Department of Political Science

The Department of Political Science offers a full undergraduate curriculum in political science; provides graduate education and research training at the highest level of excellence; maintains an environment in which faculty and advanced students can carry out original research on political behavior, processes, institutions, and policies; and contributes to the capacity of governmental and private organizations at the local, national, or international level to deal effectively and humanely with important political issues. The department's mission is to create a community of men and women—senior and junior scholars, students, and staff—that is rich and diverse in terms of gender, race, and national origin, all pursuing or supporting relevant and groundbreaking research and excellence in teaching.

The key to success lies in recruiting, nurturing, and retaining an outstanding faculty, devoted to both research and teaching. In this regard, the department is flourishing: over the past several years, we have successfully recruited a number of new faculty, two of whom will join us in July 2003. We are very excited about these hires and about the department's prospects of additional junior and senior faculty hires in the coming year. (See more detail under Personnel Activity.)

Significant Events

Leon and Anne Goldberg professor of humanities Joshua Cohen was reappointed the department head for an additional two year term by Dean Philip Khoury. Professor Stephen Ansolabehere was appointed associate head. He will be assisting Professor Cohen in implementing the redesign of the graduate program and in fundraising.

The Political Science Visiting Committee was on campus in March. The series of meetings it conducted with departmental faculty, students, and the senior administration went very well. The Visiting Committee was very supportive of the directions in which the department is headed and is committed to making its needs known to senior administration.

Many members of the department's faculty participated in a number of MIT–wide fora during the year on the initially impending—and then actual—war with Iraq and the ongoing war against international terrorism.

Educational Initiatives

The department is helping MIT take the lead nationally in enhancing the education of technologically sophisticated undergraduates by exposing them to the practical world of politics and policymaking, while maintaining a high degree of academic rigor. The Washington Internship Program, which allows MIT's technically oriented students to experience how institutions vital to their later success operate, also gives the federal government and other policy makers early access to the best young scientists and engineers in America. The program continues to expand, and in the summer of 2002, 18 undergraduates participated, the largest number in the program's history. We were able to expand participation because several years ago an MIT alumnus, Dana Mead, pledged a sizeable endowment to the program.

Professor Ansolabehere is director of the Senior Congressional Staff Seminar, which educates congressional staff in changes in fields of science and technology and their long-term implications for public policy in the United States and internationally.

Raphael Dorman and Helen Starbuck professor Suzanne Berger is planning for a MISTI–OCW collaboration to bring teams of MIT students to sites in South Africa, China, and Mexico to assist local faculty in adapting OCW (OpenCourseWare) materials.

Professor Nazli Choucri is in the midst of establishing an MIT-Malaysia Program, with a course on sustainable development. This would be a core course in the graduate education program of the Malaysian University for Science and Technology. She also continues to develop the Global System for Sustainable Development, an internet-based set of experiments in international, distributed, multilingual, and multicultural knowledge development, sharing, and networking.

Associate professor Kenneth Oye has established the Center for International Studies (CIS) Political Economy and Technology Policy Program, which uses theories and analytic methods from the political economy discipline to examine problems in science and technology policy.

Assistant professor Jonathan Rodden is working with the OCW Initiative on web pages for his undergraduate courses.

Professor Harvey Sapolsky helped organize an MIT Professional Institute course on Biowarfare/Bioterrorism to be offered in July 2003.

Professor James Snyder, jointly with Harvard University, continues to offer and oversee the biweekly seminar on positive political economy.

Professor and Associate Dean Charles Stewart III is continuing to participate in the Residence-Based Advising Pilot Project at McCormick Hall as the housemaster.

New Subjects

This year the department offered a number of new undergraduate and graduate courses. Professor Cohen cotaught a Harvard/MIT political philosophy seminar and will also offer this course in AY2004. Professor Sapolsky taught 17.466 Organizational Theory and Military Politics, which previously had been jointly offered with Harvard (Steven Rosen). Associate professor Edward Steinfeld offered a number of new courses on OCW: 17.544 Comparative Politics and China; 17.547 Government and Politics of China; 17.551 Political Economy of Chinese Reform; and 17.556 Political Economy of Development. All should be available on the OCW web site in the fall of 2003.

Graduate Program Changes

In the spring of 2001, the faculty decided to reevaluate the Political Science graduate program. Over the course of academic year 2002, the faculty's Graduate Program Committee, chaired by Professor Thomas Christensen, met to discuss improvements to the program. Its recommendations were presented to the faculty and students and were approved by the faculty in June 2002. Further discussions took place during the 2002–2003 year and resulted in some fine-tuning of the proposal. These recommendations include a yearlong seminar—required of all first-year students—that will explore core issues in the principal subfields of the discipline; a second-year seminar in which students will be required to write and present a paper of publishable quality of approximately 10,000 to 12,000 words; and a shift from two general exams to one, while adding the requirement that students take at least four courses in a second field with minimal overlap with the general field. These changes will be implemented in the fall of 2004. The hope is that they will produce both greater intellectual integration and quicker transitions from preliminary requirements to thesis work.

Student Recruitment, Placement, and Enrollment

The department had a relatively poor year at graduate recruitment. It received and reviewed 272 applications for the PhD program and accepted 29 applicants. The enrolling class is 7 students (two additional students postponed their enrollment until fall 2004). This year, as in the previous two years, we had a much more diverse group of students, including a large group of strong applicants in American politics, as well as a strong group in comparative politics. In the case of comparative politics, we made a decision several years ago to build from below in this field, and we now have a large group of excellent junior faculty. The fact that the group is so heavily junior limits graduate student recruitment, and this year's admissions yield is a testament to that. But as reputations grow and positions consolidate, as we know they will, we are confident that these results will change.

