What is Political Science?

Socrates and Aristotle referred to the study of politics as the master science. As the study of power, political science explains who benefits from our politics, who doesn’t and why.  As the study of authority, it examines the struggles over and claims to power made by political actors. 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 choices and actions of citizens, interest groups, political parties and public officials. Politics is everywhere, shaping not only governments but families, social organizations, schools and decision-making bodies of all types, from student councils to international institutions.

Why Political Science?

What explains the increasing polarization of American political life? Under what conditions do countries become and remain democratic? And when do democracies decline? What does reconciliation look like in settler societies? What explains international and domestic war and peace? How does living through violence influence post-conflict politics? These are just some of the questions political scientists respond to. In doing so, political science educates citizens, who are able to act and respond to national and global political changes in an informed way. Political science provides valuable social science training and prepares students for a variety of careers.

Political Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Our faculty have expertise in their respective fields, and all have multiple interdisciplinary research interests. Faculty research has been funded by major granting agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), Social Science and Humanities Research Council (Canada) and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Faculty research has been published in highly recognized academic journals. Courses are offered in the traditional subfields of international and comparative politics, American government, political theory, public policy, and public law. The department also offers a number of classes in environmental policy and politics and indigenous politics.

Students are trained to apply political knowledge to concrete human problems. Courses in international relations examine different dimensions of 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 examining the experiences of countries throughout the world. Our courses on American government examine the major institutions and processes that shape the U.S. policy and economy. 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. 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. Through this sub-disciplinary training, students will learn to identify public needs, collect data on controversial issues, compare alternative solutions to problems, and conduct evaluations of ongoing public programs. Additionally, they will learn about and apply different approaches to methodology in social science research.

Our department offers a B.A. degree in Political Science, as well as two different minors:  Political Science and Law and Society. Our major is offered online as well, in order to accommodate students who require a flexible course schedule. While pursuing their degree, students often choose to participate in an internship in Alaska or elsewhere in the United States, to gain valuable workplace experience. Many students chose to intern through the highly popular Senator Ted Stevens Legislative Internship Program. Our students are highly active on campus and commonly participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, including the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (ASUAF), the model United Nations and Pi Sigma Alpha (the Political Science honors society). As part of the PSA for example, they will be able to take part in a number of 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.