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Faculty: Reynolds, Hudson - Political Science: Advice to Students

This Faculty Profile contains information about Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D., Assoc. Prof. Political Science, Department of Social Science, Division of Arts & Sciences, University Campus, Saint Leo University

Useful Tips for College Students - New York Times

Here are some useful tips for college students taken from the New York Times, September 6, 2009.  You can be sure that the quality of these tips is first rate because they come from some of the nation's top scholars and researchers. I heartily endorse each and every one of them.


Hunt for a Good Teacher

I would give entering freshmen two pieces of ad­vice. First, find out who the good teachers are. Ask your adviser; poll older. students; search the In­ternet; and consult the teacher-evaluation guides available at most colleges. (As a professor, I am against those guides; too often they are the vehi­cles of petty grievances put forward by people who have no long-term stake in the enterprise. But if I were a student, I would take advantage of them.)

To some extent your options will be limited by distribution requirements (in colleges that still have them) and scheduling. But within these limits you should do everything you can to get a seat in the class of a professor known for both his or her knowledge of the material and the ability to make it a window on the larger universe. Years later you may not be able to recall the details of lectures and discussions, but the benefits of being in the compa­ny of a challenging mind will be yours forever.

Second, I would advise students to take a compo­sition course even if they have tested out of it. I have taught many students whose SAT scores ex­empted them from the writing requirement, but a disheartening number of them couldn’t write and an equal number had never been asked to. They managed to get through high-school without learn­ing how to write a clean English sentence, and if you can’t do that you can’t do anything.

I give this advice with some trepidation because too many writing courses today teach everything but the craft of writing and are instead the vehicles of the instructor’s social and political obsessions. In the face of what I consider a dereliction of peda­gogical duty, I can say only, “Buyer beware.” If your writing instructor isn’t teaching writing, get out of that class and find someone who is.

STANLEY FISH, a professor of law at Florida International University and a contributing col­umnist to The Times, who has been teaching since 1962.


Play Politics

  1. Play to your strengths. Do not make random choices from a bewildering range of subjects for study. So far as you can, choose courses and write pa­pers on topics where you already have (or think you will have) some interest, some knowledge, some en­thusiasm. Do not fear that this will narrow you. The deeper you go into one thing, the more it connects you with other things.
  2. Learn to write well. Most incoming college stu­dents, even the bright ones, do not do it and it ham­pers them in courses and in later life. Read what you write to a friend, and ask the friend to read it back to you. Lack of clarity, coherence or shape will leap out at you.
  3. Read, read, read. Students ask me how to be­come a writer, and I ask them who is their favorite au­thor. If they have none, they have no love of words.
  4. Seek out the most intellectually adventurous of your fellow students. Some are shy around “brains,” but you have proximity to young minds as they are developing. That is a great opportunity. Take it.
  5. Do not fear political activism. I was once at an event where a student asked Jimmy Carter how he, formerly the guardian of American law, felt years ear­lier when his freshman daughter was arrested at a protest against apartheid. He answered: “I cannot tell you how proud I was. If you young people cannot express your conscience now, when will you? Later you will have duties, jobs, families that make that harder. You will never be freer than now.” Also, among the activists, you are more likely to meet the intellectually adventurous people mentioned in the last item.

GARRY WILLS, a professor emeritus of history at Northwestern University, who has been teaching since 1962.


Get Lost in Books

More than ever in this time of economic troubles and societal change, entering upon an undergradu­ate education should be a voyage away from visual overstimulation into deep, sustained reading of what is most worth absorbing and understanding: the books that survive all ideological fashions.

There is general agreement on the indispensable canon: Homer, Plato, the Bible, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Mil­ton. From the 19th century until now, keeping only to English and American authors, a slightly more arbitrary selection might include Blake, Words­worth, Austen, Dickens, George Eliot, Hardy, Yeats and Joyce in England and Ireland. Among the Americans would certainly be Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Haw­thorne; and in the 20th century, Faulkner and the major poets: Robert Frost. Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Hart Crane.

Many of these authors are difficult and demand rereading, but that doubles their value. A freshman may have read Shakespeare before, but the richest and most available of all writers is also the most profound and elliptical. Rereading “Hamlet” and “King Lear” should teach a student Shakespeare’s mastery of the art of leaving things out.

