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Collage of various government themed images

The Department of Government at Smith College 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 development and political economy. We address the concerns of ethnic, racial and political minorities; the role of gender in politics, campaigns and elections; and foreign policy. We examine fundamental and controversial concepts such as justice, democracy, revolution and equality. We believe the study of politics, like the political association, aims at the highest good, helping 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. Basis100
  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.

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.).


      GOV 100 Introduction to Political Thinking
      Three sections: Gary Lehring, Alice Hearst and Erin Pineda

      GOV 215 Colloquium:  The Bush Years

      Marc Lendler

      GOV 221 European Politics
      Mlada Bukovansky

      GOV 224 Globalization from an Islamic Perspective
      Bozena Welborne

      GOV 226 Latin American Polital Systems
      Velma Garcia

      GOV 228 Government and Politics of Japan
      Dennis Yasutomo

      GOV 230 Chinese Politics
      Sara Newland

      GOV 232 Comparative Political Economy
      Sara Newland

      GOV 238 Elections Around the World
      Anna Kapambwe Mwaba

      GOV 241 International Politics
      Gregory White

      GOV 247 International Relations in Africa
      Anna Kapambwe Mwaba

      GOV 257 Refugee Politics
      Zumray Kutlu

      GOV 262 Early Modern Political Theory, 1500-1800
      J. Patrick Coby

      GOV 272 Conceptualizing Democracy
      Erin Pineda


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

      GOV 312 Political Behavior in the United States
      Howard Gold

      GOV 341 The Middle East in World Affairs
      Bozena Welborne

      GOV 343 Humanitarianism
      Mlada Bukovansky

      GOV 347 Comparative Regionalizations
      Anna Kapambwe Mwaba

      GOV 348 Conflict and Cooperation in Asia
      Dennis Yasutomo

      GOV 367 Politics, Wealth, and Inequality
      Gary Lehring

      GOV 100 Introduction to Political Thinking
      Two sections: Donald Baumer and J. Patrick Coby

      GOV 200 American Government
      Donald Baumer

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

      GOV 203 Empirical Methods in Political Science
      Howard Gold

      GOV 205 The Return of the Native Indigenous Peoples in the New Global Order
      Alice Hearst

      GOV 206 The American Presidency
      Marc Lendler

      GOV 237 Politics of the U.S./Mexico Border
      Velma Garcia

      GOV 239 Social Justice Movements in Latin America
      Velma Garcia

      GOV 281 The Obama Years
      Marc Lendler

      GOV 220 Introduction to Comparative Politics
      Sara Newland

      GOV 227 Contemporary African Politics
      Anna Kapambwe Mwaba

      GOV 241 International Politics
      Mlada Bukovansky

      GOV 248 The Arab-Israeli Dispute
      Bozena Welborne

      GOV 251 Foreign Policy of Japan
      Dennis Yasutomo

      GOV 252 International Organizations
      Mlada Bukovansky

      GOV 264 American Political Thought
      J. Patrick Coby

      GOV 267 Problems in Democratic Thought
      Gary Lehring

      GOV 268 Utopian/Dystopian Visions and Political Theory
      Gary Lehring


      GOV 327 East Asian Politics
      Sara Newland

      GOV 369 African American  Political Thought
      Erin Pineda

      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 November 6 of the preceding year. 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

      Susan C. Bourque
      Esther Booth Wiley 1934 Professor Emerita 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

      Donald Robinson
      Charles N. Clark Professor Emeritus of Government

      Research Associates

      Michael Clancy
      Ann Robbart
      Noel Twagiramungo

      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. 

      Important information regarding Spring 2020 and COVID-19 procedures: the Government Department will be awarding Fox-Boorstein and Leanna Brown funds for remote internships only.  The deadline for submitting applications is May 1.   

      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 for 2020 applications is May 1. Remote internships only will be considered for funding for the COVID-19 period.

      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.

      Pi Sigma Alpha National Honor Society in Political Science

      The Alpha Zeta Lambda Chapter at Smith College (the 700th chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha) was founded by Mary Darby, Claire Stein-Ross, and Caroline Sutcliffe, all members of the graduating class of 2010. Formal recognition of the Smith chapter by the national office came on March 26, 2010. The first students were inducted into the society on April 20, 2010.

      Contact: Bozena Welborne


      Article II I of the Smith College chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha details the requirements for membership:

      • A minimum overall grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.3;
      • Not less than a 3.5 GPA in the major;
      • Completion of at least six graded government courses;
      • Be a senior, junior or second-semester sophomore in the government major;
      • Pay the one-time chapter dues.
      Transfer Students

      In the case of transfer students, graded courses in political science from other institutions may be used to reach the six courses required for application to Pi Sigma Alpha when the credits have been accepted for transfer by Smith College. If the applicant wishes to include these courses considered for admission to Pi Sigma Alpha, the applicant must submit an official transcript from the previous institution. In such cases all grades received in those courses accepted for transfer by Smith College will be used in the calculation of the GPA eligibility to Pi Sigma Alpha.

      Benefits of Membership

      Membership in an honor society is a worthy distinction in itself and as a measure of academic achievement can provide a tangible advantage in a competitive world. All Pi Sigma Alpha members receive a certificate of membership and pin, and permanent enrollment in the society's membership maintained by the national office. Upon request, the National Office will provide letters verifying membership to prospective employers and graduate schools. Members are entitled to wear the Pi Sigma Alpha key at any time or the medallion and honor cord with cap and gown at graduation and on other official occasions. Members may apply for scholarships for both graduate study in political science and for Washington semester programs, and best paper awards.

      Pi Sigma Alpha also gives students the opportunity for valuable administrative experience as chapter officers or organizers of chapter activities. Chapters can compete for Chapter Activity Grants awarded each year by the National Office. Members are also eligible to compete for Pi Sigma Alpha Graduate Scholarships, the Graduate and Undergraduate Best Paper Awards, and a one-year student membership in the American Political Science Association, funded by the national office for one student selected by each chapter each year. Members are also eligible to submit articles to the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, published twice per year.

      Learn more on the Pi Sigma Alpha website →

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      Department of Government
      Wright Hall 226
      Smith College
      Northampton, MA 01063
      Phone: 413-585-3510
      Fax: 413-585-3389

      Administrative Assistant:
      Lisa DeCarolis-Osepowicz

      Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.