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Collage of various government themed images

The Department of Government seeks to educate students about the nature and scope of political power, and to place an understanding of that power in its social, cultural and historical context.

We study public opinion, political institutions, political development and political economy. We address the concerns of ethnic, racial and political minorities; the role of gender in politics, campaigns and elections; conflict and cooperation between states; and the politics of globalization. We examine fundamental and controversial concepts such as justice, democracy, revolution and equality. We believe the study of politics helps us to make better sense of the world around us as we seek to improve it for ourselves and others.


Government majors should emerge from the program with an understanding of the factors that shape a variety of political systems and influence policy outcomes at both the domestic and international level. They should be able to assess critically political actions, and to be attentive to the social forces that shape the exercise of power. They should have frameworks within which to think about the purposes of politics, the aims and responsibilities of governments and the rights and duties of citizens. Consistent with the mission of a liberal arts college, the government department seeks to prepare its majors for a variety of postgraduate options, including law school and graduate study in political science.

Teaching students to:

  • Articulate arguments orally and in writing
  • Understand and engage in original research
  • To evaluate the validity of information
  • Become familiar with, and be able to understand, diverse perspectives on political issues, taking into account differences such as those based on ethnicity, race, gender and culture.

Advisers: Members of the department

Requirements for the Major 

Eleven semester courses distributed as noted below. Structuring your major in government, and properly sequencing your courses, will depend upon your interests and advice from your adviser. 

  1. Basis 100*
  2. One course at the 200 level in each of the following fields: American government, comparative government, international relations, and political theory
  3. Gov 203 or an equivalent statistics course taken in another department
  4. Two additional courses, one of which must be a seminar, and both of which must be related to one of the courses taken under (2); they may be in the same subfield of the department, or they may be in other subfields, in which case a rationale for their choice must be accepted by the student and her adviser
  5. Three additional elective courses.

*Although this is the only GOV course at the 100-level, it is not necessarily the first course a student takes, nor is it a prerequisite for other courses at the 200-level.

Navigating the Major

There is no single paradigm for the study of government, no one ideal way for everyone to structure a major. Within the overall framework of our major requirements, here are some ways in which students, in consultation with their major adviser, can shape their program of study.


Every government major is required to choose a concentration within the major, either by subfield or by theme. We also encourage students to deepen and broaden their understanding of these concentrations by taking related courses outside the major.


The subfields of study within the government department are representative of the way the academic study of political science is normally divided.

  • American Politics is the study of institutions, policies and processes within the United States.
  • Political Theory is the study of fundamental ideas that underlie political life.
  • Comparative Politics is the study of institutions, policies and processes within individual countries, as well as cross-regional and cross-country comparisons.
  • International Politics is the study of patterns of interaction and relationships between sovereign states and other actors in the international system, as well as global processes that shape relations between them.


The following are examples of possible themes that can be developed from some combination of the subfields.

  • Politics of a specific country or region of the world
  • Institutions
  • Political processes and behavior
  • Gender and sexuality
  • History of political thought
  • Public policy
  • Environment
  • Political economy

Advisers: Members of the department

The minor consists of six courses: Gov 100 plus five additional courses, including at least one course from two of the four following fields:

  • American government
  • Comparative government
  • International relations
  • Political theory

Director: Erin Pineda

The honors program consists of a yearlong intensive research project resulting in a thesis. The core of the program is a thesis paper, a complete draft of which is due on the first day of the second semester. Students will spend the spring semester revising their papers and will submit the final version by April 1.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Students who have at least a 3.3 grade-point average (GPA) in courses outside of the major and 3.5 GPA in courses within the government major are eligible for the honors program.
  • Students must have successfully completed six courses in their major prior to being accepted to the honors program; under normal circumstances, these six courses will have been completed in the government department at Smith College.
  • Students must complete the application form and receive departmental approval to be admitted to the honors program.
  • On the application form, students will be asked to identify three courses taken that are related to their specific honors project.

How to Apply

See the class deans website about applying for departmental honors. In order to begin the application process, the student will need to request a Calculation of GPA by emailing A personalized listing of all courses and grades that are eligible for calculation will be sent as a PDF by email to enable the student to determine the gradepoint averages both inside and outside the major.

Eligible students are encouraged to apply in the spring of their junior year, but fall applications are allowed as long as they are received before the end of the first week of classes in September. January graduates are on a different schedule.

