Political Science Department Ranked Tenth in Nation

November 12, 2014Dan Loesing

The article can be found here.

Michael Desch, Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department, describes Notre Dame as a “dream school” and political science as a “dream major.”  The two are also a dream combination, according to College Factual, an online college rating site that rated Notre Dame among the top 10 schools in the nation for political science.

Part of what makes it so, Desch told the Rover, is that it “not only prepares you for a first job but a lifetime of career success and fulfillment.”  Indeed, rather than subjective ratings, College Factual focuses on hard data, especially starting and mid-level salaries earned by graduates from each school.

Joshua Kaplan, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Political Science, explained to the Rover that this method “speaks to some of the basic concerns that arise when it comes time to make a decision about a college major.”  In tough economic times, potential salaries and job-market statistics press on the minds of college students more strongly than they would otherwise.

While students are always concerned with achieving financial stability after graduation, most also seek a major that will allow them to study topics about which they are passionate.

Kaplan told the Rover that a major in political science “gives students a foundation that can help them achieve their goals—but also explore, discover new interests, and deepen their understanding of themselves and the world.”  It is this balance that makes a major in political science so appealing to so many students.

Indeed, political science is essential to the functioning of society.  Questions of political theory, practice, and policy always have and always will be relevant to civilization.  For Kaplan, this aspect of the field is what makes the political science department stand out—it “teaches students what it means to live with purpose.”

This purpose is derived from a basic understanding of politics, how it has influenced and shaped societies in the past, and how it continues to do so.  This understanding is rooted in and formed by the department’s outstanding faculty.  Professors in the department have studied, taught, and researched in the world’s top universities, and they have received countless awards for their work.

The faculty members of the Political Science Department, according to Desch, are “committed to excellence across the board in research, graduate training, and undergraduate teaching.”  This dedication to undergraduate study is part of what sets Notre Dame’s Political Science Department apart from other schools.

“We are a large department that does not feel like a large department,” Kaplan told the Rover.  Such an individualized approach allows the student to engage with faculty to learn more about the field.

Kaplan continued, “[T]he best thing a college education can do to prepare students for the future is help them understand how they can put their faith and values to work, to help them use their intellectual abilities with purpose.”

Kaplan, Desch, and the administrators, faculty, and students in the department believe that political science is one of the best majors available to provide such a background.

Although these factors are more difficult to measure than employment statistics or salaries, they are aspects of the program that most students agree are particularly important to them. For the political science department, Kaplan says, these elements are in “harmony with the factors that the ranking reflects,” namely starting salaries.

Desch says he is “thrilled” by the ranking.  It is particularly exciting when the difficulty of finding a major that provides all of the above factors is considered.  This ranking affirms that at Notre Dame, political science is just such a major.  Kaplan hopes this ranking “will help current students, prospective students, and their parents be aware of the high quality of the Political Science department at Notre Dame.”

Dan Loesing is a freshman who is dreading his first winter at Notre Dame.  Contact him at dloesing@nd.edu.