department of political science
The Political Science Department offers a distinctive program which, in keeping with the tradition of Boston College, concentrates on significant questions, practical and theoretical. The master's and doctoral programs are flexible as to fields and courses, and they allow students to study in other departments and at other universities around Boston.
The small size of the program—approximately five to six students are admitted to the doctoral program each year—allows for personal attention and close contacts with the faculty. Informal colloquia and more formal presentations supplement the regular order of scholarly exchange, and advanced students have an opportunity to teach under faculty supervision.
There are four traditional fields of Political Science: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Politics, and Political Theory.
Twenty-three full-time professors—both junior and senior faculty—teach in the department. This results in a wide diversity of subject matter and of academic approach.
Many of the graduate courses are seminars in which a considerable amount of responsibility is placed upon the student to analyze readings, prepare written and oral presentations to the class, and guide discussions. These are experiences we encourage generally in our courses, but the seminar, with 15 or fewer students, is ideally suited to this purpose. The classes are small, which fosters not only conversation but close associations among students and faculty. The atmosphere is informal and collegial. As an academic community, both graduate students and faculty display an unusual blend of practical and philosophical concerns within a tradition of friendly but serious debate and scholarly exchange.
Robert Bartlett is the first Behrakis Professor of Hellenic Political Studies at Boston College. His principal area of research is classical political philosophy, with particular attention to the thinkers of ancient Hellas, including Thucydides, Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle. He has published articles in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Politics, Journal of Politics, Review of Politics, and other leading scholarly journals. He is the author or editor of seven books, including The Idea of Enlightenment, Plato's Protagoras and Meno, and Xenophon's The Shorter Socratic Writings. He is also the co-translator of a new edition of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (University of Chicago Press, 2011) and the author of a forthcoming study of Plato's Protagoras and Theaetetus.
Nasser Behnegar teaches early modern political theory, contemporary political theory, and political economy. He is the author of Leo Strauss, Max Weber, and the Scientific Study of Politics, as well as articles on Strauss, social science, and Shakespeare. He is currently at work on a study of Hume and Locke.
Christopher Kelly teaches early and late modern political theory, with special emphasis on French thought. He is the author of Rousseau's Confessions: an Exemplary Life, and, most recently, Rousseau as Author: Consecrating One's Life to the Truth. He is also the editor, with Roger Masters, of the definitive English edition of Rousseau's works.
Susan Meld Shell teaches late modern political theory and contemporary political theory and post-modernism, with special emphasis on German thought. Her most recent book is the The Embodiment of Reason: Kant on Spirit, Generation and Community. She is currently completing a book on Kant's "true politics."
Paul Wilford joined the Political Science Department of Boston College in 2016. His principal areas of research are German Idealism (especially Kant and Hegel), Ancient Greek Philosophy (especially Aristotle), and the Philosophy of History."
Over the last several years the Boston College department has built a strong and wide-ranging American Politics faculty:
Dennis Hale, whose teaching and research interests focus on American political thought and institutions, has also edited (with Marc Landy) the essays of the French political scientist Bertrand de Jouvenel. He is completing a book on the jury system.
David Hopkins teaches courses on American political parties and elections, the United States Congress, public opinion and voting behavior, and research methods. David is the co-author of Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics (with Nelson W. Polsby, Aaron Wildavsky, and Steven E. Schier, Rowman & Littlefield, 2011). His recent articles include “The 2008 Election and the Political Geography of the New Democratic Majority” (Polity, July 2009); “The Empirical Implications of Electoral College Reform” (with Darshan J. Goux, American Politics Research, November 2008), and “The Political Geography of Party Resurgence” (with Laura Stoker, in Who Gets Represented?, Peter K. Enns and Christopher Wlezien, eds., Russell Sage Foundation, 2011). His current research includes a project investigating the causes and consequences of increasing geographic polarization in American elections.
