The Political Science Program features courses in five subfields, each allowing students to focus their studies in unique areas of interest. Courses of study and majors and minors in the doctoral program are defined in terms of these fields.

Students may also choose subfields of their own design in consultation with the Executive Officer.

American politics focuses on five subfields: national institutions, processes and behavior, political thought, federalism and intergovernmental relations, and constitutional law and judicial politics. Students begin their study by taking a wide ranging core course, American Politics, that surveys these subfields, covering classic works and new cutting edge material and highlighting controversies in the literature. At the same time, students may choose from foundation courses as the Presidency, Congress, and Constitutional Law, and later move on to research seminars on topics including political polarization, public opinion and electoral behavior, and American political development.

The American politics faculty, intellectually and methodologically diverse, understands that students are also intellectually and methodologically diverse. Since one approach will not fit all, students are encouraged to explore the field to discover the theoretical and substantive problems they find most intriguing. Specific interests of the faculty include the nation’s response to poverty, American political development, the political psychology of presidential leadership, disability policy in the workplace, judicial reasoning, political polarization, political psychology, civil liberties, and American political development.

This subfield features studies in these areas:

  • American political thought

  • National institutions

  • Constitutional law and judicial behavior

  • Political processes and behavior (voting, parties, and public opinion)

  • Intergovernmental relations

  • Federalism and intergovernmental relations

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Comparative politics at the Graduate Center combines in-depth academic training with extensive connection to the policy world that shapes the issues we study.  Exploring the similarities and differences among political systems within and across regions, our seminars range from a  core course on Basic Theories and Concepts in Comparative Politics to advanced seminars on issues of contemporary significance – such as on globalization, the state, civil war, and social movements.  With faculty specializations in each world region, the program also offers area-focused seminars on Africa, Latin America, East and Southeast Asia, the European Union, Post-Socialist regimes, and the Middle East/North Africa.

Wide-ranging interests and interdisciplinary expertise have earned our faculty its distinguished reputation. Recognizing the importance of dialogue between academic and policy worlds, faculty members are engaged in policy and politics as well as academic scholarship, with involvement in a broad range of international, regional, national, and local organizations. Every step of the program, from the small size of our seminars to dissertation proposal preparation, is designed to bring that expertise into the classroom. Home of the academic journal, Comparative Politics, the program and the subfield emphasize individual writing and analysis, with strong support for dissertation methodology and field work. The subfield graduate faculty adheres to no one theoretical or methodological perspective, adding to this unusually supportive environment for student debate, collaboration, and research.

The program maximizes its advantages of providing both individual attention and one of the country’s largest research universities. Students work not only with faculty in  comparative politics, but also in international relations, political theory, American politics, urban studies, American and comparative public policy, anthropology, sociology, economics, women’s studies, literature, and film. The 19 colleges of the CUNY system, with highly ranked graduate programs in areas ranging from criminal justice to journalism, connect our students to a faculty of enormous breadth.  Also open to our students are graduate seminars through the Graduate Center’s consortium with Columbia, Fordham, New York University, the New School University, Princeton, Rutgers-New Brunswick, and SUNY-Stony Brook.

Each student’s experience is further enriched by being part of a student community with an exceptional variety of career interests, work experiences, and national backgrounds. The wide scope of comparative politics dissertation topics, in particular, reflects the large international component of the student community.  It also reflects their diverse career goals, from academic research and teaching, in the US or in their home country, to employment in public service and international organizations (such as our neighbor, the United Nations, and the numerous non-governmental organizations and research institutes in New York).

The comparative politics field is designed to direct students toward their principal research interests and dissertation topics. As with other political science subfields at the Graduate Center, the program in comparative politics encourages students to identify and pursue the topic of their dissertation early and systematically, through seminar papers and individual advising. As soon as the written qualifying examinations in comparative politics and one minor subfield have been passed, students prepare a dissertation proposal and submit to an oral examination of three to five professors covering all subfields of political science and specialized knowledge related to the dissertation. This encourages both the most efficient path to the dissertation and the Ph.D. and the highest standards of empirical scholarship.

The Journal of Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior.

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International Relations is the study of the interactions of state and non-state actors in the international system as they seek to address issues emerging from behavior that occurs across state boundaries. While globalization has boosted the prosperity of many states and communities, it has left others behind, thus accentuating already existing cleavages among, as well as within, societies. While the Cold War has ended, many other conflicts have begun or continued to fester, and terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction have worsened. Other major challenges, including poverty, infectious disease, human rights violations, and environmental degradation, cry out for solutions. The IR field is dedicated to understanding when, why, and how state and non-state actors cooperate and compete in their efforts to address these challenges and advance or thwart solutions to issues of common concern.

The IR faculty at the Graduate Center represent a diverse array of interests and expertise. Particular strengths include international organizations, law, and security, as well as human rights and humanitarian affairs, areas where the research interests of several of our faculty intersect. The study of international organizations is also reinforced by the Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, which is currently engaged in a variety of research endeavors (including the past and future United Nations, as well as the responsibility to protect).  The IR faculty have particular regional expertise in the Middle East, Latin America, the international relations of the global south, and U.S. foreign policy. The field is also enriched by the IR expertise and research interests of several faculty in other subfields, as well as by the Graduate Center’s Human Rights Seminar Series, European Union Studies Center, Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, and Middle East and Middle East American Center.

This subfield features studies in these areas:

  • International relations theory and foreign policy

  • International security

  • International political economy

  • International organization and law

  • International human rights and humanitarian affairs

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Political Theory at the Graduate Center addresses the myriad conjunctures of power and ethics that inform collective life. We privilege no perspective or tradition, and we employ a variety of critical approaches—historical, conceptual, analytical, and more—to promote political understanding.

Our course offerings require knowledge of the history of political thought but primarily reflect the diverse interests of our faculty. Those interests include: twentieth century political thought, contemporary political theory, feminist political theory and the political theory of gender and sexuality, Marxism, liberal and social democratic theory, democratic political theory, human rights, political theory in globalized societies, and political theory from non-Western and post-colonial perspectives.

Students concentrating in political theory obtain education and training useful for academic research, writing, teaching, and otherwise contributing to many walks of public life.

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Public Policy equips students to engage with the complex problems facing government at every level and to master and apply quantitative and qualitative techniques that enable students to understand their sources and to craft meaningful solutions to them. This subfield ranges broadly from understanding the overall structure and dynamics of policy development, policy implementation, and policy change to the interaction between public, private, and constituency actors to plumbing the depths of organizational behavior and measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of specific programs. Emphasis is given to the urban, American, and cross-national perspectives, with substantive strengths in urban policy, social policy, community development, health, racial, ethnic, gender, and immigrant inequalities. Students have the opportunity to study policy in the extraordinarily challenging sphere of New York City politics, using the city as a laboratory for studying larger processes. Many students in the subfield have career interests in government, nonprofit organizations, and political advocacy in addition to academia and the subfield seeks to build their leadership and analytical skills as they prepare for academic and/or public positions.

This subfield features studies in these areas:

  • Theories of the policy process

  • American public policy

  • Comparative public policy

  • Urban policy/politics

  • Policy analytics

  • Substantive areas within public policy

In the substantive areas, students may select:

  • Urban

  • Social Welfare

  • Health

  • Housing

  • Community development

  • Immigrant integration

  • Other policy areas, with the permission of the Executive Officer

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