Students may register for departmental honors when choosing courses in April if their applications have been approved. The spring deadline to submit completed applications, with departmental endorsement, is the last day of final exams. Applications to enter the departmental honors program from current second-semester juniors will be considered only after the grades for this current semester have been calculated into the GPAs.

First-semester seniors must submit completed applications, with departmental endorsement, no later than the end of the first week of classes in the fall semester.

Requirements to Fulfill the Honors Program

  • Students admitted to the honors program will register for a yearlong, 8-credit honors course (GOV 430, 4 credits in the fall and 4 credits in the spring).
  • Students in honors must successfully complete all the requirements for the major and a total of at least 11 courses in the field of government. The yearlong thesis course (GOV 430) may be counted as two courses toward the 11 courses required for honors students.
  • Students in honors are expected to participate in Collaborations by making a public presentation of their thesis.

Oral Examination

Following submission of the final paper, students will take an oral examination administered by three members of the government faculty. This exam will be based on the thesis and on the field in which it was written. The field is defined by the student herself, who at the time of the exam will identify three courses which she believes bear upon the topic of her thesis.

Honors Project Description

An honors applicant must submit to the government department a thesis proposal consisting of 500 to 1,000 words (two to four pages) containing the following information:

  • a description of the broader scholarly issue to be investigated
  • the specific question or hypothesis to be treated
  • an explanation of the approach to be taken and evidence of experience using this approach
  • documentation of relevant background, preparation, special facility or skills necessary to undertake the proposed thesis (e.g., previous course work related to the thesis topic, quantitative skills, foreign language ability, etc.).


Note: for the official list of course offerings for this semester, consult the schedule in Workday, or the online course search.

GOV 100 Introduction to Political Thinking*
Three sections: Erin Pineda and TBD

Sub-Field codes for 200-level courses:
A: American Government
C: Comparative Government
I: International Relations
T: Political Theory

GOV 200 Introduction to American Politics (A)
Alice Hearst

GOV 206 The American Presidency (A)
Claire Leavitt

GOV 209 Colloquium: Congress and the Legislative Process (A)
Claire Leavitt

GOV 220 Introduction to Comparative Politics (C)
Ulku Zumray Kutlu Tonak

GOV 223 Russian Politics (C)
Bozena Welborne

GOV 226 Latin American Political Systems (C)
Velma Garcia

GOV 230 Chinese Politics (C)
Sara Newland

GOV 233 Problems in Political Development (C)
Anna Mwaba

GOV 241 International Politics (I)
Gregory Whayne White



GOV 242 International Political Economy (I)
Bozena Welborne

GOV 249 International Human Rights (I)
Alice Hearst

GOV 257 Refugee Politics (I)
Ulku Zumray Kutlu Tonak

GOV 263 Political Theory of the 19th Century (T)


GOV 306 Seminar in American Politics: Politics of the US States
Scott LaCombe

GOV 307 Latinos and the Politics of Immigration in the U.S.
Velma Garcia

GOV 343 Seminar in International Relations and Comparative Politics: Corruption
Mlada Bukovansky

GOV 347 Seminar in International and Comparative Politics: Comparative Regionalization
Anna Mwaba

*Although this is the only GOV course at the 100-level, it is not necessarily the first course a student takes, nor is it a prerequisite for other courses at the 200-level.

Spring 2023 course information TBD.

Note: For the official listing of course offerings for this semester, consult the schedule on Workday, or the online course search.

GOV 100 Introduction to Political Thinking*
Two sections: Donald Baumer and Erin Pineda

GOV 200 American Government (A)
Scott LaCombe

GOV 202 American Constitutional Law:  The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment (A)
Alice Hearst

GOV 203 Empirical Methods in Political Science
Howard Gold

GOV 206 The American Presidency (A)
Marc Lendler

GOV 214 Free Speech in America (A)
Marc Lendler

GOV 217 Race and the Problem of American Citizenship (A)
Erin Pineda

GOV 221 European Politics (C)
Mlada Bukovansky

GOV 224 Globalization from an Islamic Perspective (C)
Bozena Welborne

GOV 227 Contemporary African Politics (C)
Anna Mwaba

GOV 228 Government & Politics of Japan (C)
Dennis Yasutomo

GOV 238 Elections Around the World (C)
Anna Mwaba

GOV 241 International Politics (I)
Brent Durbin

GOV 248 The Arab-Israeli Dispute (I)
Bozena Welborne

GOV 252 International Organizations (I)
Mlada Bukovansky

GOV 255 Politics of Global Tourism (I)
Greg White

GOV 262 Early Modern Political Theory (T)
Patrick Coby

GOV 271 Global Cities (C)
Zumray Kutlu

GOV 273 Marxism (T)
Kye Barker

GOV 291 Government Lab: Designing and Conducting Research
Sara Newland

Sub-Field codes for 200-level courses:
A: American Government
C: Comparative Government
I: International Relations
T: Political Theory


