee Merseth)
  • Contemporary Democratic Theory (Nili)
  • Public Opinion and Representation (Bullock)
  • Racial Politics in American Cities (Rogers)

 Course Descriptions

Faculty Point Person: Laurel Harbridge-Yong

Other faculty working in this area: Galya Ben Arieh, Ben Page, Rachel Reidl, Wendy Pearlman, Thomas Ogorzalek, Reuel Rogers

Sovereignty and Anarchy

This undergraduate concentration offers a course of study in the theory and practice of sovereignty in global, national, and local contexts. It works across subfields to explore the scope and limits of state power (including borders, surveillance, law, and enforcement) as well as sovereignty as a changing concept in state and non-state forms including international law and other forms of normative ordering below and beyond the state. While anarchy is frequently used to describe the escape from state power, the concept is also useful for shedding light on sovereignty in theory and practice.

This concentration invites students from all Political Science subfields to learn about and participate in leading trends in the discipline involving sovereignty in all of its forms, international theory, the rise and demise of the nation-state, boundaries, borders, and policing.

List of Courses

300 level electives
  • POLI_SCI 303 – Modernity and its Critics
  • POLI_SCI 307 – Deportation Law and Politics
  • POLI_SCI 309 – Political Theory and the Rule of Law
  • POLI_SCI 308 – Critical Studies in Politics (entering the catalog as Evanston course in 18-19)
  • POLI_SCI 340 – International Relations Theory
  • POLI_SCI 382 – Politics of Religious Diversity
Example 395 Seminars
  • Military Intervention (Henke)
  • Tyranny and Resistance (Dietz)

 Course Descriptions

Faculty Point Person: Ian Hurd

Other faculty working in this area: Michael Loriaux, Elizabeth S. Hurd, Jacqueline Stevens

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