Government Department

Majoring in Government


All students wishing to delcare the Government Major must download and complete the Major Declaration Form.

Click on the link below to go to the indicated section of this page.

Deciding to Major in Government

Government for Non-Majors

Choosing a Concentration

Declaring the Government Major

Your Faculty Advisor in Government

Completing the Government Major 

Deciding to Major in Government

If you major in Government you will learn about "who gets what, when, and how" and get better at critical thinking, clear writing, and effective speaking. The substance of what you learn, together with the skills that you will acquire in the learning process, will prepare you for a life of contribution in public service, education, law, business, journalism, and other fields. Many Government majors have entered Ph.D. programs in political science, and many have prepared themselves for doctoral study by writing a Government Honors Thesis. We know of at least 20 in recent years who have gone on to become academic political scientists; they are listed here.

A Government major will give you the opportunity to acquire broad knowledge of political science and to undertake in-depth study in a particular concentration, either American politics, comparative politics, international politics, or political theory. Each concentration has its own introductory course, survey courses, and advanced seminars. Concentrators are usually required to take the introductory course and three of the upper-division elective courses in the chosen subfield. In addition to taking these four courses within the concentration, majors are required to take at least one course in at least two of the three subfields outside the concentration. This requirement assures that majors acquire breadth across the discipline as well as depth in at least one subfield. 

Frosh and sophomores are welcome to attend the Government Department open house, which is held each year in late October or early November. At the open house Department faculty and current majors provide an overview of the major, go over the major requirements, review how to apply for the major, and answer your questions. A few weeks before the open house is scheduled to happen, the Office of Student Affairs will send you a memo listing the time and place of each department/program open house, including that of the Government Department.

Government for Non-Majors

Many students take Government courses without majoring in Government. We sometimes offer First Year Initiative (FYI) seminars, but demand for our regular courses is high, so we cannot offer as many FYI courses as we would like. Frosh and sophomores are welcome, however, to take the introductory courses we offer in each of our four concentrations. Another option is Applied Data Analysis, the social science methodology course, which is offered by the Quantitative Analysis Center and crosslisted as GOVT 201 (it counts toward the Government major). Most of our survey courses are open to sophomores and frosh, although majors usually have preference. If you navigate to Wesmaps and click on "Government" (a red link under the heading "Social Sciences") you'll see a link to Government courses this year that are "Appropriate for First-year Students."

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Choosing a Concentration

Each Government major at Wesleyan is required to develop expertise in a particular subfield by choosing one of four concentrations: American politics, comparative politics, international politics, or political theory. The concentrations, and the courses required for students concentrating in each of the four subfields, are described on our concentrations page. In most cases, completing the concentration means taking the concentration's introductory course as well as three of its upper-division courses. Some courses may count toward alternative concentrations (your choice, but each may count only once toward the major).

Are you interested in the politics of countries that are not the United States? If so, you don't necessarily want to take courses in the "international politics" concentration (intro course: GOVT155). Instead, you may well want to take courses in the "comparative politics" concentration (intro course: GOVT157). In international politics, you study how countries interact with one another. In comparative politics, you study politics inside individual countries. How countries interact with one another influences their domestic politics, and domestic politics influences a country's international relations. For curricular purposes, however, the subfield of international politics is distinct from the subfield of comparative politics. Many students who are actually more interested in comparative politics sign up unknowingly as concentrators in international politics. This error is understandable: whereas the term "international politics" refers to the subject-matter of the concentration, the term "comparative politics" refers (confusingly) to a methodology that comparative politics specialists use to study some mysteriously unspecified subject matter -- which actually turns out to be nothing more than the domestic politics of countries that are not the United States. If you want to study the domestic politics of countries that are not the United States, concentrate in comparative politics, not international politics. Indeed, if you concentrate in comparative politics, you may well find yourself comparing the political systems of other countries to the political system of the United States.

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Declaring the Government Major

1. Review Completing the Government Major at the bottom of this webpage.

2. Go to the Major Declaration webpage of the Office of Student Affairs (Deans' Office) and explore the resources and regulations there.

