Current Course Offerings

SPRING 2020

CORE CLASSES

PSCI 236 / PPE 312 Public Policy Process

Marc Meredith (MW 10:00 am - 11:00 am)

This course introduces students to the theories and practice of the policy-making process. There are four primary learning objectives. First, understanding how the structure of political institutions matter for the policies that they produce. Second, recognizing the constraints that policy makers face when making decisions on behalf of the public. Third, identifying the strategies that can be used to overcome these constraints. Fourth, knowing the toolbox that is available to participants in the policy-making process to help get their preferred strategies implemented. While our focus will primarily be on American political institutions, many of the ideas and topics discussed in the class apply broadly to other democratic systems of government. (Counts toward Core Competency 1: American Politics)

 

PSCI 333 / COMM 393 Political Polling 

David Dutwin (R 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm)

Political polls are a central feature of elections and are ubiquitously employed to understand and explain voter intentions and public opinion. This course will examine political polling by focusing on four main areas of consideration. First, what is the role of political polls in a functioning democracy? This area will explore the theoretical justifications for polling as a representation of public opinion. Second, the course will explore the business and use of political polling, including media coverage of polls, use by politicians for political strategy and messaging, and the impact polls have on elections specifically and politics more broadly. The third area will focus on the nuts and bolts of election and political polls, specifically with regard to exploring traditional questions and scales used for political measurement; the construction and considerations of likely voter models; measurement of the horserace; and samples and modes used for election polls. The course will additionally cover a fourth area of special topics, which will include exit polling, prediction markets, polling aggregation, and other topics. It is not necessary for students to have any specialized mathematical or statistical background for this course. (Counts toward Core Competency 3: Survey Research)

 

ELECTIVES

PSCI 243 Dilemmas of Immigration 

Michael Jones-Correa  (TR 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm)

Beneath the daily headlines about refugees blocked entry, and undocumented migrants deported there is a set of hard questions which deserve closer attention: Should countries have borders? If countries have borders, how should they decide who is kept out and who is allowed in? How many immigrants is 'enough'? Are immigrants equally desirable? What kinds of obligations do immigrants have to their receiving society? What kinds of obligations do host societies have to immigrants? Should there be 'pathways' to citizenship? Should citizenship be automatic? Can citizenship be earned? This course explores these and other dilemmas raised by immigration.

 

PSCI 247 Campaigns and Elections

Andrew Gooch (TR 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm)

This lecture course will teach students about American campaigns and elections, from the local level to the presidential level. We will cover as many topics as possible including: the nominating process, the general campaign, campaign strategy, turnout, campaign finance, the role of issues, the importance of the economy, the power of party identification, and the role of data analysis used by campaign professionals. We will also consider how these factors matter in terms of who wins the election. In addition to the literature on campaigns and election, this lecture will put minor focus on the most recent 2016 presidential election relative to what the literature would have predicted. After the first part of the course about presidential elections, the second part will focus on Congressional elections (and a bit about state and local elections). Lastly, the third part of the course will examine how data analytics that originated in political science are now being used by campaign practitioners to win elections.

 

COMM 125 Introduction to Communication Behavior

Michael Delli Carpini  (MW 10:00 am - 11:00 am)

This course introduces students to social science research regarding the influence of mediated communication on individual and collective attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Throughout the semester we explore the impacts of various types of mediated content (e.g., violence, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, politics and activism, health and wellbeing); genres (e.g., news, entertainment, educational, marketing); and mediums (e.g., television, film, social media) on what we think and how we act. The aim of the course is to provide students with (1) a general understanding of both the positive and negative effects of mediated communication on people's personal, professional, social, and civic lives; and (2) the basic conceptual tools needed to evaluate the assumptions, theories, methods, and empirical evidence supporting these presumed effects. Class meets twice a week (MW) as a lecture and once a week (F) in smaller discussion groups led by graduate teaching fellows. In addition to a midterm exam and occasional short assignments, students have the option of producing a multi-media capstone project or a final term paper on a media-effects topic of their choice. Group projects or final papers are permitted, with approval of the instructor. In addition to fulfilling General Education Curriculum Sector 1 Requirement (Society), this course fulfills one of the two introductory-level courses required of Communication majors or prospective majors.

