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Judge gavel and scales of justice on table.

Political Science - American Politics and Law

The United States is nothing if not complex—culturally, geographically, racially, politically. But we’re also a nation of laws and systems that attempt to unite us, despite differences that can seem overwhelming at times. So how does it all work? And how did this way of doing things come to be in the first place?

Degree Types
Major , Specialization
Complementary Programs
Distinctive Requirements
Graduate School Preparation
Pre-Law Advising

American Politics and Law, one of two specializations in the Political Science major, attempts to answer these (and many other) questions.

The study of politics as both an art and a science involves understanding how ancient, modern and post-modern thinkers have come to understand the political world both philosophically and empirically on national, local, and international levels. In McDaniel’s Political Science program, you’ll learn about the processes of government, the avenues for participation in the political system and in government, as well as the actors involved and the means by which they exercise power, influence, and authority.

Future Career Paths

Political Science graduates have gone on to great success in a variety of career fields. For example, one graduate is serving in a high-level capacity at the Department of Homeland Security working on counter-terrorism. Many work for the National Security Agency (having been recipients of the NSA Scholarship while at McDaniel). Several have gone abroad for graduate studies at The University of London’s School of African and Oriental Studies, the London School of Economics, and the Sorbonne in France.

It’s very common for students to finish McDaniel and then go on to:

  • Graduate schools
  • Law schools
  • Careers in government (at the local, state, or national levels)
  • Development work with non-governmental organizations
  • Advocacy groups
  • Journalism
  • Lobbying

Distinctive Courses

PSI 1101 - Introduction to Political Science

A survey of political systems with an emphasis on theoretical principles of government and the citizen’s relationship to the state. The course will also examine the methodology of the discipline of political science, including various aspects of the political and governmental process.

PSI 2206 - American Political Thought

This course deals with the origins and development of political ideas in America, with a focus on ideologies including liberalism, republicanism, and racial ideologies. The course also addresses theories including libertarianism, socialism, feminism, and democratic theory. Readings range from the federalist and antifederalist papers, to presidential speeches, to contemporary works of political philosophy. The course gives students a foundational basis to understand and engage critically in American politics and political culture.

PSI 2216 - United States Campaigns and Elections

An examination of the development of American election campaigns from party-based to candidate-centered and media-oriented. The course features in-depth coverage of the role of public opinion polling and its various strategic and tactical uses in campaign politics. Among the topics related to survey research will be sampling, question wording, questionnaire design, and analysis of the results.

PSI 3306 - National Security in a Changing World

A survey of the international and domestic factors that shape contemporary U.S. national security policy and strategy. The course provides a brief introduction to traditional conceptions of military strategy and the use of force, examines the extent to which domestic political factors influence national security policy-making, and explores the merits and shortfalls of future national security strategies. Topics discussed include civil-military relations, leadership and accountability, terrorism, peacemaking and peacekeeping, and resource management.

Special Opportunities

Learning by doing is one of the hallmarks of McDaniel’s Political Science program. And because of our location near the nation’s capital, you’ll have a number of opportunities to see politics in action.

Model UN group in Washington, DC.

Washington Semester Programs of The American University

Students attend a full semester in one of American Universities Washington Semester Programs, and have an internship in any one of the many organizations of government & non-government establishments in D.C. Programs also have travel components to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Student sitting behind desk.

Washington Center Internship Program

The Washington Center sponsors yearly programs on such subjects as the presidency, Congress, executive leadership, political campaigns, the legal system, and more. These usually last two to three weeks and are held in Washington, D.C.

The McDaniel Commitment in Action

The McDaniel Commitment—a series of opportunities guaranteed to all students—provides enhanced mentoring and coaching, and ensures every undergraduate student completes at least two meaningful experiential learning opportunities.

Christianna Nichols Leahy

Faculty Spotlight Christianna Nichols Leahy Professor and Department Chair

Professor Leahy teaches such wide-ranging topics as Comparative Politics of Europe, Peacemaking and Peacekeeping in the Post 9/11 World, and Revolutions from 1789 to Occupy Wall Street. She is a human rights activist who has served on the boards of several prominent international organizations, and has expertise in International Humanitarian Law. Every year she takes students to a Model European Union.