Political Science, B.A.


Department of Political Science

Melanie H. Ram, Chair
McKee Fisk Building, Room 244

Degrees and Programs Offered

BA in Political Science, B.A.
MN in Political Science, Minor
MN in Public Administration, Minor
MPA in Public Administration, M.P.A. - Continuing & Global Education
MPA in Public Administration, M.P.A.

Courses and programs offered by the Department of Political Science are intended to help all students become more effective participants in a democratic society, as makers of public policy, and as individuals affected by those policies. Our programs prepare political science majors for a wide variety of careers.

Students may elect to concentrate within political science on American government and politics, international politics, legal studies, or public policy. Detailed course information on each track is available. For those who achieve a high measure of proficiency in their undergraduate programs, the department offers advanced work leading to the master’s degree in international relations and public administration. A Minor in Political Science is chosen by students as a means of obtaining skills and knowledge important to their primary area of interest.


Political Science

MPA 200. Administration and Society

How administration acts and is acted upon by institutional forces and values; role of history, cultural, ethical, political, social, and economic values and institutions; an emphasis on: bureaucracy, economy and democracy, centralization vs. decentralization, professionalism and society; alternatives to bureaucracy.

Units: 3

MPA 201. Quantitative Applications for Public Administration

Exploring different methods of data analysis for understanding how public decisions are made and public policies are evaluated. Data collection; measurement; sampling; data analysis, including regression, are explored with practical applications. (Formerly MPA 120G)

Units: 3

MPA 210. Organizational Theory in Public Administration

A study of the key issues involved in the management of public organizations. This examination of organizational behavior and theories of complex organizations includes the following: Leadership styles; communication; organizational change; hierachy and organizational structure; and organizational culture.

Units: 3

MPA 215. State and Local Government

State and local government will prepare students to understand the history of these governmental units and how they interact with the Federal government. Legislatures, executives, courts and city, and county councils are studied, particularly in terms of their emphasis on public policy.

Units: 3

MPA 230. Public Budgeting

This course examines the budget process, the use of economic analysis in evaluating taxation and expenditure issues, and the development and analysis of budget proposals. The course also includes discussion of burdens and effectiveness of different taxes and considers potential reforms to the budgeting process.

Units: 3

MPA 240. Seminar in Public Management

An inquiry into contemporary issues facing public managers. Topics that can be covered include: Accountability; performance management; development of information technology; e-government; public management reforms; implications of privatization/contracting out; and public governance.

Units: 3

MPA 241. Resource Management

Prerequisite: MPA 240. Administration of fiscal and human resources. Emphasis on resource acquisition, allocation, and development strategies; budgeting skills, debt, and financial management. Human asset management, labor relations, position classification and analysis, quality of work life and employment equity issues.

Units: 3

MPA 245. Human Resources Management

This course explores the development of the merit system in government; hiring and termination; career development; human resource planning; management-labor relations; equal opportunity; affirmative action; workplace diversity; and the legal dimension of the public personnel system.

Units: 3

MPA 250. Ethics and Public Administration

Prerequisite: MPA 210. The moral dimensions of public administrative decision-making. The nature of public and private morality; psychological and ethical egoism; relativism; utilitarianism and deontological theories; rights and goods in the public service context; sensitive applications of rules in public agencies.

Units: 3

MPA 260. Public Policy Administration

Prerequisites: MPA 120G, MPA 200, MPA 210, MPA 240. A study of policy initiation, formulation, and implementation and a public manager's role in them; management processes and functions in the policy process; policy justification and advocacy, policy analysis, and implementation evaluation.

Units: 3

MPA 280T. Topics in Public Administration

Selected topics meeting student needs and interests that are not met in other university courses.

Units: 3, Repeatable up to 6 units

MPA 280T. Labor & Management Relations

Explores the history and development of unions in the U.S. public sector, theory of negotiation and the collective bargaining process, contemporary issues such as privatization and the future of unions as a way to organize the labor movement.

Units: 3

MPA 280T. Program Evaluation

This course explains the approaches and tools for evaluation of public programs. Topics will include identifying issues and formulating questions, needs assessment, measuring and monitoring program outcomes, different evaluation designs, analyzing and interpreting program effects, and communicating the results to stakeholders. The course will also examine how evaluations affect public policy and public administrators and the challenges evaluators confront when conducting evaluations. (Offered Fall 2018)

Units: 3, Repeatable up to 6 units

MPA 287. Internship in Public Administration

Supervised work experience for a realistic exposure to an organizational-bureaucratic environment for students in the M.P.A. program who lack significant work experience in a public or nonprofit organization. CR/NC grading only.