To think well you must rely, in part, upon memo­ry, and possessing Shakespeare and Joyce, Mon­taigne and Whitman means that you can recall much of the best that has been written.

Whatever our current travails, we now have a lit­erate president capable of coherent discourse, but too many other politicians are devoid of syntax and appear to have read nothing. Aggressive ignorance in aspirants to high office is another dismal conse­quence of the waning of authentic education.

HAROLD BLOOM, a professor of English at Yale and the author of the forthcoming “Living Lab­yrinth: Literature and Influence,” who has been teaching since 1955.


Learn to be Argumentative

Freshmen are often overwhelmed by the intel­lectual challenge of college — so many subjects to be covered, so many facts, methods and philosoph­ical isms to sort out, so many big words to assimi­late. As if that weren’t enough, what your different instructors tell you may be flatly contradictory.

Students understandably cope with this cogni­tive dissonance by giving each of their teachers in turn whatever he or she seems to want. Students learn to be free-market capitalists in one course and socialists in the next, universalists in the morning and relativists after lunch. This tactic has got many a student through college, but the trouble is that, even when each course is excellent in itself, jumping through a series of hoops doesn’t add up to a real socialization into the ways of intellectual culture.

What the most successful college students do, in my experience, is cut through the clutter of jar­gons, methods and ideological differences to locate the common practices of argument and analysis hidden behind it all. Contrary to the cliché that no “one size fits all” educational recipe is possible, successful academics of all fields and intellectual persuasions make some key moves that you can emulate:

  1. Recognize that knowing a lot of stuff won’t do you much good unless you can do something with what you know by turning it into an argument.
  2. Pay close attention to what others are saying and writing and then summarize their arguments and assumptions in a recognizable way. Work es­pecially on summarizing the views that go most against your own.
  3. As you summarize, look not only for the thesis of an argument, but for who or what provoked it — the points of controversy.
  4. Use these summaries to motivate what you say arid to indicate why it needs saying. Don’t be afraid to give your own opinion, especially if you can back it up with reasons and evidence, but don’t disagree with anything without carefully summa­rizing it first.

It’s too often a secret that only a minority of high achievers figure out, but the better you get at en­tering the conversation by summarizing it and putting in your own oar, the more you’ll get out of your college education.

—  GERALD GRAFF, the past president of the Modern Language Association and a professor of English and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has been teaching since 1963.


Immerse Yourself in Off-Campus Life

Try to read a good newspaper every day -- at bed­time or at breakfast or when you take a break in the afternoon. If you are interested in art, literature or music, widen your horizons by poring over the sci­ence section. In the mood for spicy scandals? Read the business pages. Want to impress your poli sci prof? Read columnists.

The newspaper will be your path to the world at large. At Williams College, where I was a student in the 1930s, we read the alarming reports in The Times about Germany’s brutal onslaught against peaceful nations. In the spring of 1938, we burned Hitler in ef­figy and made Page 11 of The Times! In June 1940, as France fell to Nazi troops, hundreds of graduating seniors urged compulsory military training, and pro­vided another Williams story to the paper.

In addition, a great newspaper will teach you how to write: most articles are models of clarity and sub­stance — with no academic jargon! Pay attention to the writer’s vocabulary, see how many active verbs are used, and file away striking new words for future use. Study how articles are structured: how the first paragraph tells the reader simply and clearly the subject and main points. Take a look at the last para­graph; it will often show you how to conclude an es­say with a pithy phrase or a telling quotation.

A great newspaper will help you in the classroom -- and it will be your conduit to the real world out­side the classroom. Become addicted.

Another way to stay connected with the real world: get to know your teachers outside of class. Chat and engage with them, perhaps on the walk away from class. Ask them not only about the coursework but also about their own intellectual in­terests and research. Equally important to maintain­ing that lifeline to the universe beyond college is get­ting to know the janitors and housekeepers in your dorm, the security staff on the campus, the people who work in the cafeteria. Talk to them, ask them questions and thank them.

