A new major in political science, typically one of the most popular fields of academic study in higher education, will be offered to Worcester State University students beginning in September.
“The unofficial motto for our History and Political Science Department is ‘Now, More Than Ever…’ and it reflects that we are living through a critical and historical moment where the core pillars of democracy are being threatened in disturbing ways,” says Anthony Dell’Aera, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science.
The political science major aims to respond to this challenge by equipping students with an understanding of political actors, processes, and structures; giving them an appreciation for the importance of political participation; and offering a pathway to take part in the political and civic life of their communities and the nation. “Aristotle called politics the ‘master science’ because it influences all aspects of human life,” Dell’Aera says.
When Dell’Aera and Nathan Angelo, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science, first arrived at WSU in the fall of 2016, they both saw a need to expand the presence of political science on campus.
“While we found that many faculty members were offering courses relevant to the study of politics in a variety of different departments, there was no way for a student to engage in a concentrated study of politics,” Angelo says.
Meanwhile, students were “clamoring” for a political science major, Dell’Aera says. “One of the most common questions I have fielded from my students and advisees ever since my arrival at Worcester State is ‘When are we getting a political science major?’ And I am elated that we can finally tell our students that the major will soon be available.”
Etablishing a political science major required developing several new courses and revising existing ones, followed by an extensive university governance process and then approval by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.
As Dell’Aera and Angelo began that work, the country was in the middle of a critical presidential election cycle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that heightened many people’s political consciousness, especially among students. “The result of that election intensified the urgency for our institution to offer a more robust political science curriculum that would equip students with the background and the tools to better understand our political reality, its ramifications, and how to get involved,” Dell’Aera says.
The political science major will begin with coursework in the subfields of American government, global politics, public policy, political theory, and legal studies. Students will learn about political ideas that impact society, how different political systems around the world operate, the sources of conflicts at home and abroad, ways those conflicts can be resolved, and the reasons why sometimes they are not.
“Given Worcester’s location as a gateway city, we can incorporate a rich variety of opportunities for experiential learning that will provide hands-on training for our students to be engaged citizens and help prepare them for careers in politics, law, public service, campaigns, consulting, education, communications, and business,” Dell’Aera says.
Angelo and Dell’Aera worked to ensure that the major would be comprehensive in its approach to political science but also offered students practical ways to translate their studies into a career, Angelo says. “We’ve done that by making sure students gain practical experience through either an internship or research experience. So, in a sense, it’s a very practical major for students,” he says.
For some rising juniors and seniors who have been awaiting the new major’s launch, Dell’Aera and Angelo have already been advising them with an eye toward making it easier to declare the major and satisfy its requirements during their remaining time at Worcester State.
A particularly important aspect of the new major is that it helps prepare students to work in politics in various capacities, Angelo says. “There are so many options: working directly for the government, running a campaign, working with a nonprofit organization, working in governmental relations for a company, and several others,” he says. “It provides our students with yet another tool that they can use to positively influence the world.”
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