Tackling the Big Questions:
Political Science Program Attracts Students Who Seek to Make the World a Better Place
When Kelsey Obringer arrived at NSU, she had “no idea” what she wanted to study or which academic major or career path to follow.
That changed during her first semester when she took the course American Government and Politics, taught by G. Nelson Bass III, J.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at NSU, who serves as chair of the political science major.
Soon after, Obringer—now a senior at NSU—selected the then-new political science major as her academic focus.
“The political science major has helped me develop my writing and critical-thinking skills,” Obringer said. “It has introduced me to a wide array of subjects that help make me a well-rounded student. And it has provided me with a support system and professors whom I consider mentors.”
Although often viewed as a vehicle for pre-law students, “the major is perfect for students interested in a wide range of fields, including public service, law, diplomacy, and even those interested in working in the private sector on issues of public policy,” Bass said.
“Many students are interested in working on political campaigns or for one of the major political parties, while some graduates of the program enter various departments of state, local, or federal government. In addition, many graduates interested in teaching at the secondary or collegiate level enter graduate programs in political science or a related field.”
Linea Cutter (class of 2015), a senior with a double major in political science and history, is considering possible careers in academia, government, and diplomacy or lobbying work related to international issues.
She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in political science with a focus on international relations.
“This major has provided me with many tools that I will use extensively in my graduate studies,” said Cutter, a member of NSU's Undergraduate Honors Program. “I chose political science because I’ve always been interested in history and realized that to truly comprehend historical events, it is important to understand their complex political underpinnings.
“I took an introduction to political science class to test the waters. The material helped me to fully understand the theories and institutions that have shaped historical political actors…and that still hold influence and help explain today’s intricate political and economic landscape.
“I realized that a major in political science would allow me to expand my political and historical knowledge…to understand the forces behind events that occur on both the domestic and international levels, and that I could use this grid of knowledge to evaluate these events for myself.”
The major helps prepare students for graduate program and professional career by focusing on developing critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, Bass said.
“Given the controversial nature of many of the subjects, it is crucial that students are able to express themselves through the written word and also be able to analyze and synthesize the ideas presented in a variety of texts,” he said.
Many political science students develop and practice such skills by participating in NSU’s Model United Nations team, known as the Nova International Relations Association (NIRA). Model U.N. provides an academic simulation of the international organization dedicated to international peace, security, and development.
As a co-curricular supplement to the political science major, Model U.N. enables student participants to assume the role of delegates representing member nations by researching, writing, and presenting a member nation’s viewpoint on a given topic. The goal is to use diplomacy skills and parliamentary procedure to find solutions to global issues. NIRA has won numerous honors at state and regional conferences.
“I’ve been able to use the knowledge I gained from my political science courses at the Model U.N. conferences we compete in––negotiating with other delegates regarding domestic and international issues,” Cutter said.
“Model U.N. is a great outlet for political science majors to put their knowledge into practice and network with other students around the U.S. at the same time.”
“Being part of Model U.N. incorporates academic skills such as research, public speaking, and interpersonal relations that are applicable to all fiends,” said Andrew Jones, a senior with a double major in political science and legal studies who plans to attend graduate school. “You are asked to step out of your American shoes and step into those of another country. You have to research an issue and be able to express it eloquently and diplomatically.”
This experience benefits political science students because “it gives students the chance to learn something new about the world we live in, to practice speech and debate skills, and brings you together with people of similar interests,” Jones said.
In addition to participating in NIRA, political science majors are encouraged to gain practical, hands-on experience in the field.
“I was an intern at a state senator’s office, and I saw how legislation was created and established. I also saw how that legislation was applied [at the judicial level] during an internship with the New Jersey Superior Court,” said Obringer, who plans to attend graduate school and possibly pursue a career as a college professor with a focus on global politics and international relations.
Political science major and Honors Program student Nadim Visram (class of 2015) plans to attend law school and pursue a career as a lobbyist for green energy.
In political science, “it’s important to study the dynamics and more importantly get involved in some role play to get a feel for our [political and economic] struggles,” said Visram, who is also a member of the Model U.N. team and NSU’s Dual Admission Program for law.
“Political science majors are drawn from students who want to make the world a better place and better understand the complexity of the world around them,” Bass said. “Ideally, the major attracts students who are open to big ideas and debates between various philosophies. So much of the field revolves around tackling big questions concerning the common good.”