3. Submit an electronic major declaration through your student portfolio. In February of your sophomore year, your Class Dean will send you a memo telling you how to go into your electronic portfolio and submit an online request to declare a major. Please begin the application process by submitting an online declaration of the Government major. The deadline is usually before spring break; see the Major Declaration webpage of the Office of Student Affairs for this year's deadline. Please follow steps 4-6 even if you are applying to declare the major during your junior or senior year. All of the requirements stipulated below apply regardless of the year in which you apply to declare the major.

4. Bring to the administrative assistant in the Government Department Office (Public Affairs Center 116) three items in hard (paper) copy: 

A. The Government Major Application Form, which you can download here. Please fill it out by hand on paper.

B. A printout of your academic history, which you can download from your electronic portfolio.

C. A printout of your General Education Report, which you can download from your electronic portfolio.

5. We'll review your application and see if you meet the requirements for becoming a Government major. To be admitted as a single major, your academic history must show that you have completed at least one Government course with a grade of B- or better, and your General Education Report must confirm that you have already -- by the end of your third semester at Wesleyan -- formally completed Stage 1 of the General Education Expectations.

You can be admitted as a provisional major if and only if, at the time you submit your application, you are:

(a) enrolled in your first Government course, and your professor certifies by email that you are earning a B- or better.

(b) enrolled in a course which, if completed successfully, would result in your satisfaction of Stage I of the General Education Expectations.

If you meet these requirements and are admitted as a provisional major, we will assign you an advisor and the computer system used by the university administration will treat you as if you were a regular Government major. By the end of the semester in which you were admitted as a provisional major, you will have to satisfy Stage I of the General Education Expectations (if that is what is holding you up, as is usually the case) or earn earn a B- or better in at least one Government course in which you are enrolled (if that is what is preventing you from becoming a regular major). If you don't earn the B- or meet Stage I by the end of the semester, you will have to drop the Government major. University regulations will then require you to declare another major. If in a subsequent semester you enroll in a course which, if completed successfully, would result in your satisfaction of the criteria above, you may re-apply to become a provisional major, and your application will be evaluated in the same way. If you do not already meet the B- and Stage I requirements are not currently enrolled in courses that would allow you do so, you are not eligible to become either a provisional or a regular Goverment major.

To be admitted to the Government major as a double major (or multiple major), you must satisfy the above requirements as well as an additional requirement: your academic history must show that you have a university Grade Point Average of 88.33 or above, both at the time you apply to declare the Government major and at the end of the semester in which you declare the major. To maintain the Government major as a double (or multiple) major, you must maintain or exceed a cumulative 88.33 university Grade Point Average at the end of each semester through the end of the first semester of your senior year. Double/multiple majors will be required to drop the major if at any time the academic history shows a cumulative university Grade Point Average of 88.32 or below. There are costs as well as benefits to double-majoring.

6. If you meet the requirements to become a Government major we'll admit you, assign you a Government Department faculty member as your faculty advisor, set up electronic and paper files for you, and add you to the Department mailing list.

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Your Faculty Advisor in Government

As soon as you declare the Government major the Department will assign you a faculty advisor. On the paper major application form you are asked to list your advisor preferences. You may list two or three names in order of preference. Each advisor you propose must be a tenure-track or tenured member of the Government Department, and at least one should be in your intended concentration. You do not need to ask a faculty member if he or she would be willing to be your advisor before including his or her name on your preference list. We shall try to accomodate your preference, but we cannot guarantee it. Shortly after we accept your application to become a Government major, the name of your Government faculty advisor will appear in your electronic portfolio.

In consultation with your advisor, you should construct a comprehensive plan to complete your major. Ideally, you will develop this plan in the spring of your sophomore year and discuss it with your advisor when you pre-register for junior year, fall semester courses. If your initial advisor goes on sabbatical or leave, the department will assign you a new advisor (plus you can usually stay in touch with your earlier advisor if you want).

