Political Science

[For additional information on Political Science at UC Merced, please visit the new Political Science Website]

OverviewUC Merced Professor Nathan Monroe works with student

Political Science is the social scientific study of political institutions and political behavior. The study of political institutions includes topics such as the effect of the design of electoral systems on the quality of representation in government, the formal and informal elements of the legislative process and their implications for the making of law, and the impact of domestic political institutions on the incidence of international conflict. Under the rubric of political behavior, political scientists study how and why people choose to participate in politics, the determinants of vote choice, and the nature and origins of public opinion. Students studying political science at UC Merced develop a strong substantive understanding of both political institutions and behavior. Students also learn the theories that help us better understand the political world and the methods by which these theories are tested and refined.

Political Science majors choose courses from three subfields of the discipline: American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations. The study of institutions and behavior is central to all three of these subfields, although the substantive emphasis differs. Courses in American Politics focus on domestic politics in the U.S., while courses in Comparative Politics examine government and politics in other nations. International Relations classes address issues in foreign policy, international conflict, and the institutions intended to govern the interactions between nations. Students focus on one of these three subfields, although they also are able to take courses in the two subfields outside of their focus. Due to both the broad intellectual roots of political science as a scholarly field and the interdisciplinary nature of UC Merced’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, Political Science majors also take at least two selected upper division classes in Cognitive Science, Economics, History, Philosophy, Psychology or Sociology.

The knowledge and skills acquired with the Political Science Major should provide a strong foundation for graduate training in law, political science or other social sciences. Students graduating with a degree in political science can also pursue a wide variety of other careers, such as public administration, campaign management or consultation, grassroots political organization, corporate governmental affairs, Foreign Service, journalism, lobbying or teaching.

Program Learning Outcomes

We expect graduates from the major and minor in Political Science to be able to:

  1. Understand the processes, theories, and empirical regularities of political institutions and political behavior in the student’s chosen emphasis area: American politics, comparative politics, or international relations.
  2. Employ critical thinking and demonstrate social scientific literacy, including basic quantitative literacy.
  3. Utilize contemporary social science research methods to conduct rigorous research on political phenomena.
  4. Write effectively, particularly to convey complex concepts and information in a clear and concise manner.
  5. Apply abstract theory and research methods to understand contemporary political events and public policies.

Refer to the Curriculum Map to see the coherency between the Program Learning Outcomes and our course offerings. 

Program Assessment Results

Each year, we assesses the learning experiences of students who major in Political Science to ensure that students are building the necessary skills and knowledge-base in this discipline. The assessments allow our program to engage in continued creative and visionary curriculum and instruction approaches that ensure students are exposed to rigorous undergraduate training. Every discipline has a unique assessment schema and set of student performance benchmarks, reflecting the priorities of the discipline.

From the 2012-2013 program assessment, we looked at how well the students performed inwriting effectively, particularly to convey complex concepts and information in a clear and concise manner (Program Learning Outcome 4). The student population sampled (N=20) included only majors at the senior class level. The students were tested on this PLO with an in-class final paper. 

We found that the vast majority of papers achieved an evaluation of moderately proficient or better for all three of the following criteria:

  •       Present a thesis or argument in a clear, organized, and logical manner
  •       Present research design and data analyses with sufficient detail, clarity, and precision so that a reader could replicate the research
  •       Use writing conventions accurately with particular attention to concise and precise statements

We also assessed this PLO by surveying graduating seniors (N=23) and alumni (N=41). For the graduating seniors, 100% self-report moderate proficiency in this outcome at the point of graduation. For the alumni, 80% report that this skill area is beneficial to highly beneficial in their current job or graduate studies.

Alumni Success

Student graduates from our program are currently engaging in graduate studies and careers. A few of these after-college endeavors are listed below.

Graduate School

Student graduates from the Political Science program are studying in a variety of graduate degree programs including the Hastings College of Law, Western State University College of Law, University of the Pacific, University of California, Merced, and the University of Southern California.


Student graduates from the Political Science program are working in a variety of professional settings including marketing companies, legislatures' offices, school districts, and international corporations.