INTRODUCTION FROM THE CHAIR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
Welcome to the website for the Political Science Department at Wilfrid Laurier University. While my remarks below attempt to give you a general idea of who we are and what we do, I invite you to browse through the various sites we have created that describe our activities in greater detail.
First, what is political science? Few people these days need to be persuaded that governments -our own and those of other societies- have a profound impact on the quality of our daily lives. Our economic well-being, our sense of security and community, and how we conduct our personal lives are all affected directly or indirectly by the actions of governments. Political Science involves the study of governments and governing. It addresses such questions as how and why governments make the decisions they do, why different governments and different societies make different decisions, and how governments and societies attempt to secure their interests in an uncertain international environment. These are broad questions, and in attempting to answer them, we draw on the contributions of both political scientists and practitioners in other fields of study—history, economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and law. Political science is a discipline situated at the crossroads of intellectual discourse of both the social sciences and the humanities.
At Wilfrid Laurier University, political science is an integral part of the "liberal arts" educational experience. About one third of all students attending the university complete at least one course in political science, and each year, about 80-100 new undergraduate students select one of our political science programs as their major field of study. With a faculty of 18 full-time professors, the department is able to provide these students with a range of courses that encompasses all of the major fields of interest in the discipline, including Canadian government and politics, comparative government and area studies, international relations, political philosophy, political processes and political research methodology. Our undergraduate curriculum is carefully structured to build a foundation of knowledge about politics and political concepts in the first year of study, to provide general overviews of the various fields in our second year offerings, and to provide more advanced analyses in each of these fields in third and fourth year seminars. At the graduate level, the department offers a one-year Masters Program that focuses on a selected number of fields. About 18-20 new MA students are admitted to the program each year.
There are two features of our department and its programs that we think make it distinctive. First, we are large enough to provide comprehensive coverage of the discipline, yet small enough to learn the names of our students and to tailor programs to fit their particular interests. Second, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, we stress the acquisition of those analytic and research skills that are essential to career success after graduation. Research is important to us both as professional political scientists and as teachers. Students benefit from this in the quality of instruction they receive and in the opportunities they are given to undertake independent research.
Again, please visit the various sites of our webpage to learn more about us. If you have feedback or questions about what you find there, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Dr. Debora VanNijnatten, Chair
Political Science Department
Wilfrid Laurier University