 

COMM 290 Intro to Data Analysis for Communications

Jin Woo Kim (TR 10:30 am - 12:00 pm)

In this course, we will learn the basic tools of data analysis and apply them to answer various questions in communication science. Can reluctant parents be convinced to vaccinate their children? Can get-out-the-vote mailings mobilize voters? Does the diffusion of political rumors affect public opinion? Are toxic comments more likely to go viral on Facebook? These are examples of the questions that we will answer using pre-existing datasets as well as a new online experiment that we will run together as part of the course. There is no official prerequisite for this class and students are not expected to have any familiarity with statistical programming. Students will be given step-by-step instructions and we will work together to analyze the datasets. For the final project, each student will write a research note based on their analysis of the new experimental data. At the end of this course, students will be able to use quantitative data to extract statistical patterns and answer empirical questions. These skills will be extremely useful in various settings, from academia to the media and tech industry and more.

 

COMM 313 Computational Text Analysis for Communication Research 

Matthew O’Donnell (TR 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm)

In this 'big data' era, presidents and popes tweet daily. Anyone can broadcast their thoughts and experiences through social media. Speeches, debates and events are recorded in online text archives. The resulting explosion of available textual data means that journalists and marketers summarize ideas and events by visualizing the results of textual analysis (the ubiquitous 'word cloud' just scratches the surface of what is possible). Automated text analysis reveals similarities and differences between groups of people and ideological positions. In this hands-on course students will learn how to manage large textual datasets (e.g. Twitter, YouTube, news stories) to investigate research questions. They will work through a series of steps to collect, organize, analyze and present textual data by using automated tools toward a final project of relevant interest. The course will cover linguistic theory and techniques that can be applied to textual data (particularly from the fields of corpus linguistics and natural language processing). No prior programming experience is required. Through this course students will gain skills writing Python programs to handle large amounts of textual data and become familiar with one of the key techniques used by data scientists, which is currently one of the most in-demand jobs.

 

GAFL 531 Data Science for Public Policy 

Samantha Sangenito (MW 10:30 am - 11:50 am)

In the 21st century, Big Data surround us. Data are being collected about all aspects of our daily lives. To improve transparency and accountability an increasing number of public organizations are sharing their data with the public. But data are not information. You need good information to make sound decisions. To be an effective public leader, you will need to learn how to harness information from available data. This course will introduce you to key elements of data science, including data transformation, analysis, visualization, and presentation. An emphasis is placed on manipulating data to create informative and compelling analyses that provide valuable evidence in public policy debates. We will teach you how to present information using interactive apps that feature software packages. As in all courses at Fels, we will concentrate on more practical skills than theoretical concepts behind the techniques. This course is designed to expand upon core concepts in data management and analysis that you learned in GAFL 640: Program Evaluation and Data Analysis. This is a graduate level course and while GAFL 640 is not a pre-requisite, students are expected to have a foundation of data management and analysis before beginning this course.

 

FALL 2020

CORE CLASSES

Core Competency 1: American Politics

PSCI 130 Introduction to American Politics 

Rogers Smith (MW 10:00 am - 11:00 am)

This course is intended to introduce students to the national institutions and political processes of American government. What are the historical and philosophical foundations of the American Republic? How does American public policy get made, who makes it, and who benefits? Is a constitutional fabric woven in 1787 good enough for today? How, if at all, should American government be changed, and why? What is politics and why bother to study it? If these sorts of questions interest you, then this course will be a congenial home. It is designed to explore such questions while teaching students the basics of American politics and government.

PSCI 230 Public Opinion & American Democracy

Michele Margolis (MW 11:00 am - 12:00 pm)

This course examines public opinion in the American political system. We will discuss how to measure public opinion, how citizens forumlate opinions, and the role of public opinion in campaigns, elections, and policymaking. We will also consider normative questions, including the role opinion should play in American democracy. Additionally, over the course of the semester we will track public opinion polls related to ongoing elections as well as develop analytical skills to answer questions using public opinion.

Core Competency 2: Statistics

PSCI 107 Introduction to Data Science

(MW 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm)

Understanding and interpreting large, quantitative data sets is increasingly central in political and social science. Whether one seeks to understand political communication, international trade, inter-group conflict, or other issues, the availability of large quantities of digital data has revolutionized the study of politics. Nonetheless, most data-related courses focus on statistical estimation, rather than on the related but distinctive problems of data acquisition, management and visualization--in a term, data science. This course addresses that imbalance by focusing squarely on data science. Leaving this course, students will be able to acquire, format, analyze, and visualize various types of political data using the statistical programming language R. This course is not a statistics class, but it will increase the capacity of students to thrive in future statistics classes. While no background in statistics or political science is required, students are expected to be generally familiar with contemporary computing environments (e.g. know how to use a computer) and have a willingness to learn a variety of data science tools. You are encouraged (but certainly not required) to register for both this course and PSCI 338 at the same time, as the courses cover distinct, but complimentary material.

