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Being a Golden Hawk means more than just cheering on our (really good) varsity teams – it means being a student who cares about your community, who works hard in the classroom, and who takes advantage of all the learning opportunities that can happen outside the classroom, too.


Fall 2016 Course Offerings

PO601: The Craft of Political Science

In order to prepare students to deal intelligently with the practice of politics, this course encourages them to explore the theories on offer for understanding politics. This seminar has two primary aims. First, it examines social scientific ideas and debates which inform our judgements about practical questions on real-world politics, such as whether politicians act in voters’ interests or whether opinion polls play a role in formulating government policy. In applied settings, we typically assume a great deal about the interests of relevant political actors, yet these assumptions need to be tested. Second, the seminar reflects on what counts as a convincing explanation or valid knowledge about the political world.

PO602: Applied Political Analysis

This course offers students an introduction to research methods/approaches commonly employed within the study of political science (and social science more generally). The course provides students with a solid understanding of the “science” in political science, the importance of research design, a range of research methodologies (quantitative and qualitative), as well as an introduction to basic statistical procedures and software used to assist the social scientist. The course is designed to support students as they prepare for the Major Research Project.

PO609: Interpreting and Understanding Elections

This course will typically be taught in those years in which elections at various levels of government can be observed, as an advanced seminar in the electoral process, strategy and analysis. In addition to conceptual discussions of various theories that influence voting behaviour, students are expected to pursue an original research study that involves the design and analysis of campaign strategy. (Exclusions: PO466, PO632).

PO650: International Human Rights, the Law and Governance

This course addresses international and Canadian human rights policies.  Topics of study normally include international human rights law; a brief history of human rights; the question of cultural relativism and human rights; the right to development; the role of civil society in human rights; and human rights in Canadian foreign policy. For their written assignment students are expected to pick one policy topic, explain its background, critique a major policy document such as an international human rights treaty, and make new policy proposals.

PO691U: International Organizations and Policy-Making

At the macro level, this course explores international organizations' contributions to the complex field of transnational governance and the instruments to which they have recourse. At the micro and meso-levels, it assesses the role international organizations place in the transnational diffusion of public policy ideas and "best practices." It introduces major international organizations such as the international monetary fund, the World Bank and the OECD, and then considers their role in the governance of key policy areas, tracing the relations of competition and cooperation with each other and with other actors, national and transnational.

Winter 2017 Course Offerings

PO604: Understanding and Applying Public Policy Analysis

This course explores the political and economic foundations of public policy-making, in order that students understand the complexities involved in analyzing policy problems in a local, regional or international setting. The course then reviews methods for designing better policies (and the debates about these methods), as well as various tools used by analysts and policy makers. Students have an opportunity to apply these tools to the analysis of a particular public policy problem. This course is required for students interested in completing the Policy Analysis Project.

PO605: Applied Global Governance: Problems and Solutions

Each year, this course focuses on a global governance challenge that a faculty member is engaged with (climate change, human security, conflict transformation, global development practices, etc.). Through a select case study, students explore how this particular global governance challenge has come to be framed as a problem, what actors are engaged, what solutions have been proposed, and what resources are available to support action. Students also examine the processes and institutions through which action can be taken. Finally, the course explores the constraints on action, and why global responses are often insufficient.

PO610: Advocacy Strategies and Approaches: Influence Beyond Elections

This course explores the ways in which different advocacy groups – lobbying firms, interest associations, pressure groups, social movements (Occupy Wall Street), among others – seek to influence the political system. Students survey some of the dominant theories of group – state relations (pluralism, elite theory, corporatism, neo-Marxism, notably) before presenting their own projects to the seminar. These can range from detailed lobbying strategies of hypothetical organizations to critiques of the approaches adopted by existing advocacy groups, domestic or international.

PO611: Media Analysis for Politics and Policy in a Digital Age

The course offers students the means to analyze both conventional and digital media, and understand their impact on the political system and voter behaviour. Using particular political controversies as a focus, the course traces the different narratives of contemporary political discourse offered by conventional vs. social media, using recent methodologies suited to analysis of “tweeting”, Facebook and other forms of online public sentiment. The course also offers insights into the ways that social media has changed the media footprint of organizations, issues and politicians.

PO633: Public Opinion and Survey Design

This course offers students an in-depth study of public opinion with special attention allotted to how public opinion can influence decision makers, public policy, and election outcomes. In addition to theoretical and practical aspects of public opinion, students also have an opportunity to develop "applied" knowledge by working with a client to design and implement a survey instrument. This course is required for students interested in completing the Public Opinion Project.

PO695: Major Research Project

The major research project provides students four options to pursue a specific area of interest: Journal Article Project (30-35 page piece of work in journal article format); Major Research Paper (approximately 50 pages in length); Policy Analysis Project (50-page project that provides students with the opportunity to carry out a professional policy analysis on an existing policy); Public Opinion Project Option (25-30 page paper (not including the required survey instruments) that provides students with an opportunity to undertake the design of a major public opinion project involving the administration of a survey).

Other Regularly Offered Courses

PO606: Managing Conflict and Cooperation in Canadian Politics

This course surveys topics such as nationalism (e.g., Quebec, Aboriginal peoples), the accommodation of difference (e.g., ethno-cultural, religious), and interest-based disputes (e.g., environment vs. business), with a view to understanding how they are shaped by a wide range of complex institutional and societal factors. Through various instructor- and student-led activities, including debates, simulations, group work, and other active learning pedagogies, students acquire the necessary tools for understanding the nature of such conflicts and how we might effectively manage and mitigate them.

PO607: Normative Analysis: What Guides Our Political and Policy Choices?

This course explores the role that values play in political practice, and whether we can talk about values – such as freedom, fairness, justice, goodness, efficiency - in ways that are principled, even scientific. This seminar introduces some promising efforts to argue constructively about values in politics and public life, by examining a range of morally charged controversies at a variety of geographic and political scales, such as enduring racial injustices, gendered assumptions about work and productivity, universal health care, covert and extra-judicial military engagements, and the possibility of global justice.

PO608: Governance by Design: New Institutions for Changing Realities

Whether in response to the need for more democratic processes in the Middle East or the integration of Aboriginal self-governance into traditional levels of government, political scientists continue to grapple with problems of institutional design and redesign. This course explores how various theories of institutional design might be applied to redressing the perceived failures of our current governance arrangements. Students in the course are led through an “institutional design/redesign” project, which allows them to participate in a simulated process of institutional reform.

PO613: Navigating the Intersection of Politics, Policy and the Law

This course focuses on understanding public policy in its legal context, through an examination of current issues at the crossroads of policy-making and the law, whether at the international level or in a domestic context. This course engages students in reading and understanding legal documents, engaging in legal analysis, and providing oral argumentation.

PO621: Managing Borders and Boundaries in North America

This course is conducted as a series of seminars and workshops on issues related to understanding and managing borders in North America. Particular emphasis is placed on exploring the field of border studies as it relates to both the U.S.-Mexico and Canada-U.S. border, on the idea of Canada as a “border culture”, and on how these perspectives feed into border policy. The primary objective of this seminar is to prepare students for an oral presentation at the annual Crossing Borders Student Conference held jointly by the University of Buffalo and Brock University.

Contact Us:

General Inquiries

E: spalmer@wlu.ca
T: 519.884.0710 x3374


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