Political Science Newsletter - September 2019

This Month's Headlines:



1. New Options in POLSC Major

Penn State has approved four new options within the Behrend Political Science major:

  1. Politics and Government (General Option) - This option allows students to choose their own concentrations of coursework within political science and helps to prepare students for a variety of careers, including government employment, social studies secondary education, activist politics, and graduate school in political science. 
  2. Crime and Law - This option requires coursework in criminology and law and helps to prepare students for careers in law or criminal justice, including students planning on law school. 
  3. International Relations - This option requires coursework in international politics and comparative politics and prepares students for careers with international institutions or in business in other countries, and for graduate school work in international affairs. 
  4. Public Policy - This option requires coursework related to how to make government and policy decisions effectively and prepares students for careers with government offices, businesses, interest groups, or think tanks related to public policy, or in public administration, or for graduate degree programs in public policy or public administration. 

Each option requires completion of 36 credits of PL SC courses and 6 credits of general education courses from other relevant fields. To learn the requirements of the new options, see the Bulletin listing.

Lists of approved courses within each option can be obtained from your academic adviser or from the H&SS School Office, 170 Kochel. Students enrolled in the POLSC major prior to this academic year can continue to meet the former requirements of the major. If any students already enrolled in the POLSC major would like to switch to the new options, speak to your academic adviser. Students are allowed to complete more than one option within the POLSC major if the requirements of each option are met.


2. Enrolling in a Major

Students who are eligible to enroll in a major (usually completion of 30 or more credits, with a GPA of 2.0 or above) are strongly encouraged to do so. Enrollment in the POLSC major provides at least two benefits:

  1. The ability for academic advisers to make needed degree substitutions, including proper placement of transfer credits on degree audits
  2. Eligibility to be invited to certain events or apply for certain awards for which only POLSC majors are eligible


3. Spring 2020 Courses

Here is a list of Political Science and Sociology courses that will be offered at Penn State Behrend in Spring 2020.

All Behrend political science majors must take PL SC 001, PL SC 003, PL SC 014, and PL SC 007 or 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. Other POLSC requirements vary based on enrollment in the old or new versions of the major and on choice of options.

Note that PL SC 480 meets the University's Writing Across the Curriculum (W) requirement of all degrees.

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

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.
Sociology minors must take SOC 001 and 15 other credits in SOC, including at least 6 credits at the 400-level.

Requirements for the Crime, Law, and Psychology minor can be found on the Behrend website.

Spring 2020 Courses

  • PL SC 001 - American Politics (GS, US)
  • PL SC 002 - American Public Policy 
  • PL SC 003 - Comparing Politics around the Globe (GS, IL)
  • PL SC 007N - Contemporary Political Ideologies (GS/GH)
  • 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)
  • PL SC 132 - Politics of International Intolerance (GS, IL, Other Cultures)
  • PL SC 155 - Understanding Tyranny 
  • PL SC 433 - Political Foundations of the Early American Republic
  • PL SC 473 - American Judicial Behavior
  • PL SC 480 - Congress and the Presidency (W)
  • PL SC 487 - International Law and Organizations 
  • SOC 001 - Introductory Sociology (GS)
  • SOC 005 - Social Problems (GS)
  • SOC 451 - Health, Disease, and Society (GS)
  • AFR 110N - Introduction to Contemporary Africa (GS/GH,Other Cultures, counts toward POLSC major)
  • GLIS 102N - Global Pathways (GS/GH, Other Cultures, counts toward POLSC major)


4. Faculty Award Winners

In April 2019, two Penn State Behrend political science faculty members were recognized with awards from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Robert Speel, associate professor of political science, received the Distinguished Award for Excellence in Research, while Lena Surzhko-Harned, assistant teaching professor of political science, received the Distinguished Award for Excellence in Outreach.


5. Career Paths of POLSC Alumni

Every few years, the Political Science program at Penn State Behrend researches the career paths of our alumni. This semester, we will provide some of the results of our September 2019 study in each monthly newsletter.

There are 466 living POLSC alumni since the first major graduated in 1977.

