Political Science Newsletter - October 2018




The political science program is organizing a student trip to Washington, D.C., over Spring Break 2019 (March 2–10). The trip is a required portion of the course PL SC 177N (GS/GH). The class is taught by Dr. Robert Speel, Associate Professor of Political Science. Dr. Molly Monahan Lang, Assistant Teaching Professor of Sociology, is also accompanying the group for the trip.

The exact itinerary will not be determined until February 2019, but on past such trips, the group has met with all of our local members of Congress, with officials at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organization of American States, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the embassies of Australia, Romania, Botswana, India, Ireland, Canada, Jamaica, Estonia. Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia, and Indonesia. We have toured the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the C-SPAN studios. We have participated in seminars held in the Supreme Court chambers, Ford's Theatre, and the Federal Reserve Board room. Among the highlights of the trip will be meetings or tours with Penn State Behrend alumni who work on Capitol Hill, for federal government agencies, as policy analysts, or as political consultants in Washington.

We always visit Arlington National Cemetery and all the most famous monuments and memorials. Free time is provided to visit museums such as the Newseum, the International Spy Museum, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the various Smithsonian Museums, as well as the National Zoo. Students also have attended major sports and entertainment events in Washington, D.C., during the evening. Students should be aware that most of the places we visit during the week are only available to student groups in Washington and not to individual tourists. Some of the places we visit may provide the only opportunity some will have in their lives to tour certain government buildings or meet with certain officials in Washington.

The trip is associated with the political science course POLSC 177N (GS/GH), and students will be required to sign up for either a 3-credit or 1-credit version of the course in order to take the trip. The 3-credit version of the course will involve class meetings on campus before and after the trip. In addition, the 3-credit version of the class will involve assigned readings, quizzes, some research, and short papers appropriate for a 3-credit course.

The 1-credit version of the course will include participation in the trip and a 10-page paper to be written after the trip. It is intended for students who would like to participate in the trip to Washington, but who don't necessarily need a 3-credit political science course.

In Washington our group will stay at the Virginian Suites hotel. The hotel is located in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, and is a brief walk from a Washington Metro (subway) stop. Each room in the hotel contains two queen-sized beds, a pull-out sofa bed, a full kitchen, television, furniture, private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, and closet space. A chartered bus will transport students between campus and Washington.

The cost for the trip, per student, for eight nights stay in the hotel and the bus transportation to Washington, will be $590 for students who stay three to a room (by utilizing the sofa-bed). Students who stay two to a room will need to pay more. The low cost of the week in Washington is thanks to financial support from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Endowment Fund and from the Office of the Penn State Behrend Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. In addition, Barbara Welton and Ron Ridgley, Penn State Behrend political science alumni, have donated funds to cover some costs.

Penn State Student Engagement Grants also may be able to cover some or all of the $590 expense. See news item #4 in this newsletter.

Brochures with a full explanation of the trip are available at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences office (170 Kochel). To register for the trip and course, students must submit a non-refundable deposit in the form of cash, check, money order, or credit card in the amount of $200 to Penn State University, along with a completed course registration form, course fee form, emergency contact form, and background information form, to Jackie May in the School of H&SS Office, 170 Kochel, by November 29, 2018. The forms are available from Dr. Speel or the H&SS School Office.

The $200 will serve as a non-refundable deposit to reserve a space on the trip. The remaining cost of the trip will be due to Jackie May by January 28, 2019.

For more information about the trip and course, pick up a copy of the brochure, or visit the website.



Here is a list of Political Science and Sociology courses that will be offered at Penn State Behrend in Spring 2019.

Spring 2019 Courses

  • PL SC 001 - American Politics: Principles, Processes, and Powers (GS, US)
  • PL SC 003 - Comparing Politics around the Globe (GS, IL)
  • PL SC 014 - International Relations (GS, IL)
  • PL SC 017N - Introduction to Political Theory (GS/GH)
  • PL SC 111 - Debating the Purpose of Government (GH, Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 123 - Ethnic and Racial Politics (GS, US, IL, American, Comparative)
  • PL SC 155 - Understanding Tyranny (Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 177N - Politics and Government in Washington, D.C. (GS/GH, US, American, International)
  • PL SC 178 - Organized Crime, Law, and Politics (Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 428 - Gender and Politics (US, IL, Theory and Practice)
  • PL SC 442 - American Foreign Policy (American, International)
  • POLSC 484W - Foreign Policy of Soviet Successor States (W, International)
  • PL SC 489 - Public Administration (Theory and Practice)
  • SOC 001 - Introductory Sociology (GS)
  • SOC 030 - Sociology of the Family (GS)
  • SOC 406 - Sociology of Deviance



PL SC 123 - Ethnic and Racial Politics:
The role of race, ethnicity, and religion in American politics, with comparisons and case studies of other countries around the world. Topics will include the census, sports mascots, assimilation, language, religious autonomy, Switzerland, Bosnia and Kosovo, immigration, Native American sovereignty and land rights, and the Confederate flag.

