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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
Request an adviser.

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
Request an adviser.

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 year-long, 8-credit intensive research project resulting in a written thesis and an oral defense.

Only rising seniors are eligible for the honors program. Applications are due by May 1 (for May graduates of the following year) and January 1 (for January graduates). The application process is detailed below.

Who should write a thesis?

The best reason to write a thesis is that you have identified a political problem or question that you want to spend a year researching and writing about in a focused, rigorous way, in greater depth than is possible during normal coursework. It is a good opportunity to practice the skills and craft of intensive political science research and writing, and a chance to work closely with a faculty adviser with expertise in an area that interests you. The worst reason to write a thesis is to receive an honors designation.

If you wish to write a thesis, the department expects that you will have thought deeply about your topic and research question, typically in the context of prior coursework in the major (and perhaps beyond it). Research questions should be developed and refined in consultation with an adviser in the department so that students will be prepared to write a thorough proposal to submit along with an application by the end of the second semester of junior year. Proposals for theses must outline a specific, tractable research question and propose a concrete plan for research. The department strongly recommends that students interested in writing a thesis enroll in Conducting and Designing Research (GOV 291) sometime during sophomore or junior year to help with this process.

Only rising seniors are eligible for the honors program, and only students who complete an application form by the relevant deadline and receive departmental approval will be admitted. In addition, all applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Students must 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
  • 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 have identified and met with an adviser within the Government Department prior to applying
  • Students must demonstrate at least three courses that are related to their specific honors project and have equipped them to engage in the proposed research

How to Apply

The Government Department considers honors applications twice a year: in early May and in early January. Students should plan on applying during the end of the second semester of their junior year, for potential admission to the program at the start of their senior year. Completed applications should be sent directly to Erin Pineda, the departmental Honors Director, and must be received by May 1 and January 1 (respectively) of each academic year. Meeting these deadlines ensures that students’ applications will be read and considered by the department, and enables students admitted to the honors program to begin their course of research at the start of senior year.

The core of the application is the project proposal, ideally written in close consultation with a project adviser in the Government department. Proposals should run 500-1,000 words (2-4 pages, double-spaced) and must include:

  • A focused description of the scholarly issue or topic to be investigated, situated in a brief discussion of the literature that addresses the topic;
  • A specific, well-defined research question and/or set of hypotheses to be tested;
  • An explanation of the approach or research methods to be taken to answer the research question;
  • Documentation of relevant background, preparation, special facility or skills necessary to undertake the proposed thesis, including at least 3 courses that have prepared the student to successfully pursue and complete the project;
  • A short bibliography of cited sources and/or sources to be consulted.

In addition, applicants 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 grade point averages both inside and outside the major. A full list of the relevant documents and forms is available on the Class Dean’s website about applying for departmental honors.

Completed applications should be compiled in a single PDF document and emailed directly to by the relevant deadline. 

Oral Defense

All honors students will participate in an hour-long oral defense at the conclusion of their thesis process. The defense will be convened by at least two members of the faculty, one of whom will be the student’s project adviser, and the other of whom will be selected by the departmental Honors Director. During the defense, students will have an opportunity to introduce and discuss their course of research and will engage in a rigorous question-and-answer discussion with faculty members about their project.

How are honors projects evaluated?

Your thesis adviser, along with at least one additional faculty member (a “second reader”), will serve as your thesis committee. Together, they will carefully read your thesis and provide a substantive, qualitative assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, along with a designation (Highest Honors, High Honors, Honors, Pass, or Fail). The oral defense, administered by the same two faculty members, will be assessed on the same scale. The final honors designation, submitted for recommendation to the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs, is based on three separate components:

  • Evaluation of the final honors thesis by at least two readers: 50%
  • Evaluation of the honors defense by at least two faculty: 20%
  • GPA within the major: 30%


Who can be an honors adviser?

  • Any full-time Government Department faculty can serve as a project adviser. If students wish to work with faculty outside the Government Department, that is fine, but they will still need to secure an adviser within the department.

How should I identify an adviser?

  • Students should aim to find an adviser whose research and/or courses provide the best fit for a student’s intended project. Ideally, these should be faculty with whom students have taken courses or with whom students have worked in another capacity, but students are welcome to approach any departmental faculty about a potential honors project. The department encourages students interested in pursuing a thesis to approach potential advisers well in advance of the application deadline—typically sometime during second semester of junior year.

What if I want do pursue an Honors project but miss the application deadline?

  • Students who, for whatever reason, fail to meet the relevant application deadline but who remain seriously interested in and well-prepared for pursuing honors should speak to their major adviser or potential research adviser about conducting a one semester Special Studies project with the possibility of completing it as an honors thesis during a second semester of research and writing.

What happens if I am admitted to the Honors Program?

