Graduate Program

The Political Science Department offers a flexible program that concentrates on significant practical and theoretical questions.  

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 Relations, and Political Theory.

Thirty-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.

Get Started

Request Info

Apply Now

Policies & Procedures

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the University set standards for students' academic work.

Political Theory

Members of the Department specializing in Political Theory include:

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.

Ryan Patrick Hanley teaches early modern political philosophy, with particular interests in the Scottish Enlightenment (especially Hume and Adam Smith) and the French Enlightenment (especially Fénelon and Rousseau). He is most recently the author of Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Life (Princeton, 2019) and The Political Philosophy of Fénelon (Oxford, 2020), and the editor and translator of Fénelon: Moral and Political Writings (Oxford, 2020).

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."

David M. DiPasquale studies the intersection between Islamic law and political thought in pre-modern and contemporary contexts; the transmission and recovery of Greek science by Arabic-speaking Muslims in the Middle Ages; and the political philosophy of Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes.

Robert Faulkner while retired from teaching, consults with students and leads the occasional reading group.” He is author of The Case for Greatness: Honorable Ambition and Its Critics (2007), Francis Bacon and the Project of Progress (1993), Richard Hooker and the Politics of a Christian England (1981), and The Jurisprudence of John Marshall (1968).

American Politics

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, teaches a graduate seminar on The American Founding, and an undergraduate elective on American Political Thought from the Puritans to Lincoln. He is the co-editor (with Marc Landy) of the essays of the French political scientist Bertrand de Jouvenel, and is the author of The Jury in America: Triumph and Decline (University Press of Kansas, 2016).

Michael Hartney teaches and writes on the politics of public policy, American political institutions, and U.S. sub-national politics. His research is primarily focused on the politics of K-12 education and speaks directly to the interplay between political and educational inequality in American democracy. Hartney's most recent publications appear in journals such as American Journal of Political Science and Public Administration Review. He is currently at work on a book project that examines the political power and influence of teachers unions in the postwar U.S.

David Hopkins teaches courses on American political parties and elections, the U.S. Congress, public opinion and voting behavior, and research methods. His book Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics (2017) was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine. He is also the co-author of Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (with Matt Grossmann), which was the 2018 recipient of the American Political Science Association's Leon Epstein Outstanding Book Award, and Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics (with Nelson W. Polsby, Aaron Wildavsky, and Steven E. Schier, 2020).

Ken I. Kersch, Professor Kersch’s chief interests are in American political and constitutional development, the politics of courts, American legal history, and American political thought. Kersch’s work has won major awards and fellowships, including the American Political Science Association's Edward S. Corwin Award, the J. David Greenstone Prize from APSA's politics and history section, and the Hughes-Gossett Award from the Supreme Court Historical Society. Professor Kersch has published many articles, chapters, and reviews in academic, intellectual, and popular journals. He is the author of The Supreme Court and American Political Development (with Ronald Kahn), Constructing Civil Liberties: Discontinuities in the Development of American Constitutional Law, and Freedom of Speech: Rights and Liberties Under the Law. He is currently completing a series of books on conservative constitutional thought in the postwar U.S. for Cambridge University Press and a book on American Political Thought for Polity Books (U.K.).

Masha Krupenkin focuses on attitudes toward race and inequality in American politics, and utilizes computational social science methodologies to leverage the power of web search and media data to answer social science questions. Her book manuscript in progress focuses on how immigrants’ optimism about the United States shapes their racial attitudes.

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, the J. Joseph Moakley Endowed Professor of Political Science, specializes in American politics – in particular, political participation, political behavior, and organized interests. She is co-author of, among others, The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy (with Sidney Verba and Henry Brady), which won two PROSE Awards (for Government and Politics and Excellence in Social Sciences) awarded to scholarly books by the American Association of Publishers; The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation (with Nancy Burns and Sidney Verba), which was co-winner of the APSA’s Schuck Prize; Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (with Sidney Verba and Henry E. Brady), which was the winner of the APSA's Philip Converse Prize and the Book Award of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. She is the winner of the American Political Science Association’s 2004 Rowman and Littlefield Award for Innovative Teaching in Political Science;,the APSA’s 2006 Frank Goodnow Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession of Political Science; and the 2016 Samuel Eldersveld Career Achievement Award. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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

Members of the Department specializing in Comparative Politics 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.

