Cornell students talking outside campus building.

Degrees offered

Politics major
American politics and public policy minor
Political thought minor

Cornell College understands the term "politics" to embrace everything people do that is related to making and enforcing group decisions. Politics includes government in the narrow sense that most people use the term, but it is not limited to that. Politics addresses practical questions: "Who has power?" "How are governments organized?" "How are decisions made?" 

Politics also considers the ideas and values—like liberty, equality, justice, democracy, and law—that influence how people think about governance. 

We are a department of political science, but our department 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.

Our department also embraces the college's commitment to creating an environment that is conducive to liberal learning and an appreciation of diversity. Each member of the department offers a different intellectual background, method of inquiry, scope of interest, and conception of what is important in politics. 

Benefits of 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. Students in International Politics spend several sessions on a diplomatic simulation of pre-World War I Europe. The International organizations course includes a United Nations Security Council role-playing simulation that involves responding to a contemporary crisis.
  • Block-long off-campus courses such as Wilderness Politics (Northern Minnesota) and Women and Politics in India. And courses in comparative politics have been taught in China, Nicaragua, Brazil, India, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. 
  • Field trips to nearby and far-away places. Ethics and Public Policy students have routinely traveled to national and state capitals for periods of a few days to a week or more. 
  • 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.
  • Internships for a block or longer. One Course At A Time makes it easy for students to schedule internships for credit in places like Washington, D.C. And because students can intern throughout the year, they have less competition for meaningful work, allowing better and more interesting work. As a result, graduates build worthwhile and influential relationships before they graduate.


Politics students are encouraged to pursue internships as an integral part of their coursework. The Cornell Fellows Program supports many such opportunities and is especially valuable to politics majors, as there are six Cornell Fellowships directly related to politics. Through the Cornell Fellows, top students routinely work for the office of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, U.S. Rep. David Loebsack, Global Zero, the Civil Rights Commission, and a fellowship related to sustainable agriculture in India. 

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

Several politics majors have won fellowship support for graduate study. Among many other programs and awards, students have received funding from the Fulbright and Rangel programs.