Political Science Major Course of Study

The Political Science major requires 36 hours of coursework, with optional tracks in American Politics and International Affairs. Students take a required set of 18 credit hours, and then choose 18 credit hours of electives. Students choosing to track must take at least 12 out of their 18 total elective credit hours either in American Politics or International Affairs courses. No more than 6 credit hours of electives may be at the 200 level (at least 12 hours of electives must be at the 300 or 400 level). PLSC 302 and PLSC 370 may be taken for either the American Politics or International Affairs tracks.

All prerequisites must be completed prior to enrollment in the following courses

PLSC 101: Government and Politics in the United States
3 credit hours

Introduction to the theories, constitutional bases, functions and government structures of the U.S. political system in relation to the global political environment. Emphasis on national politics and linkages with state, local and international governments, including an emphasis on Missouri and current issues in domestic and foreign policy.

PLSC 150: Beyond the Headlines: Tools for Engaging the Political World
3 credit hours

Through the study of current events, this class introduces the tools political scientists use to analyze politics beyond the headlines. It focuses on developing essential skills in writing, information literacy, forming hypotheses and research questions and oral communication.

PLSC 151: Introduction to Comparative Politics
3 credit hours

Introduction to the comparison of different political systems with an examination of liberal democratic societies, communist and post-communist systems, and developing nations with case studies from each category.

PLSC 152: Introduction to International Relations
3 credit hours

A study of the historical background and contemporary organization of the international political system and the world economy.

PLSC 250: Introduction to Political Inquiry
3 credit hours

Introduction to the process and techniques of research in political science. Emphasis is on research design, theory, hypothesis generation, probability and quantitative analysis, including nominal and ordinal data, univariate statistics, correlation and bivariate and multiple regression. This course is a prerequisite for Senior Seminar.

PLSC 494: Senior Seminar
3 credit hours

Prerequisite: PLSC 250
Capstone research course for majors. This course reviews research methods in political science, and requires students to complete an original project including an extensive literature review and theoretical framework of a question in political science research. Students are required to share their research in public oral presentations as part of the final assignment. This course has been approved as an Honors qualified course.


Students not choosing to track in either American Politics or International Affairs may take any 18 credit hours from the list of electives below. At least 12 credit hours of electives must be at the 300 level.

American Politics track (choose at least 12 hours from the following)

PLSC 220: Introduction to Law and Society
3 credit hours

An exploration of the role that law plays in organizing society, resolving disputes and fostering change. Students will focus on the multitudinous ways in which law influences their daily lives and how social groups work to change the law and improve society. Students will be introduced to theories about law and how law has developed over time.

PLSC 239: Movies, Music, and Politics
3 credit hours

An examination of the reciprocal impacts of politics and popular culture through music, film, television, media, and literature. The course emphasizes critical thinking, writing, and oral communication.

PLSC 253: Political Philosophy
3 credit hours

This course is a foundational exploration of the key theories and principles of political philosophy, including the discussion of the issues of political authority, the justification of the state and its coercive power, social contract theories and the role of consent, rights and justice, civil disobedience, race and gender, issues that shaped political and moral thinking from antiquity to the present. Students will have the opportunity to read and discuss authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Rousseau, Mill, and John Rawls. Attention will also be given to contemporary discussions of these issues.

PLSC 302: U.S. Foreign Policy
3 credit hours

Examination of foreign policy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with analysis of the U.S. foreign policy?making process, institutions and actors.

PLSC 322: American Environmental Politics
3 credit hours

The creation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations in the United States can be imagined as the ultimate board game. It has three overlapping levels (city, state and federal), actors on defense (save our jobs!), referees who interpret the rules (courts and bureaucracy), and actors empowered to change those rules (elected officials). Understanding this game is vitally important as it determines the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the price we pay for almost everything.

PLSC 332: Political Parties, Elections and Interest Groups
3 credit hours

An examination of the history, evolution and current structures of American political parties, elections and interest groups. This course is offered every two years in conjunction with national elections and allows students hands-on experience in the study of American electoral politics. This course has been approved as an Honors qualified course.

PLSC 333: Congress and the Presidency
3 credit hours

Examination of the structures and roles of legislative and executive institutions with primary focus on the politics of policy making; topics include theories of representation, institutional organization, leadership styles and interest group influence.

PLSC 335: The Supreme Court and Constitutional Law
3 credit hours

A study of judicial processes and decisions with particular emphasis on the Supreme Court decisions that have shaped legal thought and altered the social fabric of American society. 