We were able to determine the current jobs of 378 (81%) of those alumni.*

Of those 378 alumni, the most common career paths are:

  • Business professionals (n=116, 31%)
  • Government service (n=76, 20%)
  • Law (n=74, 20%)
  • Education (n=52, 14%)
  • Politics and policy (n=15, 4%)
  • Other (n=66, 17%)

Note that numbers add up to over 100% because 20 alumni were counted in two categories, mostly government attorneys in both the law and government service fields.
*A few older alumni have retired; they are counted in the fields of their most recent jobs.


Among the 74 alumni who work in the legal field are:

  • 39 attorneys who work for or own small or large law firms
  • 16 government attorneys
  • 9 attorneys who work for private businesses or non-profit groups
  • 5 paralegals or legal assistants
  • 2 mediators
  • 2 who just completed law school
  • 1 law librarian

Some government attorneys work for:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • New York City Administration for Children’s Services
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • Warren County (PA) District Attorney’s office 
  • Indiana County (PA) District Attorney’s office
  • Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Prosecutor's Office
  • Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Michigan Bureau of Elections
  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission

Some of the corporate and non-profit counsels work for:

  • The Nature Conservancy
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • Liberty Mutual
  • KidsVoice
  • Thomson Reuters

Among the law schools attended by our alumni since 2000 are:

Cornell University, Syracuse University, New York University, Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh, The George Washington University, University of Maryland, University of Illinois, Case Western Reserve University, Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Vermont Law School, University of Michigan, Thomas M Cooley Law School, Ave Maria School of Law, Widener University, Cleveland Marshall College of Law, Penn State School of Law, University of Buffalo, Willamette University, Ohio Northern University, Catholic University of Washington D.C., Boston College

In future months, the newsletter will include more information about Penn State Behrend political science alumni who work in government service, business professions, education, politics and policy, and other careers.


6. Harborcreek Candidate Forum

On Wednesday, October 23, at 6:00 p.m., the Behrend Public Policy Fund will present a Harborcreek Supervisor candidate forum in the McGarvey Commons of the Reed Building. If you live on campus or at University Gates or at Hudson Lofts, you live in Harborcreek and are eligible to vote in local elections in November if you are a U.S. citizen registered at your campus-area address. Come see the candidates who will be on the ballot!


7. "Patient No More" Documentary

"Patient No More" is a microbudget feature documentary about the barriers LGBTQ+ women navigate across health-care systems and how the never-ending hunt for affirming care affects their lives. The documentary will be screened on Wednesday, October 30, at 7:00 p.m. in 117 Reed, followed by a discussion/Q&A with the filmmaker, Diana Fraser. This event is sponsored by the Behrend Public Policy Fund as part of a year-long series of programming about health-care policy.


8. Toronto Study Abroad Course

North American Politics (PL SC 299/499) will again be offered as a Penn State study abroad program in May and June of 2020 and taught by Dr. Robert Speel. The course, which takes place on the Ryerson University campus in downtown Toronto, combines Penn State and Canadian students in one classroom for discussions about the comparative politics of the United States and Canada and on international relations between the two countries. Among the topics to be discussed will be a comparison of the development of separate political cultures, comparisons of government institutions, election systems, federalism, and regionalism, and comparisons of each country's policy approaches toward the economy, health care, gun control, language, free speech, legal marijuana, abortion, medically assisted suicide, and the role of religion in education. Issues important in international relations between the two countries will also be discussed - this includes trade, border security, prevention of terrorism, and control of the Arctic. Class excursions will visit the Ontario Parliament Buildings and Fort York, site of an important battle in the War of 1812. More details about next year's course, including dates and costs, will be announced in future newsletters.


9. European Union Study Abroad Course 

In May 2019, political science and international business students from Penn State Behrend traveled to London, England, and Kyiv, Ukraine, as part of a PL SC 499 course on the European Union. The course was led by Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned in political science and Chris Harben from the Black School of Business. The students met with members of the U.K. Parliament in London, including Lord David Hunt of the House of Lords and the Honorable Luke Graham and Honorable Nick Boles, who are members of the House of Commons. They also attended a panel discussion on Brexit at the London Business School and met with representatives from several U.K. businesses and financial firms.

