Department Overview: Politics

While Whitman is composed of many interesting academic departments, as a senior I’d like to selfishly highlight my own major; politics. The Whitman Politics Department is an extremely unique one in terms of most liberal arts colleges nationally. While many similar departments label themselves a “political science” department, Whitman’s department of politics takes a different approach. The Politics Department here at Whitman differs from the rest in that it is not exclusively concerned with the realm of international relations or diplomacy. In other words, the politics department here at Whitman concerns itself primarily with political theory or philosophy in order to understand and propose solutions in a more qualitative sense.

As an incoming first-year, I myself had no clear idea of what I was planning to major in. I knew I was passionate about history, about government and communities. While I considered becoming a history major, I enrolled in International Politics my first-year spring and was inspired by what I found there. My professor, Bruce Magnusson, had spent decades in Africa working with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and led a fascinating course considering theoretical concepts such as foundations of national border agreements as well as the lives and experiences of smugglers in these areas. From there I took a Politics of Popular Culture and Ideology course, which explored film, music and theater through the course of the twentieth century in exploring how politics and culture interact.

While the topics and coursework I’ve engaged with in my time as a politics major has been outstanding, many of the things I value come from my engagement with classmates and professors within the department itself. Politics courses at Whitman are considerably challenging, both in terms of the concepts you engage in and the expectations of your professors and fellow students. All courses I’ve taken within the department are discussion or seminar based. You may expect to find students are engaged in heated discussion within these courses and are expected to be able to not only follow along with the challenging theoretical subjects we engage with but to add and shape the discussion as it progresses. Throughout my experience taking courses within the politics department, I have found that my writing has improved tremendously as well as my ability to engage in challenging discussion.

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