—  JAMES MacGREGOR BURNS, a professor emeritus of government at Williams College and the author, most recently, of “Packing the Court,” who has been teaching since 1947.


Don’t Alienate Your Professor

Having survived the teenage years of two chil­dren, I know how foolhardy it is to offer advice to 18-year-olds. But, after more than three decades of teaching, I do have a few tips for college freshmen everywhere:

Make sure you are in the class you signed up to take. A week spent trying to figure out why the per­son you thought was your math teacher keeps talk­ing about Renaissance art is a wasted week — for both of you.

During class, do not:

  1. beat out a cadence on your desk while the teacher is lecturing; b) sigh audibly more than three or four times during a class period;
  2. check your watch more than twice during the hour.

On the other hand, do:

  1. practice a look of genuine interest in the lecture or discussion;
  2. nod in agreement frequently;
  3. laugh at all (or at least most) of the professor’s jokes.

Do ask questions if you don’t understand the professor’s point. Do not, however, ask any of the following: “Will this be on the test?” “Does gram­mar count?” “Do we have to read the whole chap­ter?” “Can I turn in my paper late?”

Finally, ignore the looks of scorn and amusement on the faces of the upperclassmen, and re­member that next year you will be able to laugh at the mistakes and confusion of a new freshman class.

CAROL BERKIN, a professor of history at Ba­ruch College and the author of the forthcoming “Civ­il War Wives,” who has been teaching since 1972.


Go the Wrong Way

It’s easy to think that college classes are mainly about preparing you for a job. But remember: this may be the one time in your life when you have a chance to think about the whole of your life, not just your job. Courses in the humanities, in particular, often seem impractical, but they are vital, because they stretch your imagination and challenge your mind to become more responsive, more critical, big­ger. You need resources to prevent your mind from becoming narrower and more routinized in later life. This is your chance to get them.

MARTHA NUSSBAUM, a professor of philoso­phy, law.


Fall in Love

Fall in love! Not with that attractive person sitting three rows in front of you in calculus class, but with an intellectual vision of the future you probably can’t even imagine at the moment. A millennium or so ago I entered Harvard wanting to major in math. But in my junior year I heard a biology lecture by James D. Watson, the scientist who co-discovered the double-helical structure of DNA, the molecule that genes are made of. By the end of that lecture I was a goner —  in love with DNA. Until then I had not known that a new science, called molecular biology and based on DNA, had already begun to unravel the secret of life.

Listening to Dr. Watson’s lecture I could even imagine that molecular biologists might one day an­swer all the important questions I had about hu­mans: How do you make a hand? Why do I look like my mother? How does a cell become cancerous? What is memory? I staggered breathlessly out of that classroom and started down the long unpredict­able path to becoming a professor of molecular biol­ogy at M.I.T. What I have learned is that passion, along with curiosity, drives science. Passion is the mysterious force behind nearly every scientific breakthrough. Perhaps it’s because without it you might never be able to tolerate the huge amount of hard work and frustration that scientific discovery entails. But if you have it, you’re in luck. Today, 45 years after Watson’s lecture, new discoveries in biol­ogy still take my breath away.

For the next four years you will get to poke around the corridors of your college, listen to any lecture you choose, work in a lab. The field of science you fall in love with may be so new it doesn’t even have a name yet. You may be the person who constructs a new biological species, or figures out how to stop glo­bal warming, or aging. Maybe you’ll discover life on another planet. My advice to you is this: Don’t settle for anything less.

—   NANCY HOPKINS, a professor of biology at M.I.T., who has been teaching since 1973.


Be Prepared to Change Course

The first thing freshmen should know is that col­lege is never what one expects. The summer of 1950, before I went to Cornell, I was working as a bellhop at a hotel in the Adirondacks. One day the mail brought me a Cornell course catalog. Reading it between carrying guests’ bags was for me like reading the menu of a good restaurant would be for a starving man. The philosophy and humanities de­partments had classes that I was sure would make me wise. The physics department had courses giv­en by famous physicists. The mathematics de­partment offered a course on Hilbert space. Who knew that there were different kinds of space?