Units: 3

MPA 290. Independent Study

See Academic Placement --Independent Study. Approved for RP grading.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 6 units

MPA 299. Thesis

Prerequisite: See Criteria for Thesis and Project. Preparation, completion, and submission of an acceptable thesis for the Master's degree. Approved for RP grading.

Units: 3

MPA 299C. Thesis Continuation

Pre-requisite: MPA 299 Thesis. For continuous enrollment while completing the thesis. May enroll twice with department approval. Additional enrollments must be approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Units: 0

PLSI 1. Modern Politics

Prerequisite: GE Foundation A2 for students in English college-readiness Category III and IV. Introduction to the study of democratic and authoritarian political systems; evaluation of the historical, cultural, and economic contexts of modern politics around the world; institutional structures and functions; political ideologies; individual and group participation in the political process; current issues. G.E. Breadth D3.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring
GE Area: D3

PLSI 2. American Government and Institutions

Prerequisite: GE Foundation A2 for students in English college-readiness Category III and IV. Meets the United States Constitution requirement and the federal, California state, and local government requirement. Not open to students with credit in PLSI 101. The development and operation of government in the United States; study of how ideas, institutions, laws, and people have constructed and maintained a political order in America. Not available for CR/NC grading. G.E. Breadth D2.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring
GE Area: D2

PLSI 71. Introduction to Environmental Politics

Introduction to study of environmental politics and policy making in the United States; a brief history of environmentalism; basic principles in environmental policy making, including policy making for interest groups, legislatures, and levels of government; and selection of current topics in environmental issues. G.E. Breadth D3.

Units: 3
GE Area: D3

PLSI 90. Methods of Analysis of Quantitative Political Data

An introduction to hypothesis testing in political science, with applications to the analysis of quantitative political data; the formulation of research problems and hypotheses; accuracy and precision in measurements; problems of evidence and inference; basic techniques of statistical analysis.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 102. California Government and Institutions

Not open to students with credit in PLSI 2. Open only to students who have satisfied United States Constitution requirement but have not satisfied California state and local government requirement. Examination of legislative, executive, judicial, and local government problems in California. Not available for CR/NC grading.

Units: 1
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 103. California Politics

Satisfies California state and local government requirement, if not used for political science major. Emphasis on the historical development of politics in California and the factors and institutions important to contemporary politics: characteristics of the electorate, voter registration, primaries and general elections, candidates and campaigning, party organizations and leaders, interest groups, and current issues.

Units: 3

PLSI 107. Women in US Politics

(WS 107 same as PLSI 107). Prerequisites: at least one 3 unit WS or PLSI course. The course examines how women have shaped and been shaped by U.S. politics along with how gender impacts U.S.political thought, institutions, and practices.

Units: 3

PLSI 110. Seminar in History of Political Thought to Machiavelli

Development of political thought from Plato to Machiavelli: law, justice, the state, authority, forms of government, and church-state relations in light of the philosophy of history.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 111. Seminar in History of Political Thought Since Machiavelli

Freedom and individual rights, democracy, majority rule, equality, law and authority, power, constitutionalism, property, social class and structure, and revolution traced through the writings of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Burke, Bentham, Hegel, Tocqueville, and Mill.

Units: 3

PLSI 114. Seminar in American Political Thought

Analysis of democracy, majority rule and minority rights, constitutionalism, federalism, representation, pluralism, property, separation of powers, and judicial review based on the perspectives of representative early and contemporary American thinkers.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Spring

PLSI 119T. Topics in Political Theory

Possible topics include theories of democracy; the Marxian tradition; political thought of specific authors, historical periods and countries; peace and war; church-state relations; the nature of politics and of political science.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 120. International Politics

Prerequisites: G.E. Foundation and Breadth Area D. Dynamics of political interactions of nations; nationalism, imperialism and interdependence; national power and diplomacy; types of conflict, including war; peaceful settlement of disputes; current issues involving competing foreign policies, national development, energy, and national liberation movements. Multicultural/International M/I.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 121. American Foreign Affairs

Prerequisite: PLSI 2. Formulation and execution of American foreign policy; constitutional frame work; role of the president and the executive branch, Congress, pressure groups and public opinion; contemporary problems and policies.

Units: 3

PLSI 122. Politics of Foreign Aid

Theory and practice of foreign aid, including U.S. policy, current debates, continuing challenges, approaches, issue-areas, and key actors (governmental and non-governmental, domestic and international organizations). (Formerly PLSI 128T)

Units: 3

PLSI 125. Russian Foreign Policy

Historical and ideological sources of foreign policy of Russia and other former Soviet republics; continuity and change in methods, strategy, and tactics; policy formulation and application in specific geographic and subject matter areas.

