Courses of Study 2023-2024 
    May 24, 2024  
Courses of Study 2023-2024


In the College of Arts and Sciences .

 Course Offerings   

Political science is the study of power applied for public purposes. “Government” is the term that Cornell uses for political science. Political scientists focus on both the normative and philosophical foundations of politics, and the practice of politics within the United States and around the world. Political scientists study individuals, groups, institutions, and nation-states, and forms of politics that range from voting and lobbying to mobilization, dissent, and war. No other field of social scientific inquiry so unites both the philosophical and practical dimensions of human behavior.

The Department of Government offers broad training in the discipline of political science. Course offerings reflect the breadth of faculty expertise in this exciting and growing discipline, and the study of Government at Cornell trains students with skills that are in high demand in public service, business, law, the non-profit sector, and many other professions. Students receive a broad introduction to the major tools and approaches to the study of politics by taking at least two of our four introductory courses. From there, students apply these tools to understand the many facets of public life, from contemporary political thought to campaigns and elections, public policy, conflict and peace, and beyond.



J. Frank, chair; D. Bateman, assoc. chair; TBD, director of graduate studies; D. Kriner, director of undergraduate studies; B. Adalet, O. Ba, R. Bensel, A. Blackman, V. Bunce, A. Carlson, A. Cirone, R. Clark, P. Enns, M. Evangelista, G. Flores- Macias, J. A. Frank, R. Herring, W. Hobbs, S. Karim, M. Katzenstein, P. Katzenstein, J. Kirshner, S. Kreps, A. Livingston, J. Margulies, P. Markell, S. Mettler, J. Michener, T. Pepinksy, I. Perera, R. Riedl, K. Roberts, B. Rosenfeld, D. Rubenstein, E. Sanders, M. Shefter, N. T. Uphoff, N. van de Walle, J. Wallace, C. Way, J. Weiss

The Major

The Government major curriculum provides students with a broad range of options for study. Some students specialize in one of our four traditional subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. Others develop their own thematic interests by combining courses across subfields, focusing on issues such as democracy, identity, institutions, political economy, conflict studies, or studies of one particular world region (Asia, Europe, or another). Other students take a more different approach, taking different courses across the subfields for a comprehensive introduction to the study of politics. The flexibility of the curriculum is one of the strengths of the Government major.

Note: In addition to the major requirements outlined below, all students must meet the college graduation requirements 

To be admitted to the major, a student must pass two Cornell government courses.

To complete the major, a student must:

  1. Pass two of the introductory government courses in the subfields of American Government (AM), Comparative Politics (CP), Political Theory (PT), and International Relations (IR) (GOVT 1111 , GOVT 1313 , GOVT 1615 GOVT 1616 , GOVT 1817 )
  2. Accumulate an additional 30 credits of government course work, of which only one course can be at the introductory (1000) level. First-Year Writing Seminars can NOT be used.
  3. Complete at least one seminar-style course at the 4000 level in Government, which can be applied toward the 30-credit requirement above. This course must (a) be taught by a Government faculty member; (b) yield 4 credits; (c) have no more than 15 students; (d) be taken for letter grade; and (e) have a substantial writing or project component, unless an exception to these requirements is announced by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Cornell-in-Washington seminars will satisfy this requirement if they are taught by a Government faculty member and yield 4 credits. First-Year Writing Seminars can NOT be used.
  4. There must be at least 1 course taken in 3 of the 4 subfields of the study of political science: American Government, Comparative Politics, Political Theory, International Relations.


  • All courses used to fulfill Government Major Requirements must be passed with a letter grade of C minus or above.
  • Courses with S–U grades cannot be used toward the major.
  • First-Year Writing Seminars cannot be used towards the major.
  • Students may receive major credit for either GOVT 1615  or GOVT 1616 , not both.
  • All government coursework applied for major credit must be taken with a government subject code (i.e., GOVT XXXX, not ASIAN XXXX)
  • No more than half the total credits can be taken outside of Cornell.

To summarize: for most students, a minimum of 10-12 government courses (amounting to 30 credits plus two intro courses) are required to complete the major. For more information about the government major, please visit our website:

Major Seminars. Fall or spring. 4 credits. These seminars, emphasizing important controversies in the discipline, cap the majors’ experience. Thus preference in admission is given to majors over nonmajors and seniors over juniors. Topics and instructors change each semester. For more information, please visit “Guide to the Undergraduate Major in Government.”

