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 Tuesday, May 13, 2008 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Department celebrates five decades of political science at CU-Boulder
By Joanna Nasar, graduate student, Environmental Journalism

The Department of Political Science is celebrating five decades at CU-Boulder this May. Over the decades the department has continued a tradition of excellence and innovation while growing in numbers, diversity and interests. "People have been studying political science here since the 1890s but it only became a department in the 50s," said John McIver, associate professor and department historian.

Political science was once part of the College of Arts and Sciences and in the mid-50s under Dean Jacob Van Ek's guidance separated into its own department. In 1957 eight students were taught by the department's eight faculty members and received B.A. degrees. Today the number of students graduating with political science related degrees has grown to 220, supervised by 80 faculty members.

"The department has grown to include more people of diverse backgrounds and women," said Kenneth Bickers, chair of the department. "We have people studying almost every corner of the world; Europe, Latin America, Asian politics and more. We have much broader coverage and I think it is great for our students. Years ago that wouldn't have been feasible." This diversity has translated into a variety of specializations and classes.

New areas of specialization include international political economy and political methodology. "We have faculty who look at political economy and trade flows around the world. This area is relatively new and it has grown dramatically," Bickers said. "It's advanced in terms of classes we offer and new faculty." As new areas of specialization are added, so are classes. Current students can take classes in race and ethnicity including black politics and the politics of feminism.

New faculty members also create programs for students. In the fall of 2008 the department will welcome former CU President Hank Brown to its staff and with him a new internship program for undergraduate students, "CU in Washington." Added programs, classes and wider coverage of issues mean that students can go on to use their degrees in more diverse ways.

To celebrate the department's history, 6,000 alums were invited to a reception at the Koenig Alumni Center during the May graduation festivities. Alums of the department mingled and many contributed to a new endowment fund. "It was a social time for alum to connect with each other and emeritus faculty," said Bickers.

The new endowment fund is designed to assist faculty and students with academic projects. Undergraduate student proposals range from a student faculty research project to sending a student to the Model European Union. Donors vote on the project proposals they want to receive funding. "They get to fund the kind of projects they want to support," said Bickers. This democratic process is in keeping with the department's tradition of forward political thinking.

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