Units: 3

PLSI 126. International Law and Organization

The sources and subjects of international law; state jurisdiction and responsibility; international agreements; the regulation of force and the peaceful settlement of disputes through international law and organization, including the League of Nations, the United Nations, and regional organizations.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall

PLSI 128T. Topics in International Relations

Politics of military power; arms limitation and control; peace theory; ecopolitics; regionalism and cooperation; shifts in balance of power; nationalism; imperialism; neutralism and nonalignment; foreign policies of specific nations.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 140. Approaches to Comparative Politics

Prerequisite: PLSI 1. Exploration of theories, models, and conceptual frameworks for the comparative study of political systems and subsystems; methodological rather than an area emphasis.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 141. Russian Politics

A study of the political systems of Russia and other former Soviet republics. Changes in relations between state and society; change and continuity in political culture; trends in policy making; issues of relations between nationality groups.

Units: 3

PLSI 142T. Area Studies in Western Europe

Government and politics of Western Europe (Britain, France, Germany, and Italy), Northern European Countries (Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden); or government and politics, of selected countries.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 143T. Area Studies in Eastern Europe

Government and politics of Eastern Europe; or government, politics, and institutions of selected countries.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 144T. Area Studies in Africa and Middle East

Government and politics of Sub-Sahara Africa, Middle East; or government, politics, and institutions of selected countries.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 145T. Area Studies in Asia

Government and politics of selected countries in East and Southeast Asia.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 146T. Area Studies in Latin America

Possible topics include politics of South America; politics of Central America and Caribbean countries; roles of selected groups in Latin American politics.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 147. East Asian Politics

Examines the governments, institutions, politics, and policy of China, Japan, North and South Korea, and selected Southeast Asian Nations. (Formerly PLSI 145T)

Units: 3

PLSI 148. Latin American Politics

Discusses the role of the military and violence in Latin American politics, the role of civilian groups with emphasis on democratization, and the influence of other nations - especially the United States - on Latin American politics. (CLAS 173 same as PLSI 148)

Units: 3

PLSI 149T. Seminar in Comparative Government

Parliamentary systems, problems and goals of developing nations, federal systems, comparative local government, parties and pressure groups, and multi-party systems.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 150. Public Policy Making

Examines the institutional and political processes by which public policy is formulated, adopted, and implemented. Individual instruction on student papers (students with fundamental writing deficiencies will be required to enroll in ENGL 1L, 1 unit, concurrently).

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 151. Political Participation and Political Parties

Political parties; nature and extent of citizen political activity; election of public officials; political organization of government.

Units: 3

PLSI 152. Public Opinion and Political Behavior

Examines the origins and expression of political attitudes and beliefs, including voting and other political participation, and how public opinion influences public policy. Special attention is given to partisanship, elections, and voting. (Formerly PLSI 156T)

Units: 3

PLSI 153. Presidential Politics

Examines the history, development, and operation of the U.S. Presidency. Special attention is given to the rise of the modern presidency, presidential power (constitutional and extra-constitutional), presidential speech, presidential elections, and the importance of public opinion for presidential power. (Formerly PLSI 159T)

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall

PLSI 154. Congressional Politics

Examines the history, development, and operation of the U.S. Congress. Special attention is given to congressional elections, congressional-presidential relations, and the policy-making process. (Formerly PLSI 159T)

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Spring

PLSI 155. Interest Group Politics

In this course students learn why people join interest groups, study the size and ideological diversity of the national interest group system, and learn the circumstances under which lobbyists for these groups can influence how American public policy is made.

Units: 3

PLSI 156T. Topics in Political Behavior

Voting behavior, political alienation, leadership, political perceptions and knowledge, environmental effects on political participation, group processes, and political socialization.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 157. Environmental Politics

Examines theory, concepts, and practices in U.S. environmental politics and policy. Topics include ecological principles, the history and philosophy of environmentalism, the contemporary political conflict over environmental policy, and environmental policy analysis. (Formerly PLSI 189T)

Units: 3

PLSI 158. Internship in Political Science

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Maximum credit toward the political science major, 3 units. Supervised work experience in legislative offices and/or political campaigns to provide student with an opportunity to fuse theory and practice. CR/NC grading only.

Units: 2-6
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 159T. Seminar in American Government and Politics

Congressional committee operations, policy making by the courts, political implications of civil service, executive initiation of legislation, minority groups and politics, political implications of news reporting; jurisprudence and legal philosophy; legal institutions; conflict resolution.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 160. State and Local Governments

The organization, structure, powers, and functions of state and local governments.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall

PLSI 161. Social Movement Politics

Students will learn how and why social movements form, including what kinds of grievances lead to political organization. They will also study the tactics movements use, and why some movements are successful in their political advocacy while others are not.

