Political Science at UAF

Why Political Science?

Who governs public affairs in Alaska, the United States, and the world? Why do we pay taxes, and who receives benefits from the government? What laws are just? Where do they come from, and why do they change? How do people vote? How can nations solve common problems and conflicts short of war? These and other questions of our daily lives concern politics, and political science tries to answer them in a systematic fashion. In doing so it provides education for citizenship in a changing nation and world. Political science provides a sound preparation in the social sciences and prepares students for a variety of careers.

What is Political Science?

Perhaps the oldest of the social sciences, the discipline has its origins in Socrates and Aristotle called it the master science. As study of power, political science explains who gets what, when, where and how. It examines the struggles over the claims to authority put forth to shape the lives of citizens and the world. As the study of values, it examines why citizens obey or rebel, the nature of the just society, and the ways individuals reconcile personal liberty with political authority. As the science of political behavior, it analyzes the actions of interest groups, political parties and public officials. Politics is an omnipresent force, not only in governments but in families, social organizations, schools and decision-making bodies of all types – from student councils to international institutions.  

Career Opportunities

Our students have used political science as a stepping-stone to graduate work in the social sciences and have taken jobs teaching at colleges and universities. Other graduates have gained employment in the media and public relations, taught high school, and been hired by business corporations at the state or national level. The study of political science has also prepared students for work in various fields of government. Alaska offers exciting job prospects for our graduates as managers in state and local governments and as legislators and legislative staff members. Our students are also qualified to work outside of Alaska in numerous public and private sector jobs. Political science provides the best and broadest understanding of the formation, application and change of law, as well as research techniques and standards of argumentation essential to legal practice. Our majors have been admitted to the nation's top law schools. A solid understanding of local, national, and international politics will benefit any student throughout his or her career. Ultimately, what you do with political science is up to you, but a background in political science will benefit you throughout your life by giving you the analytical tools to understand and act on the politics affecting you.

Political Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks


Our faculty have depth in their fields, breadth in their research, and pursue multiple interdisciplinary interests. Courses are offered in the traditional fields of international and comparative politics, American government, political theory, public policy, and public law. The department also offers classes in environmental policy and politics, Native American studies, the politics of science, and women’s studies.

Students are trained in the application of political knowledge to concrete human problems. Courses in international relations examine global power, foreign policy, peace and security, terrorism, international law and organizations. Comparative politics courses focus on the different ways in which governments form, function and transform by analyzing detailed case studies from countries throughout the world. As part of the sequence of courses in political behavior and policy analysis, students learn modern methods of social science research and gain expertise in the use of computers to analyze public problems such as apathy, alienation, and inflation. A series of courses in the department trains students in American government by examining the major institutions and processes that shape the U.S. polity and economy. Students learn to identify public needs, collect data on controversial issues, compare alternative solutions to problems, and conduct evaluations of ongoing public programs. The department also offers courses in political theory, with an emphasis on the history of Western political ideas from Plato to the writings of contemporary thinkers. These courses also present materials on the history of American political thought and examine the role of ideology in the modern world. Lastly, the political science department offers a series of courses related to environmental politics and policies examining the relationships between government, inter-governmental, and non-governmental decision-making and the natural world.

The courses and faculty expertise are complemented by real world opportunities for political science students to apply their learning. We offer numerous internship and scholarship opportunities in Alaska and the rest of the United States. Students can participate in Model United Nations simulations, join the political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha, aid faculty as research assistants, become teaching assistants and take part in numerous other department projects such as bringing speakers to campus or hosting roundtables on important issues.

Feel free to contact the Political Science faculty to discuss your interests.

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