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Why Wisconsin?

If you are considering graduate work in Political Science, you probably already know that there are many universities with Ph.D. programs in Political Science. Our graduate program has a number of features that make it one of the most attractive in the world.

Our Department is one of the most highly rated Political Science departments in the United States. A UW-Madison Ph.D. is a qualification that has high standing, an important advantage on the job market.

Our Department is also large and intellectually diverse. We have faculty members who apply state-of-the-art statistical methods to models of political behavior, who use game theory to study strategic interaction in domestic and international politics, who produce rich and nuanced qualitative studies of political culture, and who explore the history of political thought. Notwithstanding this diversity, there is a tradition among the faculty of collegiality, of respecting each others' approaches to the study of politics. This atmosphere of tolerance for a wide range of epistemologies and methodologies sets the tone for productive graduate study.

The intellectual diversity of our department is matched by the variety of topics we cover in our courses.

  • The comparative politics courses we offer stress such important themes as democratization and legacies of authoritarianism, political economy, political culture, development, violence, institutions, and political change, as well as the politics of numerous world regions.
  • Our faculty in international relations provide advanced training in the full range of subfield topics, including international political economy, international organizations, international security, international law, and foreign policy.
  • Our American politics group includes scholars with national reputations in the study of major institutions such as the courts, Congress, and the presidency. We also have a robust political behavior group with expertise in elections and voting, public opinion, political psychology, and media and politics.
  • The political theory field spans a broad historical range that includes ancient political theory, early modern political philosophy, and modern and post-modern political thought. It also incorporates important themes such as citizenship and democracy, constitutionalism and legal theory, post-structuralism, and gender studies.
  • Our statistical methods sequence provides state-of-the-art training in political methodology, including coursework in maximum likelihood methods, time series, and Bayesian statistics. We also provide a full three-semester sequence in formal theory, with additional training available elsewhere on campus.  Finally, we offer courses in qualitative methods, a topic ignored by many departments.

Our faculty biographical sketches will give you the specifics on individual faculty members, which include current and former presidents of our professional associations, editors of leading journals, and principal investigators on some of the discipline's large-scale data-collection projects.

In brief, you can obtain high quality training at Wisconsin in both a wide variety of subjects within political science and a wide variety of approaches to studying them. For new graduate students this is a decided advantage, as many incoming students do not know the precise area of specialization that they will want to pursue. Out students come from a variety of undergraduate majors and backgrounds. Unlike some departments, a Wisconsin degree does not commit you in advance to a particular specialization or methodological approach. The department has an active set of research workshops in a variety of fields that allow for frequent interaction among faculty and graduate students. As evidence of the quality of our graduate training, the department consistently ranks among the top programs for APSA dissertation awards.

The large size of our faculty also allows us to give graduate students more individual attention than is possible in programs with a more limited faculty size. With roughly 40 faculty and entering classes that are usually below 20 students, we have one of the best student-faculty ratios in the country. This kind of personal attention is essential for students whose interests do not fall into the neat boundaries of traditional course offerings. Our faculty members are accessible to students and the department strives for an informal and friendly atmosphere. This goal is aided by a supportive community of funded graduate students, who maintain a cooperative environment that is conducive to teaching and learning from one another.

Our graduate program is also strengthened by the presence on campus of faculty in other departments with skills of value to our students. Many social science and humanities departments on our campus are ranked at or near the top of their disciplines. The faculty of other Departments and their graduate students contribute to the attractiveness of being a graduate student here. Political Science students regularly take courses with faculty from Departments and Schools such as Economics, Statistics, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Law, and Sociology. Students in comparative politics find useful resources in the many nationally-ranked area studies centers. Several faculty have joint appointments in the La Follette School of Public Affairs. The strong interdisciplinary emphasis among political science faculty and across the university as a whole provide an array of exciting speakers on a wide range of topics to enrich the intellectual environment on campus.

The university provides impressive library and computer facilities. Memorial Library houses one of the largest collections in the nation and provides electronic access to thousands of journals and other resources. In addition to its extensive computer facilities, the university has a survey research center and data library. The department maintains its own computer system plus a computer lab and software collection for graduate student use.