Units: 3

PLSI 163. Municipal Government

Organization, powers, and functions of city government; types of city charters, relationship between city and state government; police and fire protection, education, water supply, health and sanitation, city planning, debts and taxation, public utilities.

Units: 3

PLSI 169T. Seminar in Metropolitan Government and Politics

Regional and area intergovernmental relations, urban renewal, human relations agencies, and taxation methodologies.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 8 units

PLSI 170. Constitutional Law, the Federal Structure

Judicial Review, powers of the president, powers of Congress, federalism, and the contract clause and due process -- economic rights through case studies of leading Supreme Court decisions.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall

PLSI 171. Constitutional Law, Civil Liberties, and Civil Rights

Free speech and association, freedom of press, commercial free speech, obscenity, religion guarantees, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendment issues, and social and political equality through case studies of leading Supreme Court decisions.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Spring

PLSI 174. Politics and the Court

An introduction to the judicial process: jurisprudence, courts and social policy, instruments and limitations of judicial power, fact finding, precedents and legal reasoning, statutory and constitutional interpretation, and the search for standards.

Units: 3

PLSI 175. Water Politics and Policy

This course focuses on the development of policy regarding the ownership and use of surface and ground water in the American West, California, and the Central Valley. It also examines the political clash between economic and environmental demands for water.

Units: 3

PLSI 179T. Seminar in Public Law

Administrative law, international law, judicial administration, jurisprudence, legal institutions.

Units: 3, Repeatable up to 9 units

PLSI 181. Public Administration

General analysis of the field of public administration; administrative theories; policy and administration; behavioralism; budgeting, planning, and legal framework.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall

PLSI 182. Administrative Analysis: Management and Organization

Administrative organization; methods; systems and procedures; problem solving; systems analysis; reports and records; resources management.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Spring

PLSI 183. Comparative Administration

Theories of comparative public administration; cross-national comparisons of administrative processes; institutions, policy formation, and behavior with consideration of cultural, social, and economic environments.

Units: 3

PLSI 184. Public Budgeting and Economy Policy

Examines the administrative and political considerations of revenue generation and expenditure; budget types; the budgetary process and analysis; capital budgeting and debt administration; intergovernmental fiscal relations; monetary and fiscal policy.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Spring

PLSI 185. Public Personnel Management

Examines the evolution of public personnel administration including the development of merit principles, equal employment opportunity, and affirmative action; recruitment, selection, and career development; classification techniques; theories of motivation; public sector labor relations.

Units: 3
Course Typically Offered: Fall

PLSI 187. Internship in Public Administration

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Maximum credit toward public administration major, 3 units. Supervised work experience in public agencies to provide the student with an opportunity to fuse theory and practice. CR/NC grading only.

Units: 2-6
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 188T. Topics in Public Administration

Treatment of current topics and problems in fiscal administration, public personnel administration, and planning.

Units: 1-4, Repeatable up to 9 units

PLSI 190. Independent Study

See Academic Placement --Independent Study. Approved for RP grading.

Units: 1-3, Repeatable up to 6 units
Course Typically Offered: Fall, Spring

PLSI 191. Directed Readings

Directed readings and supplemental and original source material for enrichment of regular offerings in the subdiscipline.

Units: 1

PLSI 200. Seminar in Methods and Political Systems

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Systematic analysis of major political cultures and economic systems. Emphasis upon the leading theoretical models of the contemporary international system, issues of political economy, and methods of cross-cultural research.

Units: 3

PLSI 210. International Relations and Political Theory

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Inquiry into philosophies of international relations with particular emphasis on moral foundations of international law in light of Western political theory. Some contemporary problems selected for in-depth analysis and student research.

Units: 3

PLSI 220. Seminar in Politics and Conflict

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Analysis of sources of political conflict and methods of conflict resolution with application to selected topics, such as the foreign policy of major powers, the dynamics of political transformation, interaction in regional subsystems, or national defense and arms control.

Units: 3

PLSI 240. Seminar in Politics of Resources and Modernization

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Analysis of global interdependence and national examples in selected resource areas. Emphasis on approaches to modernization in developing nations and relations between rich nations and poor nations.

Units: 3

PLSI 250. Seminar in Politics and Policy

Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation from a comparative perspective. Examines substantive policy issues common to modern industrial and developing nations from the perspectives of policy analysis and decision-making; considers the role of bureaucracy, the welfare state, political economy, and competing ideologies.

