Harold Lasswell, one of the founders of political science as an academic discipline, defined the field as the study of “who gets what, when and how.”

As the role of the state has grown — in the economy, education, environment, health, culture, international interactions and many other fields — understanding the political process has become essential to explaining modern life. Politics is about power, the ends to which power is deployed and the normative questions that arise from that deployment. Studying political science can help you understand power, its uses and misuses and the consequences (both intended and unintended) of its use.

The academic field of political science is divided into four subfields: American politics, political theory, international relations and comparative politics (the study of the domestic politics of countries other than the United States). At UVM, students can take courses in all four subfields from experienced teachers who are also leading scholars in their areas of research.

Earning Recognition


The departmental honors program provides opportunities for our best students to take special courses with other high-achieving political science majors and to be recognized upon graduation with departmental honors. For more information, read the department honors page. Our best students can also qualify for membership in Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, and be so recognized when they graduate.

Debates Welcome Here

There are numerous student organizations on campus involved in political issues, from the College Democrats and Republicans to the Law and Politics club and a number of issue-specific advocacy groups. The University’s award-winning debate program, the Lawrence Debate Union, argues topical issues at tournaments across the country and the world.

First-Year Seminar Program

The department offers incoming, first-year students the opportunity to take some of our introductory core courses in a small-group setting with particular emphasis on the development of writing skills. The instructor of the course also serves as the student's advisor. This program is part of the college-wide First Year Seminar Program. By integrating faculty from a variety of disciplines, these programs strengthen students’ intellectual, creative and expressive abilities by providing both breadth and depth.

Inside Experts, Outside Perspectives

As a political science major at UVM, you draw on the experience and perspectives of your classmates and over 20 full-time faculty members. You’ll also get exposure to thinkers and theorists outside the college community bringing fresh perspective to your studies.

We regularly host visiting lecturers dealing with political topics through four lecture series:

  • the Florence Davis Dean Lecture in Practical Economics and Politics;
  • the Lyman J. Gould Lecture (which alternates between Latin American politics and American constitutional law topics);
  • the Donald R. Brown Lecture (in cooperation with the philosophy department);
  • the Mark L. Rosen Memorial Lecture on topics in political science.


AC Online Cites UVM for High Return on Investment

AffordableCollegesOnline.org (AC Online) recently identified the 20 political science programs in the United States with the highest return on investment (ROI). Students who graduate from these programs earn more over their lifetimes, on average, than political science graduates from other institutions, after subtracting tuition and fees. UVM ranked sixth overall. AC Online had this to say about political science at UVM :

"Undergraduate political science students get all the attention from faculty, as the department focuses exclusively on the bachelor's degree. The instructors in the department create unique and groundbreaking research, like one professor's book on how the Harry Potter series influenced the political ideals of the Millennial generation."