Eunice Park, Contributing

Emory’s Political Science Department has announced changes to its undergraduate program that will take effect Fall 2020. The new curriculum will focus less on introductory courses and increase elective class offerings. 

The curriculum changes will affect all students, except current seniors, majoring and minoring in political science, international studies, quantitative sciences and the math/political science major.

Students who have declared their major before June 1, 2020, will be part of the transition group, while all others will fully adhere to the new requirements. Any political science classes taken by students under the current requirements will still be counted as electives under the new requirements.

The department will continue to offer introductory classes such as National Politics (POLS 100), International Politics (POLS 110) and Comparative Politics (POLS 120), but the completion of all three courses will no longer be necessary. Most 200-level intermediate classes will be eliminated. 

Currently, political science majors must choose a concentration in national, comparative or international politics, but this will be eliminated and majors will be able to take electives in any field they wish. Full details on the transitional and new requirements are available on the department’s website

Students declaring a political science major after June 1, 2020, will only have to take one 100-level course, Principles of Political Science (POLS 111), a new course that will be offered beginning Fall 2020. 

In an interview with the Wheel, Department Chair Jeffrey Staton said that POLS 111 “is meant to introduce [students] to the fundamental questions, concerns and debates that animate every subfield in political science.” 

There are both intellectual and logistical reasons behind the change in curriculum, according to Staton. He said the department wanted to match the curriculum to faculty areas of expertise.

“Historically, the department divides itself into these many subfields, and we thought we don’t really see ourselves divided in these subfields. We cut across the subfields, and we teach across the subfields,” Staton said. Requiring students to choose a particular concentration “didn’t make sense,” he said. 

One of the logistical issues with the curriculum was that many students didn’t sequence their classes correctly because of the number of introductory-level classes they were required to take.

“We had a very large proportion of our intermediate political science classes made up of juniors and seniors, in some cases graduating seniors,” Staton said. “People graduating in the Spring enrolled in an intermediate course, which could never possibly help them because it [was] the end of their tenure.”

Staffing was another concern that arose because of the concentration requirements.

“It just became impossible to staff the total number of classes that you would need to make sure that every student would get every class they needed to graduate,” Staton said.

While classes in the three respective concentrations will continue to be offered, it will be up to the students whether or not to take them. 

Matthew Klein (22C), a political science major and a member of the Political Science Student Advisory Council, said that he viewed the curriculum changes as “very positive” because they give students more time to take upper-level classes that are geared toward students’ “specific interests.” 

“It gets you out of large lecture halls … [and] gets you into small classes where you are dealing with your professors more closely and where you are likely to be a little more interested in [the topic],” Klein said.