Honors. Application to the honors program is made in the early spring of the second semester of a student’s junior year. For more information about the honors program and an application form, please visit

First-Year Writing Seminars. Consult the John S. Knight Institute website for times, instructors, and descriptions.

Crime, Prisons, Education, and Justice Minor

To satisfy the requirements of the minor, a student must:

  • Earn a minimum of 15 credits and complete 5 qualifying, interdisciplinary courses. Since this minor is interdisciplinary, students may not take all five courses from the same department.
  • Submit an enrollment application to the Undergraduate Field Coordinator, Danielle O’Connor in the Government Department.
  • Successfully complete GOVT 3121 - Crime and Punishment , GOVT 3141 - Prisons , or GOVT 3152 - [Prisons, Politics and Policy] .
  • Successfully complete GOVT 3142-[Incarceration, Policy Response, and Self-Reflection]  (or its equivalent, pending approval by the minor’s Faculty Director).
  • Serve as a Teaching Assistant for at least one class taught by the Cornell Prison Education Program at either the Auburn, Cayuga, Five Points, or Elmira Correctional Facilities. Students may also serve in a teaching assistant capacity at MacCormick Secure Facility or Finger Lakes Residential Center. In these Teaching Assistant roles, students are expected to prepare and participate in classes held at New York State Correctional Facilities.
  • Earn a minimum grade of C+ on all classes to be used toward the minor.
  • Obtain final approval from the Minor’s Faculty Director, Joe Margulies.

Students may tailor the minor for their particular academic and career goals. For a list of courses that may be taken to complete the minor, please see the qualifying courses.

Public Policy Minor

Citizens interested in addressing societal problems and even experts with deep, technical knowledge of particular issues often find that politics and governance interfere with and complicate proposals for change. The process through which policy problems are defined, whether issues find a place on the political agenda, and the particular alternatives that gain prominence may owe less to their efforts and preferences than to political developments and the institutional context. Once policies are enacted, the political process starts anew as implementation unfolds.  Policies may develop very differently “on the ground” than intended, as policy design and delivery can alter their meaning or actual outcomes and produce unintended consequences.  Political factors also influence the sustainability of policies and how, once in place, they themselves influence the political process.

The public policy minor enables students to comprehend such paradoxes by developing their understanding of the political dimensions of public policy and how they shape its conception, formulation, implementation, chances of success, intended and unintended consequences, and evaluation. Students will have the opportunity to take courses that deal with public policy in the United States, Africa, China, Europe, India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, and with attention to domestic policy (including health, education, energy, criminal justice, natural resources, immigration, social welfare policy, and urban policy) and foreign policy (including foreign aid and national security). The minor is housed in the Government Department but policy courses offered by other departments, if their content pertains to the purposes of the minor, will also be approved for elective credit.

The requirements are:

  • A minimum of 15 credits and five qualifying courses.
  • Among the five qualifying courses, students must successfully complete a gateway course (which will be offered at least twice every three years), GOVT 3032 Politics of Public Policy in the U.S.  
  • Students must also take one methods course. The following courses fulfill this requirement:
  • An additional three electives, from a list of eligible courses.  

    • Optional: As a pathway through the minor, students may choose their electives exclusively from one of the following groupings: US domestic policy, foreign policy, comparative policy.

  • Students must earn a minimum grade of C+ on all classes to be used toward the minor.

  • Government majors who wish to quality for the minor may count a maximum of one course toward both the major and the minor.

Related Programs

Cornell in Washington Program. Government majors may apply to the Cornell in Washington Program which offers students in all colleges an opportunity to earn full academic credit for a semester in Washington, D.C. Students take part in small seminars led by Cornell faculty, gain work experience through an internship, and carry out individual research projects while living in Cornell housing in the heart of Washington, D.C. Learn more about Cornell in Washington, Semester Program .

European Studies Minor. Government majors may elect to group some of their required and optional courses in the area of European studies, drawing from a wide variety of courses in relevant departments. Students are invited to consult Jason Hecht, Associate Director of European Studies for advice on course selection and foreign study programs or visit

International Relations Minor. See the description on the Einaudi Center’s website.