Ken I. Kersch, whose primary interests are American political and constitutional development, American political thought, and the politics of courts, has published widely in academic, intellectual, and popular journals. His most recent book, co-authored with Ronald Kahn, is The Supreme Court and American Political Development. He is also the author of Constructing Civil Liberties: Discontinuities in the Development of American Constitutional Law and Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties Under the Law. Prof. Kersch comes to Boston College from Princeton University, where he was the inaugural Ann and Herbert W. Vaughan Fellow in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.
Marc Landy has written widely on environmental policymaking, public policy, and citizenship, and has recently completed, with co-author Sidney Milkis, a study of Presidential Greatness. He is currently completing a text book in American politics.
R. Shep Melnick, an expert on the courts and public policy, is the Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Professor of American Politics. Melnick is the author of Regulation and the Courts and recently published a study of welfare rights titled Reading Between the Lines. He is currently at work on a book on the Rehnquist Court.
Peter Skerry is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and is the author of Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority and Counting on the Census? Race, Group Identity, and the Evasion of Politics. He is currently at work on a study of Muslims and Arabs in the United States. He has been a Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Legislative Director for Senator Daniel Patrick Moyihan, and the Director of Washington Programs for UCLA’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy. Prof. Skerry’s work focuses on social policy, racial and ethnic politics, and immigration.
Kay Lehman Schlozman, holder of the J. Joseph Moakley Chair in Political Science, is one of the country's leading experts on political participation and survey research. Her most recent book, The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender and the Paradox of Unequal Participation, was co-winner of the Schuck Prize of the American Political Science Association.
Alan Wolfe is one of the country's most prominent and respected students of contemporary political culture, as well as head of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Political Life at Boston College. His most recent book is titled Does American Democracy Still Work? (Yale University Press, 2006). He is currently working on a book about why liberalism matters.
Despite their varied interests and diverse methods, these faculty members share two key convictions. The first is that political scientists should study human beings primarily in their capacity as political actors. Second, students of political science should address perennially important political issues. Consequently, the American Politics faculty work closely with our political theorists. We encourage graduate students in American Politics to study the great works of political philosophy, and conversely we encourage students of Political Theory to learn more about American politics.
Comparative Politics and International Relations
Members of the Department specializing in Comparative Politics and International Relations include:
Ali Banuazizi (Middle East and Southeast Asia) received his BA from the University of Michigan and his PhD from Yale University. He teaches courses on the political cultures of the Middle East, varieties of political Islam, and modern Iranian history and politics. His current research interests include the comparative study of religion and politics in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, social movements and democratization in the Middle East, and conceptions of social justice and equality. He is the author of numerous articles on the culture and politics of Iran and the Middle East and the co-editor with Myron Weiner of three books on state, religion, and ethnic politics in Southwest and Central Asia. He served as the founding editor of the Journal of Iranian Studies (1968-1982) and is a past president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA). Professor Banuazizi is currently the Director of the Program in Islamic Civilization and Societies and Chair of the International Studies Academic Advisory Board at Boston College.
Timothy Crawford (International Politics) is the author of Pivotal Deterrence: Third Party Statecraft and the Pursuit of Peace and co-editor with Alan J. Kuperman of Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention: Moral Hazard, Rebellion, and Civil War. He teaches courses on international security, causes of war, the United Nations, and intelligence. His research interests include coercive diplomacy, alliance politics, international intelligence cooperation, and executive power in U.S. foreign policy.
David Deese (International Politics, Political Economy) teaches courses in international organization and international political economy. He is the editor of The New Politics of American Foreign Policy and the author of numerous essays on energy, security, and international political economy.
Gerald Easter (Eastern Europe and Central Asia) is the author of Reconstructing the State: Personal Networks and Elite Identity in Soviet Russia. He is currently completing a book titled Building Fiscal Capacity in Post-Communist States.
