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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
October 21, 2014
Canadian Excellence

Comparative Politics / International Relations

Volatility and rapid change characterize contemporary world politics, a situation that poses more challenges and questions than ready answers. Students drawn to such challenge will find our Comparative/International Relations option as an engaging field to indulge in provocative questions. Through an exploration of some theoretical frameworks to help navigate the often complex nature of world affairs, and through a range of courses that appeal to more regional and specialized topics, students will develop greater confidence on how to address more specific issues. We invite you to explore this option further.

Advantages of the Comparative Politics / International Relations option:

  • For a midsize political science department, Laurier has a very large number of faculty members who research and teach in the area of Comparative Politics and International Relations, including Drs. Andrea Brown, Alistair Edgar, Patricia Goff, Dejan Guzina, Derek Hall, Jorge Heine (CIGI Chair in Global Governance), Rhoda Howard-Hassmann (Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights), Thomas Hueglin, Rianne Mahon (CIGI Chair in Comparative Family & Social Policy), Kim Rygiel, Yasmine Shamsie, Debora VanNijnatten.
  • We have strong links to Laurier's Masters in International Public Policy, its PhD in Global Governance, and the increasingly world renown Waterloo-based Balsillie School of International Affairs and Centre for International Governance Innovation.
  • Graduates have pursued successful careers in academia, diplomacy, the public service and development agencies, to name only a few.

Research Assistantship Opportunity

Students admitted to the MA program for the 2013-2014 academic year are eligible to apply for a Research Assistantship for Dr. Rhoda Howard-Hassmann, Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. Remuneration is $15,000 over three terms. Duties include the following: maintain and add to Dr. Howard-Hassmann's website on political apologies (see:; conduct research as required: major topic is state-induced famine, but other topics may arise. Qualifications, apart from admission to the program, are as follows: an A or A+ average in last two undergraduate years; two academic letters of reference attesting to applicant's suitability as a research assistant; strong interest in human rights; student must be efficient, reliable, detail-oriented, and able to work independently. Top candidates within reasonable commuting distance of Wilfrid Laurier University will be asked for a personal interview by Dr. Howard-Hassmann: otherwise, a telephone interview will be arranged.

To apply, visit:

Related courses:

  • PO620, The Politics of Social Policy in an Era of Globalisation. This course explores the politics of social policy in Canada and across the world in an era of globalisation. It builds on the major theoretical contributions to the comparative study of welfare regimes, examining changes to these wrought by globalisation.
  • PO631, Political Parties.A comparative discussion of party systems across the world and the role political parties play in the political process
  • PO670, Canada and the Global South.This course explores Canada's reputation, both at home and abroad, as a strong supporter and defender of issues related to the Global South. Some of the contradictions in Canadian policy toward poorer nations will be examined.
  • PO641, Theories of International Relations. This course explores the evolution of the field of International Relations by examining the key theoretical approaches. These include realism, neo-realism, liberal approaches, historical materialism, rational choice, the English and Italian schools, feminism, constructivism, and postmodernism.
  • PO654, Comparative Truth Commissions. This course examines the emergence, main features and evolution of truth commissions, within the broader context of transitional justice, one of the fastest and most exciting areas within the study of democratization.
  • PO671, Issues in Third World Politics. This course will study significant new publications in the field as well as several case studies from nations or regions undergoing political challenges and transformations, such as transitions to democracy, civil war, economic collapse and restructuring, ethnic unrest, the AIDS crisis, grassroots initiatives, and famine.

