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Political Science

The Political Science Department is oriented towards both teaching and research and sees both as mutually reinforcing activities. The department offers a curriculum focused on the major subfields of Political Science, specifically: American Government, Comparative Politics, International Politics, and Political Theory, as well as Political Methodology. For completion of the major, students are required to develop an expertise through coursework and independent study in one of these subfields, as well as successfully complete an exit exam in the subfield. Students may also minor in American Politics, World Politics, and Political Theory.

Undergraduate research opportunities are afforded through Directed Study courses with faculty members as well as student research assistant and other positions within the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) and the RIPS (Research on Individuals, Politics and Society) lab.

Undergraduates are also encouraged to participate in the Tennessee Intercollegiate Student Legislature and Tennessee Moot Court programs, both of which expose students to crafting and passing legislation as well as conducting oral argument at the appellate level. These programs are overseen by Political Science faculty advisers.

The department offers an Honors Program requiring students to conduct independent investigation and analysis with the supervision of a faculty mentor during their senior year. Honors students produce an honors thesis in the last semester of their senior year, leading to graduation with High Honors, or Honors.

Undergraduate Courses and Faculty

The Political Science Department consists of 30 faculty members, all experts in their fields; as well as renowned guest lecturers ranging from political writers, to operatives and elected officials. Faculty members offer courses in all of the basic subfields of American Government, Comparative Politics, International Politics and Political Theory.

The courses offered by the department range over such topics as American Public Opinion and Voting Behavior, Political Campaigns and the Electoral Process, The American Presidency, Constitutional Law and Judicial Process (in American Politics), Democratization and Political Development, Latin American Politics, Politics of Global Inequality (in Comparative Politics), Causes of War, American Foreign Policy, International Political Economy (in International Politics), Contemporary Political Theory, Liberalism and its Critics, and Law, Politics and Justice (in Political Theory).

Undergraduates who wish to become licensed to teach political science at the secondary level can pursue coursework in education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College.

After Vanderbilt

A significant portion of graduates in Political Science enter law school. The department’s pre-law courses are taught using the Socratic Method with the goal of engendering student success upon matriculation to law school. Recent graduates have also entered careers as political office holders, aides to congresspersons and political executives, lobbyists, journalists, data analysts, survey researchers, market researchers, Foreign Service officers and advisors, or consultants for international organizations.


Carrie Russell
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Director of Pre-Law Advising
Department of Political Science
PMB 0505
230 Appleton Place
Nashville, TN  37203-5721
(615) 322-6222

Political Science Website