Units: 3

PLSI 270. Advanced Research and Writing in International Relations

Students will conduct primary research on IR topics of their choice, deepening their understanding of key issues, literature, and the application of theory, and gaining essential skills in research, analysis, and writing up to the journal level standard in IR.

Units: 3

PLSI 290. Independent Study

See Academic Placement --Independent Study. Approved for RP grading.

Units: 1-3, Repeatable up to 6 units

PLSI 299. Thesis

See Criteria for Thesis and Project. Approved for RP grading.

Units: 3-6


Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements

Political Science Major

1. Major requirements (36 units)
(see Notes 1 and 2)

Lower-division core:
PLSI 1, 90 (6 units)
(to be completed prior to or concurrently with enrollment in the first 6 units of upper-division major courses)

Upper-division core:
PLSI 110 or 111, 120, 140, 150 (12 units)

Upper-division Political Science electives:
(PLSI exclude 102, 187) (18 units)

2. General Education requirements (49 units)

3. Other requirements (6 units)
Upper-division writing and Multicultural and International (MI)

4. Sufficient elective units to meet required total units (varies)
(See Degree Requirements); may be used toward a double major or minor

5. Total units (120)*

* G.E. and MI courses can be double-counted with major requirements. The writing requirement may be met by taking the upper-division writing exam. See advisor for details.

Advising Notes

  1. CR/NC grading is not permitted in the political science major.
  2. General Education and elective units may be used toward a double major or minor (in something other than political science; see Double Major or departmental minor). Consult the appropriate department chair, program coordinator, or faculty advisor for further information.
  3. Grading Requirement. Students majoring in political science must earn a grade of C or better in each of the six core courses in the major: PLSI 1, 90 (lower-division) and PLSI 110 or 111, 120, 140, and 150 (upper-division).


In most instances, the faculty in the department have had experience practicing what they teach. All bring to their classes extensive backgrounds that permit them to combine the theories of political science and public administration with the practical applications of those theories.

Most upper-division classes are small enough to allow extensive student-faculty interaction. The usual course involves a mixture of lecture and class discussion and encourages the expression of a variety of viewpoints about political issues. With smaller classes come greater opportunities for individualized instruction and assistance.

For faculty phone numbers and e-mail, see the campus directory.

For more on the faculty, see the faculty pages.
The faculty pages are updated by the department or program.


Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

A Roadmap identifies the specific set of courses students must complete in their major in sequential order. Information on corequisites or prerequisites is listed along with other pertinent information to assist students in completing courses towards the major.

Click here for roadmap.

Please note: Roadmaps are not a guarantee of course availability.

If you are looking for archived roadmaps, please click here.


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Political Science is the study of who has the power to make laws for society, the institutional structures that guide how this power is used, and the impact of public policies on society.  Students study voting, elections, the structures of government institutions, and how governments around the world differ and interact.  They also explore local, national, and global issues such as civil rights, education, the environment, terrorism, and globalization.

Our graduates have gone on to serve in Congress, in the state legislature, as city managers, as urban planners, as city council members, as lawyers and judges, as mayors, as union leaders, as business owners, as educators, as non-profit managers, as military officers, as civic organizers, and more. Numerous leaders in the San Joaquin Valley are our graduates. 

What You Can Do

  • Manage political campaigns
  • Pursue a career in public office or law
  • Advocate for policy change
  • Join the Peace Corps or Foreign Service

Interesting Classes You Might Take

  • Presidential Politics
  • Constitutional Law
  • Water Politics and Policy
  • International Law and Organization
  • American Foreign Affairs

What You Can Learn About

  • Political parties; citizen political advocacy; election of public officials; political institutions
  • Military and economic power; political violence; democratic peace; international organizations; globalization; nationalism; imperialism; environmental politics; foreign policies of specific nations
  • Freedom and individual rights, democracy, majority rule, equality, law and authority, power, constitutional foundation of American government, social class and structure, revolution

About the College

The College of Social Sciences studies the human experience, including the depth of the past and the breadth of the entire planet.

We place emphasis on learning practical skills to aid you in your career. Our students do internships, participate in archaeological digs, or do service-learning projects with a non-profit agency. Students can assist on research projects or organize a social change project.

Whatever the students' major, they enjoy our witty and talented faculty and our caring staff as they discover our social world.

College Contact Information

Phone: (559) 278-3013
FAX: (559) 278-7664

5340 N. Campus Drive MS/SS91
Fresno CA 93740-8019

Department Contact Information

Department of Political Science 
Phone: 559-278-2988 
Fax: 559-278-5230

Office Location:

McKee-Fisk Building 
2225 East San Ramon Avenue 
Mail Stop MF 19 
Fresno, California