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This August, Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science earned national recognition as the 10th-best political science program in the country from College Factual, a data-collecting college analysis website, according to a USA Today report.
Political science professor Michael C. Desch, who also serves as department chair, said he believes the rankings corroborate a long-held belief among faculty in the caliber of Notre Dame’s political science program.
“It’s a reflection of what we’ve known along, which is that we have a terrific major that’s a function of a number of things, most importantly interesting subject material,” Desch said. “We have terrific faculty, who are great scholars and teachers, as well as a wide array of career options.”
Joshua Kaplan, the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies, said the rankings, which are new this year, weighed objective factors rather than assessment tools such as surveys.
“Their outcome-based metrics include information about early-career and mid-career salaries,” he said.
According to the department’s website, 41 percent of students were employed full-time within six months after graduation, while only one percent were looking for work. The other 58 percent were in graduate or professional school, the military, a service program or other plan, and the average salary for employed students was more than $47,500.
Desch highlighted the department’s ability to prepare graduates for careers other than law.
“There was a time when pre-law was our biggest pre-professional major,” Desch said. “That’s less of a big part these days, in part due to the decline in the legal employment market.”
Desch said Notre Dame graduates have pursued Ph.D.s in political science as well as careers in the business and political fields.
“While there is a lot of variety in what students are doing, they’re making a difference in a lot of different ways,” he said.
Kaplan said he believes the major’s success stems from its ability to echo the core values of the University and the College of Arts and Letters.
“We believe that ultimately the 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 said.
Desch said he hopes the department prepares its students for a lifelong career rather than a first job.
“If you want to have an exciting career and also one that pays the bills, political science is one of the best ones out there,” Desch said.