GOV 345 The Politics of Data
Brent Durbin

GOV 348 Conflict & Cooperation in Asia
Dennis Yasutomo

GOV 367 Environmental Political Theory
Kye Barker

GOV 369 African American Political Thought
Erin Pineda

*Although this is the only GOV course at the 100-level, it is not necessarily the first course a student takes, nor is it a prerequisite for other courses at the 200-level.


Photo of the U.S. Capital Building at Night


Director: Brent Durbin

The Jean Picker Semester-in-Washington Program is a first-semester program open to Smith junior and senior government majors and to other Smith juniors and seniors with appropriate background in the social sciences. It provides students with an opportunity to study processes by which public policy is made and implemented at the national level. Students typically reside in Washington from the month of June preceding the fall semester through December.

The program is directed by a member of the Smith College faculty who is responsible for selecting the interns and assisting them in obtaining placement in appropriate offices in Washington, and directing the independent research project through tutorial sessions. The seminar is conducted by an adjunct professor in Washington.

Cost of the Program

Students participating in the program pay full tuition for the semester. They do not pay any fees for residence at the college but are required to pay for their own room and board in Washington during the fall semester.


Before beginning the semester in Washington, the student must have satisfactorily completed at least one of the following courses in American national government: 200, 201, 202, 206, 207, 208 and 209. A successful applicant must also demonstrate a capacity for independent work. An applicant must have an excess of two credits on record preceding the semester in Washington.

How to Apply

Applications should be submitted to the director of the Semester-in-Washington Program no later than Friday, November 11, 2022. Enrollment is limited to 12 students, and the program is not mounted for fewer than six. An informational meeting for interested students is scheduled in October.

Requirements fo Fulfill the Program

For satisfactory completion of the Semester-in-Washington Program, 14 credits are granted:

  • 4 credits for a seminar in policymaking (411)
  • 2 credits for GOV 413 seminar on political science research
  • 8 credits for an independent research project (412), culminating in a long paper*

* No student may write an honors thesis in the same field in which she has written her long paper in the Washington seminar, unless the department, upon petition, grants a specific exemption from this policy.


Martha A. Ackelsberg
William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor Emerita of Government and Professor Emerita of the Study of Women and Gender

Donald Baumer
Professor Emeritus of Government

Susan C. Bourque
Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor Emerita of Government

Patrick Coby
Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor Emeritus of Government

Donna Robinson Divine
Morningstar Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and Professor Emerita of Government

Steven M. Goldstein
Sophia Smith Professor Emeritus of Government

Marc Lendler
Professor Emeritus of Government

Donald Robinson
Charles N. Clark Professor Emeritus of Government

Dennis T. Yasutomo
Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor Emeritus of Government


Research Associates

Michael Clancy


Fox-Boorstein International Internship

The Smith College Department of Government sponsors an annual competition for the Fox-Boorstein International Internship Fellowship. This fellowship of between $300 and $800, made possible by a bequest and through the generosity of family members, is available to students in any major, although priority is given to students majoring in government. It is intended to support Smith students working internationally at summer internships in governmental or nongovernmental organizations that involve a policy focus or involve global issues. The deadline to submit all application materials is Friday, April 28, 2023.

Leanna Brown Fellowship

The Smith College Department of Government sponsors the annual competition for the Leanna Brown ’56 Fellowship. This fellowship (normally between $500 and $1,000), made possible by the generosity of Brown's father, Harold Young, is intended to support Smith students working at summer internships in state or local government or in organizations (government or nongovernment) focused on issues of particular concern to women. All students are invited to apply. The deadline to submit all application materials is Friday, April 28, 2023.

Harry S. Truman Scholarship

Students interested in careers of public service are invited to register for nomination for a Harry S. Truman Scholarship. The award of $30,000 is for graduate or professional education. Smith College may nominate up to four juniors for the national competition. It is best to begin the process early in the spring of the sophomore year (especially if you will be abroad in your junior year). Registrations are accepted up to early fall of the junior year, but the earlier you begin, the better your chances.

For more information, visit the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation or the Smith Fellowships office.


Department of Government
Hatfield 102
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3510

Administrative Assistant:
Lisa DeCarolis-Osepowicz

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.