Our graduating doctoral students continue to find positions at leading research universities and institutions such as Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Princeton University, UCLA, the University of Oregon, and the Naval Postgraduate School.

Undergraduate enrollments have continued to maintain their high levels. Political Science courses experienced a 6 percent increase in enrollment in AY2002 versus AY2001 (from 932 to 985 students) but dipped slightly in AY2003 to 944. However, the long-term trend is decidedly upward. While the number of undergraduate majors has inched upward (35 in the past year, 34 in 2001-2002, and 30 in 2000-2001) and the number of minors has fluctuated greatly (there were 18 minors—Classes of 2003, 2004 and 2005—compared to 31 last year) the number of concentrators has skyrocketed to 109 from 54 last year and 38 two years ago. These numbers confirm that the department continues to be an ever-increasing presence in the life of MIT's undergraduate population, which is exactly what we had hoped and expected.


Faculty Awards and Recognition

Professor Ansolabehere was awarded the Heinz Eulau Award for best paper in the American Political Science Review 2002 (with Professor Snyder). He also served as a member of the Board of Overseers, National Election Study.

Professors Berger and Richard Samuels both received the Dean's Award for Distinguished Service to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) at MIT.

Professor Choucri was elected to the European Academy of Sciences for "her distinguished and unique contributions to modern science and technology."

Professor Christensen was awarded a Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to International and National Affairs by the Secretary's Open Forum, US Department of State.

Associate professor Chappell Lawson was named to the Class of 1954 career development professorship, which has a three-year term.

Professor Richard Locke was named a Bosch Public Policy Fellow by the American Academy of Berlin, Germany.

Professor Stephen Meyer was awarded a National Science Foundation research grant to study environmental politics in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Associate professor Melissa Nobles was awarded a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Fellowship in AY2004. She also is the president-elect of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Her term in office begins in 2005.

Associate professor Oye received the 2002–2003 Faculty Appreciation Award, Technology and Public Policy Program, Engineering Systems Division.

Professor Barry Posen, who was on leave in Europe during the academic year on a 2002 Research Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, testified about defense matters before the Defense Committee of the Danish Parliament and before the Defense Committee of the British House of Commons.

Professor Rodden was awarded a National Science Foundation research grant for assembly of a cross-national, provincial-level political/economic database.

Professor Richard Samuels was chairman of the Japan-US Friendship Commission, an independent federal agency.

Professor Snyder, along with Professor Ansolabehere, received a National Science Foundation research award for their proposal, "Parties, Factions, and Incumbency in State and Federal Elections, 1870–2000." Along with Professors Ansolabehere and Stewart, he received the Jack Walker Award for best paper published in the last two years on political parties from the American Political Science Association.

Professor Stewart, with Professors Ansolabehere and Snyder, was awarded the Jewell-Loehenberg Award for best article to appear in the Legislative Studies Quarterly, Legislative Studies Section, American Political Science Association. He also received a grant from the Boston Foundation to study voting in Massachusetts.

Promotions/Personnel Activity

Compared to the large number of promotion cases in the prior year, this past academic year's faculty promotion agenda was relatively light, although we are pleased to report that Associate Professor Roger Petersen was promoted to associate professor with tenure, and Assistant Professor Jonathan Rodden was promoted to associate professor without tenure.

The department conducted three junior faculty searches in the fall in the following areas: american politics, international/comparative political economy, and political theory. We are pleased to report that we successfully recruited our top choice in two of the three fields. Adam Berinsky was hired, effective July 1, 2003, as an assistant professor in american politics. He comes to MIT from Princeton where he was an assistant professor. His research focuses upon public opinion and political behavior in the United States. Sarah Song also will join the department as an assistant professor in AY2004; she received her PhD from Yale this spring. Her research and teaching interests are in contemporary political theory, with a special interest in theories of justice and equality, group rights, feminist theory, and the history of American political thought.

The department was not successful in its international/comparative political economy search. In AY2004, the department will shift the focus by searching in the IPE/international relations field. In addition, we expect to conduct searches in the fields of American politics/public policy and comparative politics.

Increasing the presence of minorities and women in the department remains a major concern. All three committees formed for the coming year's faculty searches will make special efforts to identify outstanding women and minority candidates.

Faculty Leaves, Departures, Upcoming Searches, and Visitors

Several faculty members were on leave during the academic year. Professor Posen was on leave for the year, in Brussels on a German Marshall Fund grant conducting research on European Security issues. Professor Lawson was awarded a prestigious Hoover Fellowship and was conducting research on Latin American politics while at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Professor Michael Piore was on sabbatical in the spring.

Unfortunately, in AY2003 the department lost two very strong colleagues. Associate professor Brandice Canes-Wrone departed to join the faculty at Northwestern University at the beginning of the academic year, and Professor Christensen left at the end of the year for Princeton. These losses are significant, but the we expect to fill their absences by hiring both junior and perhaps senior faculty in the upcoming faculty searches.

In the coming year, the department will once again be hosting visiting professor Austin Sarat. Sarat is an Amherst College faculty member who was a visiting professor in AY2003, teaching a course in the fall on law, violence, and justice. He will be here for the entire AY2004, and we look forward to his return as he is a wonderful teacher and respected colleague.

Faculty Research and Publications

A summary of the faculty's current publications and research interests and activities, which is by no means comprehensive, includes the following:

The department's faculty continue to give an enormously wide variety of invited lectures, appear at conferences, and to serve on boards of prestigious professional organizations and editorial boards, in addition to serving as advisors for government, private, and international organizations and agencies. We are confident that the number and range of these outside activities will grow and continue to generate further awareness of and respect for the quality of MIT's Department of Political Science.

Joshua Cohen
Department Head
Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities

More information about the Department of Political Science can be found on the web


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