PSCI 338 Statistical Methods PSCI

Marc Meredith (MW 10:00 am - 11:00 am)

The goal of this class is to expose students to the process by which quantitative political science research is conducted. The class will take us down three separate, but related tracks. Track one will teach some basic tools necessary to conduct quantitative political science research. Topics covered will include descriptive statistics, sampling, probability and statistical theory, and regression analysis. However, conducting empirical research requires that we actually be able to apply these tools. Thus, track two will teach us how to implement some of these basic tools using the computer program R. However, if we want to implement these tools, we also need to be able to develop hypotheses that we want to test. Thus, track three will teach some basics in research design. Topics will include independent and dependent variables, generating testable hypotheses, and issues in causality. You are encouraged to register for both this course an PSCI 107 at the same time, as the courses cover distinct but complementary, material. But there are no prerequisites nor is registering for PSCI 107 necessary, in order to take this course. 

Core Competency 3: Survey Research and Design

PSCI 333 Political Polling 

David Dutwin (R 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm)

Political polls are a central feature of elections and are ubiquitously employed to understand and explain voter intentions and public opinion. This course will examine political polling by focusing on four main areas of consideration. First, what is the role of political polls in a functioning democracy? This area will explore the theoretical justifications for polling as a representation of public opinion. Second, the course will explore the business and use of political polling, including media coverage of polls, use by politicians for political strategy and messaging, and the impact polls have on elections specifically and politics more broadly. The third area will focus on the nuts and bolts of election and political polls, specifically with regard to exploring traditional questions and scales used for political measurement; the construction and considerations of likely voter models; measurement of the horserace; and samples and modes used for election polls. The course will additionally cover a fourth area of special topics, which will include exit polling, prediction markets, polling aggregation, and other topics. It is not necessary for students to have any specialized mathematical or statistical background for this course. Equivalent R based course if prerequisite not met.

ELECTIVES

PSCI 231 Race and Ethnic Politics

Daniel Gillion (TR 10:30 am - 11:30 am)

This course examines the role of race and ethnicity in the political discourse through a comparative survey of recent literature on the historical and contemporary political experiences of the four major minority groups (Blacks or African Americans, American Indians, Latinos or Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans). A few of the key topics will include assimilation and acculturation seen in the Asian American community, understanding the political direction of Black America in a pre and post Civil Rights era, and assessing the emergence of Hispanics as the largest minority group and the political impact of this demographic change. Throughout the semester, the course will introduce students to significant minority legislation, political behavior, social movements, litigation/court rulings, media, and various forms of public opinion that have shaped the history of racial and ethnic minority relations in this country. Readings are drawn from books and articles written by contemporary political scientists.

PSCI 320 Who Gets Elected and Why

Edward Rendell (M 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm)

What does it take to get elected to office? What are the key elements of a successful political campaign? What are the crucial issues guiding campaigns and elections in the U.S. at the beginning of the 21st century? This class will address the process and results of electoral politics at the local, state, and federal levels. Course participants will study the stages and strategies of running for public office and will discuss the various influences on getting elected, including: Campaign finance and fundraising, demographics, polling, the media, staffing, economics, and party organization. Each week we will be joined by guest speakers who are nationally recognized professionals, with expertise in different areas of the campaign and election process. Students will also analyze campaign case studies and the career of the instructor himself. Edward G. Rendell is the former Mayor of Philadelphia, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and former Governor of Pennsylvania.

PSCI 531 Public Opinion & Elections

Matthew Levendusky (M 8:00 am - 11:00 am)

This course is designed to give advanced undergraduates and graduate students exposure to the literature on political behavior in American politics (the course is part of the departments 3-course graduate sequence in American politics). The course will cover both the classics of public opinion and political behavior from the Columbia, Michigan, and Rochester schools, as well as more current topics and debates in the literature. Topics include (but are not limited to) the early voting studies, the role of partisanship, the nature and origins of ideology, mass-elite interactions, heuristics and low information rationality, the nature of the survey response, campaign and media effects, framing effects, and the role of institutions in structuring behavior. Undergraduates are welcome in the class, but they should know that the class assumes familiarity with quantitative approaches to studying politics.