Government Department

The Department of Government is a community of teachers and students dedicated to the study of politics, defined as the contest for and exercise of power.

At the conclusion of their course of study, majors in government should know (a) the major theoretical arguments about the nature and purpose of political communities, (b) the salient features and the strengths and weaknesses of various political systems and the reasons for those strengths and weaknesses, (c) the principal theoretical frameworks for understanding the causes of international cooperation and conflict, and (d) the basic research methods used by political scientists.

Our graduates will demonstrate the ability (a) to think critically and creatively, (b) to conduct political science research systematically, identifying and evaluating different sources of information and evidence, and (c) to communicate effectively the results of that research.


Chair, Professor Daniel Shea
Professors Guilain Denoeux, Joseph Reisert, Kenneth Rodman, Daniel Shea, and Jennifer Yoder; Associate Professor Lindsay Mayka; Assistant Professors Nicholas Jacobs, Nazli Konya, Carrie LeVan, and Laura Seay; Visiting Assistant Professors Milan Babik, Tizoc Chavez, and Deirdre Martin  

Requirements +

Requirements for the Major in Government

Fulfillment of the government major requires successful completion of 10 courses in government, including Government 111 (or 115), 131, 171, and 281 (approved substitutes for 281 are Psychology 214 and 215, or Sociology 271); at least one introductory comparative course (Government 252, 253, 255, 256, or 259); and a 400-level senior seminar. A writing project meeting the department’s guidelines is also required.

Government majors should complete all of the required 100-level courses by the end of their sophomore year. Note that the only 100-level courses that may be counted for the major are the required introductory courses. Exception: when an Integrated Studies Program course cluster includes two 100-level courses taught by government faculty, the whole Integrated Study can count as one elective course toward the major. Students with a score of 5 on the Advanced Placement examination in U.S. Government and Politics may elect to substitute a 200- or 300-level course in American politics taken at Colby for Government 111. Normally the introductory comparative course should be taken before the end of sophomore year, especially for those students contemplating study abroad. Government 281 should be completed in either the sophomore or junior year. All of the required courses must be taken at Colby, including the 100-level courses, research methods (281), the introductory comparative course (252, 253, 255, 256, or 259), and the 400-level seminar.

Courses transferred from other institutions can count (up to a maximum of two) in the 10-course requirement. For transfer students, the department will count up to five courses from the previous institution with the permission of the department chair, excluding the seminar and writing assignment. Students taking government courses abroad must secure provisional approval for each course prior to leaving; upon return to Colby, brief descriptions of work completed must be submitted to the department for final approval.

To satisfy the departmental writing requirement, students must complete a major analytical research project. The project can be a major paper assigned as part of a course or the product of a freestanding independent study. It must be submitted to and approved by a member of the Government Department faculty.

No government major may take any government course satisfactory/unsatisfactory; only courses in which a grade of C- or better is received may be counted as part of the major. No requirement for the government major may be waived without written permission of the department chair. As of the Class of 2021, independent study projects will not count toward the required 10 courses. Jan Plan independent study shall be limited to two credits, unless an exception has been granted by the department chair.

The Senior Thesis and Honors in Government

For those students who intend to pursue the study of government in more depth, the department offers a senior thesis program that emphasizes substantial independent research under the close guidance of one or two members of the faculty. Students seeking admission to the senior thesis program are expected to seek approval of a sponsor and the department chair before the conclusion of their junior year. Students whose theses are judged worthy of honors by the department faculty will graduate with “Honors in Government.” Further information is available from the department chair and on the department’s website.

Introductory courses at the 100 level, as well as the 200-level comparative politics courses, are normally limited to 40 students, other 200- and 300-level courses to 25 students, and 400-level courses to 16 students.

Internships are encouraged so that students can experience the practical as well as the more theoretical aspects of the field. The department offers two fellowships to support government majors who undertake either an internship or a significant research project.