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Program Overview

Major/minor: Politics

The politics major provides a range of experiences in three subfields:  political thought, international relations and comparative government, and American politics. Students frequently minor in one of these areas in combination with other majors, including interdisciplinary programs in Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, International Relations, Latin American Studies, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

Ours is a department of political science, but it is also a department of political philosophy and a department of government. We feel a kinship with biology, psychology, sociology, and economics, and also with philosophy, history, and literature. We embrace the broader term “politics” over narrower terms like “government” and “political science” because it better reflects the breadth of our mission and interests.

Throughout the curriculum we encourage rigorous research, critical reading, analytical thinking, articulate speech, and cogent writing. Cornell's One Course At A Time schedule gives us extended time for developing these skills and learning in ways that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Each member of the faculty requires substantial amounts of writing in the form of essay exams and papers, and many courses feature oral presentations of student research or assigned readings.

One Course At A Time

Cornell's block schedule allows us to routinely blend political theory with real-world practice. With several hours of uninterrupted time each day, our courses are able to explore topics in depth and make use of a wide range of learning activities. For example:

  • Documentary and feature films that are often one and one-half to two hours long. These films can be discussed the same day, or even the same morning.
  • Role-playing simulations that extend for multiple days. Campaigns and Elections devotes 20 hours to a single simulation, On the Campaign Trail, that allows student teams to organize and manage competing campaigns.
  • Block-long off-campus courses such as Wilderness Politics (Northern Minnesota) and Women and Politics in India.
  • Reading or research days where no class is scheduled. Students have independent time to use resources at other institutions, conduct on-site research, or interview during the normal school day.
  • Distinguished guests in the classroom. In Current Cases Before the Supreme Court, Federal Circuit Court Judge David Hanson joins Professor Sutherland for a full block. During the course, students use real court briefs to argue before a bank of justices (a teacher and two students) just as lawyers do before the Supreme Court.


Politics students are encouraged to pursue internships as an integral part of their coursework. The Cornell Fellows Program supports many such opportunities, and additional internships are sponsored by the Berry Center for Economics, Business, and Public Policy.

The department also maintains excellent relationships with two external programs: The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars and The Washington Internship Institute.