It didn’t work out quite as I had anticipated. I didn’t know enough to participate in the exciting physics research that was going on at Cornell. I took German, in which the main thing I learned was that I have no head for foreign languages. My courses in philosophy left me puzzled about how ideas of Plato and Descartes that seemed to me ab­surd could have been so influential. I did not be­come wise.

But I did graduate, and took away with me mem­ories of several inspiring professors, of walks with friends under beautiful old elms, and of hours spent reading in the music room of the student un­ion. I discovered that I loved chamber music and history and Shakespeare. I married my college sweetheart. And I did learn about Hilbert space.

—  STEVEN WEINBERG, a professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin, who has been teaching since 1958.

Advice on Preparing for a Legal Career

How to Prepare for a Legal Career

To get admitted into a good law school you will need better than average results on the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT), usually taken immediately after the junior year, or in the fall of the senior year; a B+ or better overall grade point average; superior letters of recommendation primarily from faculty members; and lastly, a compelling personal statement offering evidence of motivated service, which includes such things as internships, work for charitable organizations, participation in student government, etc.

To get through law school you will need something entirely different, namely, academic preparedness. Have you learned to read difficult material quickly and effectively? Do you write clearly and succinctly? Do you think critically? Are you an able and confident public speaker?  

Contrary to what some may have told you, it is not necessary to major in Pre-Law if you have a legal career in mind, or even to select from among the more traditionally chosen majors, such as English, History or Political Science.  What is important is to select the right major for you!  

How then do I pick the right major?  As a rule of thumb, you ought to judge a major at any college or university by the kind of students that are drawn to it, for they will be your classmates. The kinds of questions they ask will govern the quality of the discussion that takes place in the classroom, greatly effecting what you learn. Likewise, group study, which is so important in law school, will have a different feel among those who are seriously preparing for a rewarding future as compared to those who have come to college with little academic interest, personal direction, or a sense of responsibility. As an instructor, I might add that good students tend to excite professors to become involved with them personally and to arrange for rewarding experiences outside of the classroom. You should take all this into consideration when choosing a major.

Legal Studies Courses

Saint Leo University does offer a wide variety of legal courses to cut your teeth on, if you wish to preview various areas covered in law school.

  • CRM 321: Substantive Criminal Law
  • CRM 322: Law of Criminal Procedure
  • GBA 231: Business Law I
  • GBA 332: Business Law II
  • GBA 335: Administrative and Personnel Law
  • POL 326: Constitutional Law I
  • POL 327: Constitutional Law II
  • POL 395: Genocide, War-Crimes and Laws of War
  • POL 428: International Law and Organization

 Legal Studies Advisors

Saint Leo University also provides pre-law advice through caring faculty members who make themselves available to answer questions and address your concerns about the legal profession.

Copyright © 2012  Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D.

Open Letter on Law School Preparation -- by Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D.

An Open Letter to an Inquiring Student

Dear Michelle,

For twenty years I served as the official pre-law advisor for the university, so I do speak from some experience.  What matters most in getting into law school is the results obtained from the LSAT; secondly, your cumulative GPA; thirdly, letters of recommendation primarily from academics; and lastly, the number and quality of your life experiences, which include internships, work for charitable organizations, etc.

What matters most in staying in law school turns out to be something entirely different, namely, your academic preparedness. Have you learned to read difficult works efficiently? Do you write clearly and succinctly? Can you articulate complex ideas? Are you a decent public speaker? Any major that challenges you intellectually will suffice, whether it be the traditional majors chosen by those preparing for law school, such as English, History, or Political Science, or any other major where the work load is heavy, the instructors excellent, and the competition among students keen.

As a rule of thumb, I would say you ought to judge a major at any college or university by the kind of students that are attracted to it, for they will be your classmates. The kinds of questions they ask will govern the character of the discussion that takes place in the classroom, greatly effecting what you learn. Likewise, group study, which is so important in law school, will have a different feel among those who are seriously preparing for a rewarding future as compared to those who have come to college with little academic interest, personal direction, or a sense of responsibility. And, as an instructor, I might add that good students tend to excite professors to become involved with them personally and to arrange for rewarding experiences outside of the classroom. You should take all this into consideration when choosing a major.