PLSC 368: Washington Center: Studies in American Politics
3 credit hours

Prerequisite:  Permission of Department Chair.  
Students register for this course while attending the Washington Center Program (TWC) and take a TWC class that focuses on American politics.

PLSC 370: Women and Politics
3 credit hours

A comparative study of the role of women as political actors in western and non-western societies. Students will consider the role of gender in shaping political attitudes and perceptions, and the policy issues that affect women in political and daily life.

PLSC 383: American Social and Political Thought
3 credit hours

 A study of major currents of social and political thought and their impact on American culture and institutions.

International Affairs track (choose at least 12 hours from the following)

ANTH 200: Introduction to International Development and Aid
3 credit hours

An examination of the concepts and issues of globalization and development, including a study of the roles of the state, multilateral agencies, philanthropies and community organizations in the contemporary world.

PLSC 205: Model United Nations
1 credit hours

This course is designed to introduce students to the structure, functions, and aims of the United Nations and to provide hands-on experience in international diplomacy through role-playing at a United Nations simulation.

PLSC 254: Food, Culture, and Politics
3 credit hours

This course introduces students to food studies as a nexus for understanding cultural identity, social and political cleavages, and political structures and policy debates in Europe and North America. In this course, we look at food as a type of language, food as policy, and the role of laws and regulations in the preservation of both cultural identity and food security. Assignments in this seminar include a research paper, three formal essays to test students’ comprehension of reading materials and ability to synthesize ideas, and occasional discussion responsibilities. In addition, students will watch the classic film “Babette’s Feast.” And will gather for two food “events”-a European style breakfast at the start of the semester, and dinner together as part of the final project.

PLSC 302: U.S. Foreign Policy
3 credit hours

Examination of foreign policy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with analysis of the U.S. foreign policy?making process, institutions and actors.

PLSC 307: Globalization, Politics and Justice
3 credit hours

An examination of globalization, its history, its contemporary rise and its effects on the world today. Students will consider how globalization transforms politics and affects economic and social justice.

PLSC 309: Global Environmental Politics
3 credit hours

From one state’s perspective, many environmental problems are either too big to handle alone (climate change), are caused by other states they cannot control (transboundary air pollution) or concern the loss of environmental goods that belong to the world (depleted international fisheries). Students will explore these differing types of global environmental challenges by considering the diverse set of relevant actors, interests and institutions operating within and across states.

PLSC 312: Islam and the West
3 credit hours

Examination of the historical, cultural, religious, economic and political interactions between the Western and Islamic worlds. Focuses on the place of Muslims in Europe, especially questions the identity and politics. Offered as a study abroad course.

PLSC 346: Political Violence
3 credit hours

Whether used by states (e.g., war, sanctions) or non-state actors (e.g., riots, terrorism), political violence is a strategy frequently used by rational actors to further specific goals. This course examines issues connected to political violence at the domestic and international levels.

PLSC 350: International Organizations and Law
3 credit hours

Louis Henkin famously wrote, “...almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time.” This class attempts to demonstrate how the ‘almosts’ in that quote are key to answering the questions, “Does international law matter and what are the real-world impacts of international organizations?”

PLSC 360: Islam and Politics in the Modern Middle East
3 credit hours

The study of the historical development of modern political Islam from the nineteenth century to the present. Topics include Islamic sectarianism, religious minorities and the state in the Middle East and debate on the compatibility of Islam and liberal democracy.

PLSC 366: Washington Center: Studies in International Relations
3 credit hours

Prerequisite:  Permission of Department Chair.  
Students register for this course while attending the Washington Center Program (TWC) and take a TWC class that focuses on international relations.

PLSC 367: Washington Center: Studies in Comparative Politics
3 credit hours

Prerequisite:  Permission of Department Chair.  
Students register for this course while attending the Washington Center Program (TWC) and take a TWC class that focuses on comparative politics.

PLSC 370: Women and Politics
3 credit hours

A comparative study of the role of women as political actors in western and non-western societies. Students will consider the role of gender in shaping political attitudes and perceptions, and the policy issues that affect women in political and daily life.

PLSC 375: Arab-Israeli Conflict
3 credit hours

An in-depth examination of the history of the Arab?Israeli conflict, including a review of its historical, political, cultural and religious roots. This course also uses the Arab- Israeli conflict to address broader issues of international conflict and conflict resolution.