By Olivia Montes
Starting next spring, political science majors will be finding their course requirements looking a little different.
According to an email sent by Chair and Professor of Political Science Dr. Melissa Deckman on Oct. 6, all current and future political science majors starting with the Class of 2023 will be required to take POL 209: political data analysis during the upcoming spring semester.
Beginning next fall, POL 401: empirical political research will become the political science senior seminar, which will also be required for students planning to graduate in either the fall of 2022 or the spring of 2023.
These curriculum changes will not affect students who are currently taking empirical political research this fall, including those who plan to graduate in either fall 2021 or spring 2022.
According to Dr. Deckman, the decision to have students take a separate data analysis course earlier in rotation and alter the current empirical political research class to be more “broadly thematic” to prepare students for their senior capstone experiences was made after many years of discussion.
“We felt that it was time for us to have a class that was more specifically devoted to understanding empirical research, polling and analysis … [and] we think, at the end of the day, this will be better for our majors,” Dr. Deckman said.
“We think it’s also going to provide students with an earlier toolkit in terms of being able to do their own data analysis for those students who wish to do so for their senior thesis or papers in upper level courses,” she said.
While political data analysis will be “very hands-on” in its curriculum, teaching the building blocks of empirical research, such as designing surveys and displaying findings, the senior seminar will be more of “a traditional, thematic senior seminar,” which will focus on conducting literature reviews and framing research questions, according to Dr. Deckman.
For many students, this announcement comes as an unexpected surprise, while others are left in an upset as to what to do next to fulfill these and other additional requirements by graduation.
According to junior Bemnet Tola, who is double majoring in both computer science and political science, this announcement shocked her, as she already planned the course schedule for her next three semesters at the College and is unsure of where to fit these new courses into her schedule.
“I did not expect to get an email about requirement changes in the middle of the semester — especially in the middle of midterm week,” she said. “Although I still have not looked into how this is going to affect me…just thinking about it overwhelms me.”
For junior Dylan Snow, he has experienced “mixed feelings” regarding the changes since they were announced.
“[While] I’m not opposed to any of the changes, I’m a little confused and a little stressed because it kind of messes up a little bit of the planning that I had for next semester,” he said.
“Other majors have required courses, and if those are all at the same time, that means people might have to stay in the semester and … it’s making certain people’s lives a little bit more challenging,” Snow said.
For other students, such as sophomore Kennedy Jones, who is double majoring in political science and environmental science, taking two separate courses will allow her to sharpen each skill required by the major without having to compromise in just one course.
“I think it is going to benefit us in the long run,” she said. “Data in political science is just as important as the theories and history also associated [with the major] … [and] I think that as long as there are enough sections of the course offered this spring, it will be fine.”
According to Dr. Deckman, while this may seem like an “awkward transition,” she feels that political science students will ultimately benefit from these two separate courses.
These changes have been officially approved by the Washington College Curriculum Committee, and will be updated as such on the political science webpage on the College website and in next year’s course catalog, according to the email.
Students are also encouraged to meet with their advisors to review this change after fall break in preparation for course scheduling for next spring, or contact Dr. Deckman via email for more information.
In addition, the department also announced changes regarding the Maryland General Assembly Internship for the spring of 2022, according to the email. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internship Office in Annapolis has delayed their application process in attempts to determine if they will be holding the opportunity either in-person or virtually, and may not be made available prior to advising.
Juniors or seniors with a 3.0 grade point average who are interested in applying should contact Dr. Deckman via email.
The department also plans to allow students to double major in both political science and international studies, as many have come forward expressing interest in majoring in both fields. These changes will also be made to the webpage and the College catalog.
“We’re very mindful of our advising system, and we’re going to be talking to our majors to point them in the right direction so that juniors and current sophomores will be taking the political data analysis course in the spring, and then there’s still plenty of time for them to finish all that they need to do,” Dr. Deckman said. “We’ve now come up with a system that I think … allows us to have more practice, and I think that every student will get the class that they need.”