Gerald Easter specializes in Russian and East European regional politics and in comparative state-building theory. He is also an Associate of the Davis Center at Harvard University, and former co-chair of the Davis Center's Post-Communist Workshop. His publications include: Reconstructing the State: Personal Networks and Elite Identity in Soviet Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2000); and Capital, Coercion and Post-Communist States (Cornell University Press, 2012), which received book prizes for both social science and political economy by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies. His articles have appeared in World Politics, Politics and Society, Perspectives on Politics, and Post-Soviet Affairs. Easter currently is engaged with two new book projects: the intersections of history, art and politics in Russia, through a comparison of the reigns of Catherine the Great and Vladimir Putin; and the policing of protest in both post-communist Russia and in the Russian/East European communist collapse.

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.

Lauren Honig (Africa) studies state-building, institutions, and the political economy of development. Several of her current research projects examine the politics of land rights and how citizens engage with plural systems of authority. Her work employs a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, and relies on extensive fieldwork in different African countries.

Jonathan Laurence (Europe, Turkey, North Africa) is Professor of Political Science at Boston College and Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy studies at the Brookings Institution (Washington, DC). His research interests include religion and politics, immigration politics, foreign policy, Western Europe, Turkey and North Africa. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an affiliate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in 2006. He is the author of The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims (Princeton, 2012) and Integrating Islam (with Justin Vaïsse, Brookings, 2006). His new book, forthcoming with Princeton University Press in 2018, is a comparative study of Islamic and Catholic institutions’ relations with the modern state.

Thibaud Marcesse (India and South Asia) studies local democracy in India, political parties and electoral politics, and labor. His current research projects include a manuscript on patronage and party-building in rural India, and a book project that looks at the interactions between state agencies, political parties and brokers and citizens in rural India. His work is informed by close to two years of field work in North India (Uttar Pradesh) and uses public available data on policy implementation in India along with an original dataset collected through interviews and participant observation.

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.

International Relations

Members of the Department specializing in International Relations include:

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 researches the international and comparative politics of energy and climate policies worldwide; the role of reputation and political leadership in international politics; the political economy of international trade; and the interaction of economics and security in US foreign policy. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Yale University and a United States Fulbright Specialist Scholar. He is the author of The International Political Economy of Trade; Globalization: Causes and Effects; and World Trade Politics: Power, Principles, and Leadership. He teaches graduate courses on global public goods, the roles and design of institutions in international politics, and undergraduate courses on international political economy, liberalism and American foreign policy, and the US and global politics of energy and climate policy.

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.

Jonathan Kirshner is a Professor of Political Science and International Studies. His research and teaching interests focus on international relations, political economy (especially macroeconomics and money), and politics and film. Professor Kirshner's current research includes projects on classical realism, the international political implications of the financial crisis and its aftermath, and the politics of mid-century cinema.

Peter Krause is Associate Professor of political science at Boston College and Research Affiliate with the MIT Security Studies Program. He is the author of Rebel Power: Why National Movements Compete, Fight, and Win (Cornell University Press, 2017), co-editor with Kelly Greenhill of Coercion: The Power to Hurt in International Politics (Oxford University Press, 2018), and co-editor with Ora Szekely of Stories from the Field: An Unorthodox Guide to Fieldwork (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming). His research focuses on Middle East politics, political violence, and national movements, and his current book project analyzes which rebel groups take power 'the day after' regime change.

Lindsey O'Rourke is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston College and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Her research focuses on international security, United States foreign policy, covert action, and military interventions. She is the author of Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2018), which analyzes the causes, conduct, and effectiveness of America's covert regime change attempts during the Cold War. She is currently working on several research projects related to covert regime change, threat inflation in U.S. foreign policy, and the role of spheres of influence in great power politics.

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.