PL SC 155 - Understanding Tyranny: Political Science 155 is in part looking for the roots of totalitarian government in philosophies themselves. Karl Popper famously attributed totalitarian impulses to Plato’s Republic, and Machiavelli’s name is a natural modern author for such consideration. A text focused on 20th century forms of totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt’s, will also be considered. A modest use of film will supplement the reading materials.

PL SC 177 - Politics and Government in Washington, D.C.: This course will involve a required Spring Break trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress, diplomats, executive branch officials, interest group leaders, and campaign consultants and to tour government buildings. Campus discussion topics will include politics in the national capital, the architecture and urban planning of Washington, D.C., scandal sites, and Washington social history.

PL SC 178 - Organized Crime, Law, and Politics: Have you ever wondered which "mob" movies and television shows provided an accurate portrayal of organized crime? Do you know what U.S. officials consider the most serious present threat to the security of our borders? When and why was the Drug Enforcement Administration (D.E.A.) created? The answers to these and many other interesting questions will be discussed in PL SC 178. Students will learn about the serious threat that organized crime has presented to the United States and other countries for the past 100 years, and the ongoing threat it poses in the 21st Century.

PL SC 428 - Gender and Politics: Talking about gender in politics has had a revival of the kind that makes one really wonder if the critics of The Enlightenment have read an unpublished report somewhere. America seems to be much younger than we thought it was when it comes to gender and politics. This course is designed to help you figure out how to read, write, and speak reasonably about the prospects for autonomy for human beings whether they appear as men, women, both, or neither in the world today.

PL SC 484W - Foreign Policy of Soviet Successor States: Since the collapse of U.S.S.R., Russia has carried the mantle as its primary successor state on the world stage including the UN Security Council. While the 1990s proved to be a decade of uncertainty, since assuming power in 2000, Vladimir Putin has pursued a much more defined and assertive foreign policy. The course examines Russian foreign policy and activity in both “near abroad” – countries of the former U.S.S.R., and “far abroad.” We will examine the broader conceptual dimensions of Russian Foreign Policy, the process of policy making, and its implementation.

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.



The Student Engagement Network is offering grants to students who want to expand their experience beyond the classroom. Individual awards of up to $3,000 are available to cover unpaid internships, research opportunities, travel costs, event fees, supplies and materials, books, software needed for projects and presentations, and more.

This new grant program is ideal for political science students to apply for funding assistance for travel to Washington, D.C., as part of PL SC 177, or for study abroad programs, or for supervised student research, or for travel to research presentations, or for living expenses that may be connected to an internship.

To apply, visit the Penn State Student Engagement Network website.



"Year of the Woman?: A Midterm Election Discussion" will take place on Thursday, November 8, 5:00 p.m., in the Metzgar Center Lobby, with Speakers Megan Winters, Deputy Political Director for Tom Wolf for Governor, and Melanie Brewer, Republican Political Strategist. The event is part of the Penn State Behrend Public Policy Fund Lecture Series.



Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. If you are registered to vote on campus or at an apartment next to campus, the Student Leadership & Involvement Office and the SGA are arranging shuttles from the Reed Building to the local polling place for students who need transportation. Watch for campus news or emails with more details about this.



College Republicans
plan to continue holding "Change My Mind" events outside the Reed Building on Friday afternoons. This weekend, they hosted Congressman Mike Kelly on campus. To get involved with College Republicans, contact President Bailey Rollage at [email protected].

The Behrend Political Society meets Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. in Kochel 041. They are planning upcoming debates. To get involved, contact President Rachel Mills at [email protected].

College Democrats meets Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m. in Kochel 059. Last week, they hosted Democratic Congressional candidate Ron DiNicola on campus. To get involved, contact President Tiffany Zinn at [email protected].

Model United Nations students are getting ready for the Lake Erie International Model UN conference in Huron, Ohio, from November 8–11, 2018. To get involved, contact Faculty Adviser Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned at [email protected].



Dr. Robert Roecklein
, Teaching Professor of English and Political Science, will be presenting a paper titled "Hume and the Last 50 Years of Epistemology," in November at the Northeastern Political Science Association's annual conference in Montreal, Quebec.

Dr. Robert Speel, Associate Professor of Political Science, was interviewed twice by the Erie Times-News in the past month about Donald Trump's visit to Erie and about the Libertarian party congressional candidacy of Ebert Beeman. He also was a guest on a Shaping Opinion podcast titled "Controversial American Elections" that can be found online.

Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned, Assistant Teaching Professor of Political Science, will be on a panel about Catholicism and Capitalism, sponsored by Mercyhurst University's Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics and Society (ELIES), on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. in the Walker Recital Hall.



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