As for the character and quality of Political Science at Saint Leo University, I refer you to our fast facts brochure which I have attached to this email. We are a small department, but I am proud of our achievements. The brochure rather obviously points to our political science honor society as the hub of our student activities. You can reach its web site at http://faculty.saintleo.edu/org/psa. I also invite you to visit our American Federal Government class at http://faculty.saintleo.edu/reynolds/POL223.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me again by email, or phone 352/588-8340.

Sincerely, Dr. Hudson Reynolds
Assoc. Prof. of Political Science
Director of Honors
Saint Leo University

Copyright © 2013  Hudson Reynolds, Ph.D.


Political Science - Advice


Some intelligent advice by the Political Science department at Rutgers University:
  < Gleaned from the Web: 9/3/03 http://www.polisci.rutgers.edu/ >

What Can I Do With Political Science?

The short answer to this question is "Exactly the same thing you can do with almost any other liberal arts major." But since we're at a university, it will take a while to explain this rather counter-intuitive conclusion and expand on several related points.

Nobody Really Cares What Your Major Is, Except You (and Possibly Your Parents)

All the evidence we have suggests that, after you leave the University, practically no one will care what you majored in. Potential employers will want to know whether you have the necessary abilities and skills to do whatever job they want done. A knowledge of French, say, may be required for the job, but the question will be how good your French is, not how many courses you took in it or what grades you got. Even graduate schools don't care much; one political science teacher in this department majored in physics, for example.

Let me give you two real-life examples. Some years ago I spent three semesters on leave working for Exxon Corporation in New York. While having breakfast with one of my bosses (I had lots of bosses at Exxon), I asked him how he had wound up in his current job. It turned out he had majored in art history and was very enthusiastic about his studies. Now I happen to know that Exxon hired at his level only lawyers, accountants, and chemical engineers, but his background hadn't prevented him from becoming a senior executive in what was then the largest multinational corporation in the world. At about the same time I ran across an article about a physician in California who had won the Nobel Prize for medicine; the article noted without comment that he had majored in 17th Century French literature.

What's going on here? Why does your major have so little connection to your occupation? The reason is quite simple. We won't let you specialize much in liberal arts education; to put it crudely, you won't learn enough in your major field to get hired just because of that knowledge. If you major in economics, for example, you're not an economist; you're someone with a bachelors degree who took some courses in economics. (If you want to become an economist, you'll have to do like your teachers and spend seven to ten years living economics twenty-four hours a day. However, since you are a sane person, you probably have better sense. If not, graduate school awaits.)

But don't we teach you anything useful? Liberal arts education specializes in breadth, not depth. You can find whole departments teaching subjects you never even heard of. As you know, we require you to take courses in a number of different fields in order to graduate; you've probably been complaining about it ever since you arrived. The faculty does this, not just because we're sadistic (although of course...), but because we want you to learn to think and learn in many different ways so that you will be able to learn things that will be essential to your job (not to mention your life) later on.

Ideally, of course, we would just teach you the knowledge you will need for the next fifty years or so and let it go at that; it's certainly much easier than teaching you how to think, which is hard. Unfortunately we haven't a clue what knowledge you will need. When I graduated from college in 1963, it never occurred to anyone that I would someday learn to use a personal computer to create manuscripts, do statistical analysis, read and send e-mail, and surf the World Wide Web. So instead I was taught how to learn different things and how to think in different ways, and when the time came I struggled through the computer manuals and changed my life. The knowledge you get in college isn't important in itself; what's important is learning how to get the knowledge you will need and then how to use it. So a study of the likelihood of war comparing the Greek city-states with an classroom simulation (to pick an example from one of my courses) will never be "useful information" to my students again, but hopefully they will have a much better idea about how to analyze future social problems as a result.

College graduates have relatively little specialized knowledge. Instead they (hopefully) have the critical skills of reading, writing, analysis, and open minds. Employers aren't fools (mostly); they don't expect Ph.D. knowledge from a B.A. If they hire a college graduate, they want someone who can learn and do things which will help them. By and large, they couldn't care less what your major was. (The one exception comes in your first job, if you show them a record where the only thing of note is your major. So the trick is to get some more things to show them which they will find more useful--see the next section.)

