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Muhlenberg's
Political Science Department:

 


by Heather Zeman

 

Nestled between the rolling hills and urban playgrounds of the Lehigh Valley’s Queen City is a hotbed of intellectual strategy, international debate and political criticism. It’s not one of those super-secret bio-terrorism bunkers made famous by Tom Clancy novels. It’s the highly acclaimed, interdisciplinary political science program at Muhlenberg College.

Long a course of study favored by law school attendees and those aspiring to hold public office, political science has been shunned by many students as being too boring and adhering to nothing more than the old ideas found in a dog-eared copy of Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America.”

Thanks in no small part to the political and social events in the last 10 years, students at Muhlenberg have bucked the trend of apathy that swept through many major colleges and universities, choosing instead to not only become educated on the defining topics of the day, but to act on their beliefs and become agents of change in their communities.

“The basic definition of political science really boils down to a knowledge and understanding of who gets what, why and how, in terms of power relationships and public policy outcomes,” explains Alton Slane, Ph.D., head of the College’s political science department. “We help our students to discover the relationships that exist behind each policy and it’s implementation.”


Chris Herrick, Ph.D., who helped to secure funding for technology for the Institute for Public Opinion, with Chris Borick, Ph.D., director of the Institute

Otto von Bismarck once remarked that politics was the art of the possible, an apt description of the hard work and negotiation that determines the course of public policy both across the nation and worldwide. It is the understanding and practice of this art which draws many of Muhlenberg’s students to enroll in political science classes, regardless of major.

“This year, we have approximately 155 students who have either a major or minor in political science,” remarks Dr. Slane. “Even more impressive is that this semester alone, we have enrollments of over 450 students in political science classes.”

The fact that almost 25 percent of the College’s students enrolled in at least one political science class in the fall 2003 semester speaks volumes about the quality of the staff and their ability to actively engage the minds and interests of their students, a message that resounds with Dr. Slane.

“We have a team of excellent professors here,” concurs Dr. Slane, highlighting published works by Christopher Herrick, Ph.D. with Patricia McRae, Ph.D., “Issues in American Foreign Policy,” as well as Chris Borick’s work with the College’s acclaimed Institute for Public Opinion as just a few of the department’s accomplishments.

Students agree. “The political science curriculum provided me with a strong foundation for graduate school,” says Sean Daubert ’00, a law student at the University of Miami. “Dr. Slane’s Constitutional Law courses and Dr. Herrick’s International Environmental Law course prepared me well for law school. The extensive knowledge, superior teaching skills and consistent accessibility of the department’s professors make this an outstanding major at Muhlenberg.”

The political science department boasts two aspects that help to set it apart from programs within the College as well as those from outside institutions: an interdisciplinary approach and a focus on the lessons taught by current events.

 

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