Duke Political Science

Political science aims at a systematic and rigorous understanding of politics, both in explaining political phenomena and in exploring their ethical and normative dimensions. The discipline covers a broad range of subjects, from authoritarian to democratic politics, from local governance to international relations, from formal rules and institutions to the psychology and behavior of individuals who participate in political processes. Political scientists make use of data ranging from ancient texts, to satellite images, to surveys, to millions of Facebook posts, and analyze them with a diverse set of methods and tools, including qualitative and quantitative approaches.

By completing an undergraduate major in political science, these students acquire a sophisticated understanding of political processes. Perhaps more importantly, our major is designed to develop critical and independent thinking, to hone writing and communication skills, and to provide analytical tools. This is a major deeply rooted in former president Richard Brodhead’s vision of a liberal arts education that “aims to engage multiple forms of intelligence to create deep and enduring habits of mind, an active, versatile, integrative spirit that’s naturally disposed, when it comes upon a new fact or situation, to use existing knowledge to try to grasp it, while updating existing understandings in this new light.”

Many political science majors take advantage of the complementarities between political science and other Duke programs. Some choose a double-major, for example, in Classical Studies, Economics, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Psychology, Public Policy, Sociology, or Statistics. Others complete one of the certificate programs housed within the department including Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, and Decisions Sciences. Our students also regularly take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad as part of their political science coursework.

The 2020 Senior Class of Political Science majors will occupy a unique place in the history of the Department, and the University. The Honors students whose achievements are celebrated on this page have overcome all of the usual difficulties involved in navigating a degree, finding classes, and finishing requirements, and managed on top of all that to do original research on some of the biggest questions and problems that face humanity. But this class of Honors celebrants have done something more: without the resources that normally support research at the campus, and in some cases without access to their notes, copied sources, or even their laptop computers, this class has still produced world-class work and research. We are proud to present the Political Science Honors Class of 2020.