Jennifer Erickson’s research interests lie at the intersection of international security and political economy and focus on international reputation, states’ commitment to international rules and norms, and the role of domestic politics in promoting compliance with those commitments. She is currently completing her book manuscript on the spread of arms export controls regulating small and major conventional-arms transfers to human-rights violators and conflict zones, as well as a series of papers on sanctions and arms embargoes. Erickson has conducted extensive fieldwork in the United States and Europe, where she was a research fellow at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) and the Wissenchaftszentrum (WZB) in Berlin. She has also been a Research Fellow at Dartmouth College in the War and Peace Studies Program at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.
Kenji Hayao (Japan) is the author of The Japanese Prime Minister and Public Policy and numerous essays on Japanese politics. He is currently researching the impact of political change on the Japanese prime ministership, as well as conducting a comparative study of presidents and prime ministers.
Jonathan Laurence (Europe) is the co-author (with Justin Vaïsse) of Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France (Brookings, 2006) and editor of and contributor to The French Council on the Muslim Religion, a special issue of French Politics, Culture, and Society (Spring 2005). His principal areas of teaching and research are Comparative Politics, European Politics, and the integration of Muslims into European politics and society.
Jennie Purnell (Latin America) is the author of Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico. She teaches courses on Mexican politics and politics in Latin America. She is currently at work on a book on Mexican state formation.
Robert Ross (International Politics, China) is Professor of Political Science at Boston College; Associate, John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, Harvard University; and Senior Advisor, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His current research focuses on Chinese security policy and U.S.-China relations, with a focus on Chinese use of force and deterrence in East Asia. Among his recent publications are New Directions in the Study of Chinese Foreign Policy, Normalization of U.S.-China Relations: An International History and Re-Examining the Cold War: U.S.-China Diplomacy, 1954-1973.
We believe that our program provides students with an unparalleled opportunity to study politics broadly and in depth. This belief is supported by the outstanding publications and placement record of our students over the last five years.
An undergraduate major in Political Science is preferred but not required. Applicants must demonstrate both past performance of exceptional quality in their academic work and promise of sustained excellence in the future.
At the time of application, we ask that application forms, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, Graduate Record Examination results (general exam), a statement of purpose, and a sample of scholarly work (a term paper) be submitted. International students must show evidence of English proficiency by submitting their official TOEFL iBT scofes or their IELTS scores. For further explanation on TOEFL or IELTS scores, please go to the GSAS International Applicants webpage. The application deadline for the Ph.D. Program is January 2. The application deadline for the MA program is February 1.
Application materials are available through an online request form.
We are usually able to provide financial support to our doctoral candidates for a period of four or five years, although the department's initial commitment typically is only for two years, with additional years of funding contingent on the student's performance. Our regular grants carry a stipend and full tuition remission. In return, we require 12 to 15 hours per week of research assistance to members of the faculty or teaching assistance in undergraduate courses.
Each year the department also awards the Thomas P. O'Neill Fellowship to an incoming student in American Politics. This fellowship carries a larger stipend in addition to full tuition remission. The grant entails some assistance to the O'Neill Professor or other activity related to the O'Neill program. This endowed chair was established in 1981 to honor the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. '36.
The O'Neill Professor teaches graduate and undergraduate courses, and occupants have come from both the academy and government service. O'Neill chairholders have included Professor Samuel H. Beer, Department of Government Emeritus at Harvard University; Jody Powell, White House Press Secretary in the Carter Administration; Eleanor Holmes Norton, former Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and William Schneider, one of the nation's most widely respected election analysts, who taught courses on voting, public opinion, and the American party system. R. Shep Melnick is the current Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Professor of American Politics.
The graduate program also has two Earhart fellowships, carrying a stipend and tuition remission. These are awarded annually, usually to students in the second or succeeding year of doctoral study who have particularly distinguished records. Also, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has generously made support available to our graduate students.
Masters candidates are not normally funded through the department, but can apply for graduate financial aid through the University.