  • Students will be notified by email several weeks after the application deadline indicating whether or not they have been admitted to the program. Admitted students will be registered automatically for a semester-long, 4-credit course (GOV 430) for the following semester. It is recommended that students take no more than three other 4-credit courses while they pursue a thesis.
  • To complete the honors program, students must complete a finished thesis on time, earn a passing designation on their thesis and oral defense, and 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.

What does a thesis in Government look like?

  • It depends! Government is a diverse discipline, and a thesis on the political theory of Thomas Hobbes will look very different than a thesis on Chinese foreign policy. Typically, however, a thesis in Government will include a short introduction and detailed literature that situates a students’ research question in existing scholarly debates, followed by substantive chapters (often, two) comprised of a student’s original research. The final product is often around 65-100 pages of finished, polished writing, including a full bibliography. Students are encouraged to consult past completed theses to get a better idea of what is involved in writing one.

When is my thesis due?

  • The Government Department requires all thesis students to complete a substantial portion of their thesis—often, a literature review and one substantive chapter—by the end of their first semester of thesis work and submit it to their adviser and the Honors Director. A finished thesis is due toward the end of the second semester of thesis work—in early April for May graduates, and in early January for January graduates. Please consult the Class Dean’s website for specific deadlines for each year.

Can I get an extension?

  • An extension of up to five days from the initial due date may be granted at the discretion of the departmental Honors Director. A further extension of no longer than two weeks from the initial due date may be granted only by the chair of the Subcommittee on Honors and Independent Programs upon written application from the departmental director of honors.

What if I start a thesis but don’t want to continue?

  • In consultation with their advisers, students may convert honors projects to Special Studies at any point prior to the final deadline. It will be up to the adviser to determine what amount of work a student must complete to satisfy the criteria for a Special Studies.

Advisers for the GOV major and minor are normally assigned through the department using this form (link).  The department will endeavor to pair you with an advisor who matches your interests and preferences, so far as possible.  In addition, please be aware that a student may connect with any member of the department during office hours or via an email request with specific questions relevant to their areas of teaching and expertise.  


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*
Two sections: Erin R. Pineda and Kye Barker

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

GOV 206 The American Presidency (A)
Claire Leavitt

GOV 207 The Politics of Public Policy (A)
Scott LaCombe

GOV 210 Public Opinion and Mass Media in the United States (A)
Howard Jonah Gold

GOV 220 Introduction to Comparative Politics (C)
Sara A. Newland

GOV 223 Russian Politics (C)
Bozena C. Welborne

GOV 232 Comparative Political Economy (C)
Syeda ShahBano Ijaz

GOV 238 Elections Around the World (C)
Anna Kapambwe Mwaba

GOV 241 International Politics (I)
Gregory Whayne White

GOV 247 International Relations in Africa (I)
Anna Kapambwe Mwaba

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

GOV 249 International Human Rights (I)
Ulku Zumray Kutlu Tonak

GOV 252 International Organizations (I)
Mlada Bukovansky

GOV 266 Contemporary Political Theory (T)
Nathan DuFord

GOV 271 Colloquium: Global Cities (I)
Ulku Zumray Kutlu Tonak

GOV 274 Colloquium: Decolonizing Democracy (T)
Erin R. Pineda

GOV 275 Colloquium: Emotions in the History of Political Thought (T)
Kye Barker


GOV 305 Topics in American Government: The Conservative Tradition
Claire Leavitt

GOV 312 Topics in American Government: Political Behavior in the United States
Howard Jonah Gold

GOV 340 Taiwan: Internal Politics and Cross-Strait Relations
Sara A. Newland

GOV 347 Seminar in International and Comparative Politics: Climate Migration
Gregory Whayne White

GOV 367 Topics in Political Theory: Queering the State
Nathan DuFord

*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.

Note: This is not an official list.  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: M. Bukovansky; G. White

GOV 218 Workplace Law in Capitalist America (A)
H. Freeman

GOV 224 Globalization from an Islamic Perspective (C)
B. Welborne

GOV 227 Contemporary African Politics (C)
A. Mwaba

GOV 237 Politics of the U.S./Mexico Border (C)
V. Garcia

GOV 238 Elections Around the World (C)
A. Mwaba

GOV 248 Arab-Israeli Dispute (C)
B. Welborne

GOV 271 Global Cities (I)
U. Tonak

GOV 273 Marxism (T)
K. Barker

GOV 284 America in the 21st Century (A)
C. Leavitt

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


GOV 305 Strange Bedfellows: The Family and the State
A. Hearst

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

GOV 338 Research Seminar in Political Networks
S. LaCombe

GOV 347 Environmental Security
G. White

GOV 363 Dissent
E. Pineda

GOV 367 Environmental Political Theory
Kye Barker

*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 10, 2023. 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 to 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.