Your advisor confirms that you have satisfied the requirements for the Government major by approving the electronic Major Certification Form that you are required to complete in your portfolio.

Your advisor also approves Transfer of Credits from U.S. Academic Institutions and Credit from Study Abroad Programs toward the department concentration and the major.

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Completing the Government Major

To complete the Government major requires a minimum of nine approved Government credits, of which at least eight must be upper-division (numbered 201 or higher). In other words, only one introductory course (GOVT151, 155, 157, or 159) may count toward the Government major. If there's a chance you might become a Government major, it might be wise, looking ahead a year or two toward your completion of the Government major, to take only one introductory Government course, and then explore other concentrations through upper-division courses numbered GOVT201 and higher, each of which may count toward the major. On the other hand, if you want to take two Government introductory courses out of interest and never mind the major requirements, feel free to do so.

Courses that may not count toward the Government major include student forum courses, service as a teaching apprentice, first-year initiative (FYI) courses, and first-year seminar (FYS) courses. FYI and FYS courses are usually numbered in the low 100s, e.g., GOVT108, GOVT110, GOVT120, GOVT121. Only when the FYI or FYS is a section of an introductory course (GOVT151, 155, 157, or 159) may such a course count toward the major, as well as toward the concentration for which the particular course counts as an introductory course (e.g., an FYI version of GOVT 151 may count as the introductory course for the major as a whole, and also as the introductory course for the American concentration).

The Department does not grant Advanced Placement credit.

The Department may authorize credit toward graduation for a political science-related internship undertaken for education-in-the-field credit, but it will not give major credit for such an internship.

At least five of the eight upper-division credits required to complete the major must be taken in the Government Department at Wesleyan, in courses numbered from GOVT201 to GOVT399. Up to three of the eight upper-division credits required to complete the major may consist of a combination of:

  1. Tutorials in the Department of Government. At most two non-thesis tutorials and at most one thesis tutorial may count toward the major.
  2. A course at Wesleyan in a "cognate" discipline (e.g., history, economics). You can count at most one cognate course toward the major. To do so, you need to get the prior written approval of your faculty advisor before you are enrolled in the cognate course. An email from the professor to you is the easiest way to do this. Such a course may also count toward the concentration if the advisor believes this to be appropriate.
  3. Political science courses taken at other institutions. No more than two such courses may count toward the Government major, and they cannot be introductory courses. Note that the limit of two actually applies to a combination of study-abroad courses and courses taken at other institutions in the United States. Special regulations govern each type of course. Government Department regulations governing transfer of credit to Wesleyan from courses taken at other institutions in the United States are here. Government Department regulations governing study abroad courses are here. If you study abroad for a year rather than just for a semester you may, with your faculty advisor's approval, count three of your study-abroad courses toward the Government major. In that case, however, you still have to take five Government courses at Wesleyan numbered between 201 and 399.
  4. Additional Wesleyan Government courses in the range 201-399.

In addition to counting courses as listed above, Government majors must meet the following requirements:

Depth in and breadth across the Concentrations. Four courses are required to complete a concentration. Theory requires any four theory courses; the other three concentrations require the concentration's introductory course and three of its upper-division courses. No fewer than three of the four concentration courses must be taken at Wesleyan. Majors must take at least one upper-division course in three of the four concentrations.

General Education Expectations. Satisfaction of Stage 1 the General Education Expectations is required for admission to the major. Students who at the time of application to the major are currently enrolled in a course whose successful completion would satisfy Stage 1 may be admitted to the major provisionally (see Declaring the Government Major, above). To receive Honors in Government, you need to satisfy Stage 2 as well as Stage 1.

Pacing of Courses in the Major. You must drop the Government major at the end of your junior year if, by the end of that year, you have completed fewer than four Government courses.

Double Majors. No student with a university Grade Point Average below B+ (88.33) may declare or maintain a Government major if he or she also has another major. This requirement will be enforced through the end of the semester before you are scheduled to graduate, i.e., normally through the end of the fall semester of your senior year. We make the bar higher for double majors in part to discourage double-majoring.

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