Recently Completed Major Research Papers and Theses

  • Bittle, Michael. 2009. "Transboundary Water Management: Institutions and Cooperation on the San Pedro and Rio Grande." Supervisor: Dr. Debora VanNijnatten; Second reader: Dr. Ian Rowlands.
  • Cummings, Joshua. 2011. "Trading Hunger Away? Trade Liberalization and Food Security in Mexico, Haiti and Brazil." Supervisor: Dr. Rhoda Howard-Hassmann; Second reader: Dr. Jennifer Clapp (CIGI).
  • Draper, Steven. 2011. "Economic Vulnerability and the Radical Right in Post-Communist Europe." Supervisor: Dr. Dejan Guzina; Second reader: Dr. Jason Roy.
  • Foster, Matthew. 2009. "The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy of the United States: A Comparative Analysis of Homosexuals in the Armed Forces." Supervisor: Dr. Rhoda Howard-Hassmann; Second reader: Dr. Yasmine Shamsie.
  • Hinan, Tamara. 2011. "Truth in Transition: Transitional Justice, Identity and Democratization in Morocco." Supervisor: Dr. Rhoda Howard-Hassmann.
  • McGregor, Anna. 2011. "Ethnic Conflict in Malaysia: An Examination of Why Violence Has Not Occurred among Malaysia's Principal Ethnic Groups." Supervisor: Dr. Dejan Guzina; Second reader: Dr. Derek Hall.
  • Morrison, Matt. 2009. "What Makes a Social Movement Successful? The Case of the Christian Right in American Politics." Supervisor: Dr. Barry Kay; Second reader: Dr. Andrea Perrella.
  • Overall, Matt. 2009. "Famine in sub-Saharan Africa: Is Democratic Government the Solution or the Problem?" Supervisor: Dr. Rhoda Howard-Hassmann; Second reader: Dr. Loren King.
  • Popovic, Jelena. 2009. "The Way Forward: Cultural Considerations in Children's Reintegration Policies in Sierra Leone." Supervisor: Dr. Rhoda Howard-Hassmann; Second reader: Dr. Andrea Brown.
  • Wilkinson, Alicia. 2009. "Elite Avarice or Moral Nostrum: An Examination of the Role of Ethnicity in Kenya's Transition to Democracy." Supervisor: Dr. Andrea Brown; Second reader: Dr. Dejan Guzina.
  • Williams, Kari. 2011. "Conditional Cash Transfers: Development, Discovery and Diffusion." Supervisor: Dr. Rianne Mahon. 

From our recent graduates:

"Three things come to mind when I recall my MA year at Laurier. First, it gave me an opportunity to work with one of the top scholars in my field. I would not have gained the skills nor had as many opportunities to pursue my research without the support of my supervisor. I was able to attend conferences to present my work as well as travel to Europe to attend a summer course in the Netherlands and Belgium. Second, the MA courses gave me a solid foundation in international relations, which proved essential in my current PhD program at the University of Toronto. Finally, Laurier allowed to me to work with a wonderful group of colleagues, some of which I consider my closest friends. The small cohort and the small class sizes allowed us to work closely together, to share our research interests, and to form a close knit group. The year spent at Laurier was one of the most important in my life, both in what I gained from completing my degree as well as the wonderful opportunities to expand my worldview."

Jelena Popovic (MA’09), doctoral candidate in Political Science, University of Toronto

"Laurier's Comparative Politics/International Relations stream, gave me the opportunity to form a solid theoretical and practical foundation for analyzing political changes through a global perspective. In particular, the courses offered within this stream, emphasized on-going debates within the field, as well as where new areas of research could evolve. The knowledge that I have gained has served me well, both during the process of completing my major research paper and beyond."

Sabrina Lavi (MA ’10), Community Board Member, Research Ethics Board (Social Sciences, Humanities & Education), University of Toronto

"Laurier's program gave me the qualitative and quantitative research skills, analytical proficiency, and a strong theoretical foundation necessary for success in both the workplace and academia. The skills I developed during my time here have not only been instrumental to obtaining and excelling at my current position as a Research Officer at the University of Toronto, but have also given me the option pursue a PhD. Additionally, Laurier's lower student population was a nice change after doing my undergrad at a large university; the department is genuinely helpful and the professors always have time for you - whether you're seeking help with class work or just a friendly conversation."

Josh Cummings (MA '11), Research Officer, Institute for Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto