Political Science Newsletter- February 2016




Here is a tentative list of Political Science and Sociology courses that will be offered at Penn State Behrend in Fall 2016. This list may change before pre-registration begins in March. 

Remember that all Political Science majors must take PL SC 001, PL SC 003, PL SC 014, and PL SC 017, as well as 24 other credits (usually 8 other courses) in PL SC. Of those other 24 credits, at least 12 (4 courses) must be at the 400 level, and at least 3 credits (one course) must be taken in each of the subfield requirements (American Government, Comparative Politics, International Politics, Government in Theory and Practice). Some courses can be used to fulfill either of two subfield requirements, but you cannot use the same course on your degree audit to meet both of those subfield requirements.

If you need help with scheduling or understanding the requirements of the major, please make an appointment to see your advisor.

Politics and Government minors must take PL SC 001, PL SC 003, and 12 other credits (4 courses), including 6 credits at the 400-level.

Fall 2016 Courses

  • PL SC 001 - Introduction to American National Government (GS)
  • PL SC 003 - Introduction to Comparative Politics (GS, IL)
  • PL SC 007 - Contemporary Political Ideologies (GS, Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 014 - International Relations (GS, IL)
  • PL SC 017W - Introduction to Political Theory (GS)
  • PL SC 111 - Debating the Purpose of Government (GH, Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 111H - Debating the Purpose of Government (GH, Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 130 - American Political Campaigns and Elections (GS, US, American)
  • PL SC 132 - The Politics of International Intolerance (GS, IL, Other Cultures, Comparative, International)
  • PL SC 431 - Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Political Theories (Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 439 - The Politics of Terrorism (International)
  • PL SC 472 - The American Legal Process (American, Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 489 - Public Administration (American, Theory and Practice)
  • AFR 110 - Introduction to Contemporary Africa (GS, IL, Other Cultures, Comparative)
  • SOC 005 - Social Problems (GS)
  • SOC 012/CRIMJ 012 - Criminology (GS, Theory and Practice)
  • SOC 030 - Sociology of the Family (GS)
  • SOC 406 - Sociology of Deviance


Here are descriptions of the non-introductory courses listed above:

PL SC 007 (GS) - Contemporary Political Ideologies: All the political -isms in one course. Why leftists think Reagan was a fascist, reactionaries think Obama is a socialist, communists think liberalism is too conservative, why Leninism isn't the real Marxism, why religious fundamentalists think liberalism is godless communism, nationalists think everyone else is just inferior, and multiculturalism wishes it could use the word "science" and make it stick. All are welcome. This course has no prerequisites. PL SC 007 will be taught by Dr. Celise Schneider-Rickrode.

PL SC 111 (GH) Debating the Purpose of Government: This course will involve an integrative look at the mega issues confronting the United States: wars, violence, who runs the country, inequality, poverty, gender, environment, religion, science, and culture wars. These are interrelated issues and involve aspects of politics, economics, engineering, business, law, art, music, literature, philosophy, psychology, sociology, religion, and science. Lecturers will have interdisciplinary experience (academic and worldly). This course has no prerequisites and will be taught by Rev. Charles Brock.

PL SC 130 (GS, US) - American Political Campaigns and Elections: Whether it's Hillary vs The Donald, or Bernie vs Marco or Ted, this course will look at American elections next semester, including discussions of the electoral college, campaign advertising strategies, blue states and red states, alternatives to the current U.S. election system, and why and how the United States sometimes elects people and parties who didn't get the most votes. It is recommended that students have taken PL SC 001 before taking this course. PL SC 130 will be taught by Dr. Robert Speel.

PL SC 132 (GS, IL, Other Cultures) - The Politics of International Intolerance: This course asks a simple question: why people hate other peoples whom they often do not know? More exactly, the course looks at the political expression of racial, religious, and ethnic movements that seek to eliminate certain groups from national life. The course also looks at the debates about “multiculturalism” outside the United States, why do some countries seem to experience organized violence against minorities, while others do not. Finally the course examines the rise of “cosmopolitan” viewpoints that consciously seek a more inclusive idea of social identity. This course has no prerequisites. PL SC 132 will be taught by Dr. Zachary Irwin.

PL SC 431 - Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Political Theories: Come to this class and find out why 1) it's Socrates' fault you have to take gen ed courses, 2) why nobody dresses up like monks at the Medieval Faire, 3) why utopian political orders are so irresistible to try at home, and 4) how one might recognize the signs of dystopia right before he/she gets arrested by the authorities. Togas optional. Prerequisite: PL SC 007 or PL SC 017. PL SC 431 will be taught by Dr. Celise Schneider-Rickrode.

PL SC 439 - The Politics of Terrorism: This upper level course examines the persistence of terrorism as a catalyst and a substitute for other forms of political change. The course places particular emphasis on the origins of recent terrorist activity, its scope and means of expression, and the moral claims of its adherents. While affirming the absolute evil of terrorist violence against victims, the course seeks to ask why many people condone terrorism against governments and innocent citizens. Prerequisite: PL SC 014. This class will be taught by Dr. Kilic Kanat.

PL SC 472 - The American Legal Process: Students will be exposed to our nation's bifurcated court system, including a thorough look at both the Pennsylvania court system as well as our federal court system. This would encompass analysis of the minor judiciary through courts of original jurisdiction, and of course, appellate review. Students will be taught important legal terminology including the meaning of jurisdiction, burdens of proof, stare decisis, etc.. Exploration of our adversarial system will cover areas in both civil and criminal law and important differences between these two areas of law. Civil law subjects of torts and contracts will be explained. By contrast, a study of criminal law and the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments will be undertaken. Understanding the differences between the two areas of law, the differing presumptions, standards of proof, consequences and so on will be imperative. Fundamental Constitutional principles embraced by our founders and carried on today will be studied, including a review of our Bill of Rights. Areas of family law and juvenile delinquency and dependency may also be considered. Students will be expected to leave the course with awareness of differences between civil and criminal law, why our system of justice, although not perfect, works, and to be able to articulate and be familiar with legal terms and concepts associated with our American Legal Process. Prerequisite: PL SC 001. PL SC 472 will be taught by Judge John Trucilla of the Erie County Court of Common Pleas. Judge Trucilla, who has served in his position since 2002, is a former Erie County Assistant District Attorney, and during the 1990s, he served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Department of Justice.

PL SC 489 - Public Administration: This is an ideal course for students who wish to learn more about the management of government agencies or are seeking a career in public service. Some of the administrative decision case studies that may be discussed in the course involve a 50-year coal mine fire in Pennsylvania, the decision to go to war in Iraq, the space shuttle Columbia disaster, and a Philadelphia mayor dropping a bomb in a residential neighborhood. Prerequisite: PL SC 001. PL SC 489 will be taught by Sheila Sterrett. Ms. Sterrett is the Northwest Pennsylvania Regional Manager for U.S. Senator Pat Toomey. She is the former Director of Government Affairs for the Northwest Pennsylvania Manufacturer and Business Association, and is a former legislative assistant for Pennsylvania State Representative Karl Boyes.

AFR 110 (GS, IL, Other Cultures) - Introduction to Contemporary Africa: What distinguishes the continent of Africa from other regions of the world? Although Africa is home to many diverse groups, countries, cultures, and forms of governance, popular perceptions often paint the continent as one in flux, prone to wars, conflict, and dictatorship. Consequently, this course will examine what Africa is and is not. As a course on contemporary Africa our readings and lectures will focus on major events, political processes, struggles for power, and ongoing challenges of African states since independence. The goal of this course is to provide a more comprehensive understanding of political and economic development of Africa as part of the field of Comparative Politics. AFR 110 has no prerequisites. AFR 110 will be taught by Dr. Naaborle Sackeyfio.

SOC 406 - Sociology of Deviance: If you commit an act of deviancy and no one is there to see you commit the act, did you actually commit an act of deviancy? Find out the answer to this question in the Sociology of Deviance class. In this class we will discuss the social construction of deviance and explore the players who have power to define and control deviance. The course will focus on both criminal behaviors (breaking the law!) and non-criminal deviant behaviors (sexting, pornography, UFO believers, tattoo collectors and much more). We will also touch on some of the reasons why people deviate from social norms and why others freak out when others deviate from societal expectations. The course prerequisite is either SOC 012 or SOC 013 or SOC 005. SOC 406 will be taught by Dr. Nicole Shoenberger.


Starting in Fall 2016, SOC 012 GS - Criminology can be used to complete requirements in the Behrend Political Science (POLSC) major in the subfield of Government in Theory and Practice.


Politics and Government minor - All PL SC courses can be used to complete requirements in the Penn State Behrend Politics and Government (POGO) minor

Sociology minor - All SOC courses can be used to complete requirements in the Penn State Sociology minor.

Transnational Perspectives minor - PL SC 003, PL SC 014, and PL SC 132 can meet requirements in this minor.

Civic and Community Engagement minor - PL SC 001, PL SC 003, PL SC 014, SOC 005, and SOC 012 can meet requirements in this minor

Crime, Psychology, and Public Policy Certificate - PL SC 439, PL SC 472, and PL SC 489 can meet requirements for this certificate program. SOC 012 is a required course for the certificate.

Legal Studies Certificate - PL SC 472 meets a requirement for this certificate.

Global Awareness Certificate - PL SC 003 or PL SC 014 are required courses for this certificate.

Trauma Studies Certificate - PL SC 014, PL SC 132, PL SC 439, and SOC 012 can meet requirements for this certificate.

Social Studies Secondary Education - PL SC 001 and PL SC 003 are required courses for our 4+1 teacher certification in social studies agreement with Edinboro University.

For more details about any of these academic programs, visit Academic Programs in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.


On Tuesday, April 19, the Political Science Society will be sponsoring An Evening With Two State Senators at 6 p.m. on the Behrend campus, in a room to be announced. State Senator Sean Wiley (D-Erie area) and State Senator Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pittsburgh area), a Penn State Behrend political science alumnus, will be discussing prominent state issues, including the status at that time of the budget deadlock in Harrisburg. The forum will include plenty of time for audience questions, and all Behrend students, faculty, and staff members are invited to attend. For more information about the Political Science Society, contact President Nicole Malinowski.


On Wednesday, March 23, John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, PA, and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate this year, will be speaking on campus at the invitation of Behrend College Democrats. The event is likely to begin at 7:30 p.m., but more details about the location and time will be announced soon. Fetterman is challenging Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty in the Democratic primary on April 26 to run against Republican Senator Pat Toomey in November. For more information about Behrend College Democrats, contact President Domonic Mathews.


At the National Model African Union conference at Howard University in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, the Behrend Model AU chapter won the Michelle Tooley Outstanding Delegation in Committee Award in recognition of their outstanding performance in representing the country of Madagascar on the Social Matters Committee. For more information about Behrend's Model AU Program, contact Dr. Naaborle Sackeyfio.


Melissa Shirey has been elected as president of the Erie County Bar Association for 2016. Shirey, who was raised in North East, received her bachelor’s degree from Penn State Behrend and her Master’s degree from Gannon University. She is a partner at The Family Law Group and specializes in divorce, child support, and child custody cases. With the Erie County Bar Association (ECBA), Melissa has been closely involved with the Attorneys and Kids Together program (AKT), which supports the educational needs of students living in homeless situations by providing books, backpacks, winter coats, school uniforms, and mentoring from an attorney and his/her family. She chaired the 2015 Wills for Heroes event, which sold out shortly after it was announced, but managed to prepare 53 legal documents over a 4-hour period for military veterans and first responders. Shirey also serves on the Penn State Behrend Political Science Advisory Board and annually sponsors a Law Day table for Behrend students to attend the ECBA speaker and luncheon event at the Bayfront Convention Center.

Tom Lawless, a 1980 Penn State Behrend political science alumnus, was profiled in the newest issue of the Penn State Behrend alumni magazine. Lawless, who played baseball for Behrend and in the Major Leagues for eight seasons, was in the news last October after Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays flipped his bat forward after hitting a home run in the American League playoffs. The event caused many to recall another bat flip made by Lawless after he hit a home run for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1987 World Series, an event that can be seen one minute into this video clip. After retiring as a player, Lawless worked as a coach and manager for several minor league teams in the Houston Astros organization, and was interim manager for the Astros during the final month of the 2014 season.


Dr. John Gamble, distinguished professor of political science and international law, gave a lecture earlier this month at the Jefferson Educational Society in Erie on "Practical Suggestions for Surviving in the (Mis)Information Age," during which he discussed ideas from his recent book, No Bull Information: A Humorous, Practical Guide to Help Americans Adapt to the Information Age.

Dr. Kilic Kanat, assistant professor of political science, continues to publish columns for Daily Sabah, an English-language newspaper in Turkey, most recently one titled "Cessation of Hostilities in Syria."

Dr. Robert Speel, associate professor of political science, was interviewed for an article in the Erie Times-News earlier this month about the impact of the death of Antonin Scalia on an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case involving the Catholic Diocese in Erie and their lawsuit over provisions of the Affordable Care Act.


All students and alumni are invited to like the Penn State Behrend political science Facebook page and get updated news and find out about events.