Moreover, while your first job seems absolutely critical to you now, it also is not likely to shape your life. Management consultants claim that you will typically change not just your job but your entire career several times during your lifetime, and most of you will wind up working in fields that don't even exist now. Survival in this rapidly changing job world will depend, not on your specialized knowledge which will quickly become obsolete, but in your ability to learn new skills and adapt to new situations, precisely what liberal arts tries to teach in its roundabout way.

The good news about all this is that you can study political science without penalty; you probably won't ruin your life if you major in the field. The bad news is that no liberal arts major puts you on a track which leads directly to one particular, clearly-defined job. That's the difference between liberal arts and the professional majors like engineering, agriculture, fine arts, communications, pharmacy, etc. If you graduate from the pharmacy program, it is likely you will get a job as a pharmacist. If you graduate with a liberal arts major, you can get a job in practically any field, but there is no guarantee of a job in any field. Welcome to post-modern insecurity (easy for me to say--I've got tenure)!

Okay, But then How Do I Get A Job With A Liberal Arts Major?

The whole point of the previous section was to explain why choosing a major and choosing a career are separate choices. If you're nervous about getting a job (and everyone whose family doesn't own a major corporation is), the solution isn't to pick the "right major." Instead, try to acquire the skills and experiences which will make you more attractive to an employer. About a million people will graduate from college in your year; you need something on your resume which will make you look different than the rest. After that, it's a matter of job performance broadly defined, which is up to you. The trick is to use the academic resources available in the university; after all, you're paying for them, so you might as well get their benefit. There are lots of opportunities at Rutgers, but as you have probably already noticed, you have to seek them out; they don't come looking for you.

A. Give a lot of time to your studies (that by itself will put you in front of a fair number of your classmates). Faculty assume that full-time students are full-time students, not full-time employees of Federal Express who study in their spare time. Students can get through college while working full-time and taking a full college schedule, but they will lose a large amount of the experience they are paying such a price to get.

B. Pick your classes and teachers with care. Ask your friends about courses and teachers, even though you will have to decide how much of their judgments are useful for you. Student evaluations of faculty will soon be available in the reserve rooms of the libraries; use them. If you're nervous about a math course, find out what teachers have a reputation for being good with students like you and take them, even if it's at an inconvenient time.

C. Take courses which require reading, writing, and analysis. These skills are like swimming; a little instruction is helpful, but basically the only way to learn is to get into the pool. Getting into the pool means taking courses which will make you use these skills. If you have trouble with them, use university facilities like the Writing Centers and the Learning Resource Centers. If you're not happy with them, complain (loudly) to faculty or your college advisors.

D. Seek out opportunities to get experience out of class which will help later on. Internships are particularly important. In an internship you work for no money in return for experience and contacts. You can arrange this on your own if you like, but it's easier if you work through a university, both because we can give you a little academic credit in lieu of salary and because your employers have an incentive to give you interesting work if they hope to get more students to work for them in the future.

The political science department runs several different internships. One is the Washington semester, a full-time job in Washington combined with academic experiences, a major paper, and living with students from other schools; a shorter version is available in the summer, although there are real advantages to staying for a full semester. There is a brochure available in the department. We also run a local internship course both for those students who have found their own placements and for those who have not. Another option is the Citizenship and Service Education (CASE) program, which puts students into the community in placements related to their academic courses; several of our introductory courses have CASE sections for extra credit, for example, as do many courses in other departments.

Most importantly, internships let you decide whether this particular line of work is something you like or not. You will learn how to operate in a work environment. You will get recommendations by bosses who have seen you work, which are more impressive than those from teachers since you're being hired to be a worker, not a student. You get a chance to ask people in the field what you should do in order to enter it (specialized education now or later, type of job to apply for, what else do I need to make myself a strong candidate, even whether Licklider was right or whether you really do need a particular major in order to get into the job you want). And you get the personal contacts which often determine what sort of job you wind up with. Internships are an investment of your time in your future, and you need to treat them that way. They are considerable trouble and expense, but they are well worth it.

But What Do Political Science Majors Do After They Graduate?

The short answer is "lots of things"--now you know why. To be more precise, the appendix of this paper has two list compiled by Rutgers Career Counseling: some recent first jobs of political science and history majors and some jobs of experienced alums. Each of these lists has a lot of variety, to put it mildly, and all faculty can add cases from our own experience.

We have lots of pre-law students among our majors, for example, although not because you have to do political science to be pre-law. Law schools don't care what you major in, although they seem to prefer liberal arts majors and don't want you to study a lot of law, since they figure we will teach you wrong and they will have to unteach you. But students who are interested in law tend to be interested in politics, so we have a lot of them. And anyway, pre-law is a glamorous answer to give to anyone who asks what you want to do when you haven't a clue.

It's hard to get into law schools (if you want to figure your chances, consult the Pre-Law Handbook at most bookstores and libraries), and they are expensive and take three years. Moreover, jobs are tight for new lawyers, and dissatisfaction in the profession is high, especially among women. Given this, students may want to think seriously about alternatives. It is probably also a good idea to take at least one course which requires extensive reading of cases, since that is what law school involves; the political science department has several such courses. If you're uncertain about whether you want to be a lawyer, try to spend some time in a law office (sorry to keep harping on internships but...)

Probably more of our students wind up in business than any other single career category, just like the U.S. as a whole (see the appendix for supporting evidence). Given this, it makes sense to take some economics--stick with it until you dislike it intensely. Economics by itself isn't essential to a business career, but it's the common language, and people who know it have an advantage. Other graduates go into government, from local and county to national and international. Communications attracts lots of students. Others prefer teaching at various levels. Non-profit organizations offer intriguing careers. One of our graduates became a doctor and later the State Physician of Pennsylvania. Students interested in international careers should consult the separate essay on this subject available in the political science department.

Our graduates go into all of these fields and more (see the lists). But none of them got these jobs because they were political science majors. They got them because they persuaded other people that they could do the job, whatever it was. Often this involves finding an organization whose mission interests you, taking a job at a fairly low level, and demonstrating on the job that people who promote you won't be embarrassed. To put it differently, people make their own careers; over time, if they do good work, they can shape their jobs to suit their own interests or move on to those which work better for them.

So, After All This, Should I Major In Political Science

I don't know--that's up to you. But my advice (which is worth every penny you're paying for it by reading this web page--none) is to try lots of different things. I even encourage students to take at least one course they don't think they will like every semester; the distribution requirements practically guarantee this will happen for the first two years anyway. Then just follow your nose. Take courses in areas that you like. Find faculty you like and follow them around to take their courses (a good teacher is more important than the course topic anyway, as you know). Eventually you will find that you have a bunch of courses in the same area--that's your major. In other words, major in what you like; you will have much more fun, learn more, and get a higher grade point average (which actually is sometimes useful after school, mostly in getting into other schools--faculty put great stock in grades, but almost no one else does except parents). The worst thing you can do is to major in a field because you "should" major in it or because someone else thinks you should. You're the one who has to do the work--pick your own major. If you can't find what you want among the standard ones, you can design your own.

In the meantime you have to tell Rutgers you're majoring in something to get us off your back. But what if you don't know what you want to major in? Put down something plausible, and don't worry; you're not signing your life away. This is Rutgers--if you change your mind, you just fill out another form. Several years ago a student came in at the end of her junior year and said she wanted to shift her major from chemistry to political science. It seemed routine until I discovered that she had never taken a political science course before in her life. Despite my protests, she took eleven political science courses in her senior and graduated on time with her chosen major. Now, I do not recommend that you do this, but it's an indication of how much flexibility you have to change your concentration even fairly late in your college career.

By the way, if no one cares about your major, they care even less if you double major. Everyone is different, but I think that the only double majors which make sense involve very different fields. We have had a couple of students double major in political science and dance, for example. That makes sense to me, since the fields don't overlap much (although we do teach a course on the politics of culture by a senior political scientist who is also a novelist and dramatist), so you need to spend a lot of time in each to develop some competence. But a double major in related fields (history and political science, for example) winds up repeating a lot of material; more importantly, you can't take advantage of the breadth which is the strength of liberal arts education. This is the only time in your life when you can take a course in astronomy or Buddhism without having to explain it to anyone; use the opportunity to explore your interests. (If your parents ask why you took that weird course, tell them your advisor recommended it. We'll take the heat.) Ultimately you should double major if these are the only two subjects that really interest you. But don't do it because you think it will look good on your transcript. No one will care.

Appendix

Taken from "Career Opportunities for Majors in History and Political Science," prepared by Career Services and available there and from the political science department.

First Jobs of Recent Graduates: account analyst, account executive, assistant director of admissions at a New Jersey college, assistant mortgage analyst, customer service representative, department manager at a department store, editor, editorial assistant, federal investigator, financial analyst, health claims examiner, kindergarten teacher, legal assistant, management associate, program development specialist for a country government, research assistant for the New Jersey General Assembly, sales representative, high school social studies teacher, store manger, taxpayer service representative for the IRS, technical analyst for an insurance company.

Jobs of Experienced Alumni: account manager, assistant editor at Philadelphia Inquirer, associate editor with a publisher, associate publisher, directors of labor relations for corporations, deputy state attorney general, career services director at a college, guidance director at a high school, district sales manager for a publisher, director of the New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission, financial consultant for a stockbroker, history professor, human resources manager (the evil Catbert?) for a stockbroker, instructor of Easter Seals, superior court judge, director of a public library, marketing manager, personnel administrator for IBM, police chief, president of a political consulting firm, product development manager for A & P, program officer for the New Jersey Office of Higher Education (now in another job, since the office has been disbanded), public relations director for a charity, purchasing services manager for an insurance company, real estate attorney, real estate broker, reporter, sales representative for Johnson & Johnson, staff associate for a non-profit, planner for New Jersey Office of Planning, specialist in gerontologic services for a charity, budget analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bank vice president, hospital vice president.

Essay Exam Preparation - Advice

Dr. Reynolds’ Useful Instruction On Taking Essay Examinations

1. Bring a new blue-book. My students are required to write their essays in blue books which may be purchased at the Saint Leo University bookstore. Previously used blue books are not acceptable. All essays must be written either in blue or black ink. Bring at least two pens to the examination. You may discover that you will need them both.

  • Any student who forgets or neglects to bring a blue book may be refused the privilege of taking the examination.

2. Re-read each question carefully before you begin writing. Make sure you understand the question being asked before you begin writing. Much unnecessary writing is done when one sets about answering the wrong question, and none of it counts!   Some questions will be broken into parts. Make certain you cover everything asked by the question in your essay.

3. Pre-organize your thoughts. The secret to writing a good essay examination is tight organization. A well organized essay will always carry off the prize.

  • When given the opportunity to prepare an answer beforehand, by all means do so. Don't write an anwser out and. try to memorize each and every sentence. Instead, jot down a significant word or two for each point you wish to make. Arrange your points in a logical order; and if you are the nervous type and feel you must memorize something, memorize those key words.

  • If you are not given the opportunity to prepare an answer beforehand, do this.  Take three to five minutes to outline and organize your answer before you begin writing. Believe the voice of experience, you will come out ahead of all those anxious classmates who started writing immediately and had to pause repeatedly to unscramble their thoughts.

  • 4. Do not stray from the question as asked. Irrelevance is perhaps the most common fault of college student essayists. The instructor is not interested in hearing about information that does not apply directly and immediately to the question, no matter how interesting or rich in detail.

    5. Always write your essay using complete sentences. Never abbreviate or present your answer in outline form.

    6. Review each essay for eggregious errors before you turn in your examination. Everyone makes mistakes. Read your entire examination through from the beginning. Correct your writing for grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as well as for content and logic. These things do count.

    7. As you are reviewing your essays, if you discover that you have left out something important. write that in a paragraph at the end of the blue book, and then write "More @A" in the margin, or something like that, and then indicate which end paragraph is "A".  I think you get the picture.

    6. Never forget, this is a timed examination, so here’s the final point. Take the entire time allotted to write your essays. A short essay raises a suspicion in the mind of the instructor that you know only what you have committed to paper; you will be graded accordingly. Don’t expect a passing grade for a thin demonstration of knowledge.