In Kyiv, the students heard six lectures by Kyiv School of Economics faculty members about issues related to Ukraine’s integration into the European Union, as well as the country’s economic, political, and social development since the fall of communism in 1991. The students visited Ukraine’s parliament as well as the offices of the World Bank and International Financial Corporation. They also attended a roundtable with a member of the European Union delegation in Ukraine and arrived in Kyiv in time to witness the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Photos of the visit, including an excursion to the Chernobyl area, can be found on the Behrend Political Science Facebook page.

This course will tentatively be taught again in May 2021. A more business-oriented version of the course that will visit London and possibly Brussels is being planned for 2020.


10. Faculty in the News

  • Dr. John Gamble, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Law, presented a paper titled "The SDGs: Laudable, but Extremely Difficult to Explain, Measure and Implement." at an Academic Council on the United Nations System Conference on "The UN and Africa: Progress Towards Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals" at Stellenbosch University in South Africa in June 2019.
  • Dr. Zachary Irwin, associate professor emeritus of political science, is publishing two book chapters this semester: "Macedonia since 1989" in Central and Southeastern European Politics since 1989, edited by Sabrina P. Ramet, Cambridge University Press, December 2019; and "The Macedonian Orthodox Church in the New Millennium" in Orthodox Churches and Politics in Southeastern Europe, Edited by Sabrina P. Ramet and Chris Hassenstab, (Palgrave Studies in Religion, Politics and Policy), Palgrave Macmillan September 2019.
  • Dr. Kilic Kanat, associate professor of political science, is on sabbatical during this academic year. During the summer, as part of his continuing work with the Turkish SETA Foundation think tank in Washington, D.C., he gave presentations about Turkish foreign policy in Turkey, Spain, Colombia, and Japan.
  • Dr. Jacob Lewis, assistant teaching professor of political science, is the newest member of our faculty and is replacing Dr. Kanat this year during his sabbatical. Dr. Lewis received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland earlier this year with the dissertation topic of "Structures of Corruption and Contention: How Graft Shapes Conflict in Africa." We welcome him to the Penn State Behrend campus.
  • Dr. Molly Monahan Lang, assistant teaching professor of sociology, co-presented a talk with Rev. Charles Brock in August at the Jefferson Educational Society in Erie on the topic "Mary Magdalene: The Battle Over a Woman's Place in History."
  • Dr. Robert Speel, associate professor of political science, has been interviewed for many different articles appearing in the Sunbury Daily Item over the past few months, most recently about the Trump impeachment inquiry. In late April, he published an article for The GlobePost comparing current impeachment efforts to those involving Presidents Nixon and Clinton.
  • Dr. Lena Surzhko-Harned, assistant teaching professor of political science, presented original research, co-authored with her long time colleague Dr. Ekaterina Turkina from HEC Montreal, on "The (UN)civil Society: Communication Networks of the Far-right Actors in Europe” at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, Columbia University, New York, NY, on May 4, 2019. On July 16, she joined Dr Chris Harben at the Jefferson Educational Society in Erie for a talk titled “Brexit: is it worth it?” Together with Dr. Sarah Whitney, assistant teaching professor of English and women's studies, Dr. Surzhko-Harned received a grant from Penn State to develop a unique database of the materials related to the study of Image-Based Abuse, as part of the larger work carried out by the International Partnership for the Study of Image-Based Abuse between Penn State Behrend and Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. Visitors will be able to view comparative international histories, first-person survivor accounts, instructions for take-down notices, policy recommendations, legal documents, research documents, and more. The digital archive will be a unique source for IBA research housed in a major university in the U.S. and internationally. During the summer, Dr. Surzhko-Harned also taught a course “When Zombies Attack” in College for Kids at Behrend. Local children were introduced to the basics of international law and the work of the UN, though hands-on deliberations of a fictional zombie apocalypse. 


11. Student Group News

  • The Behrend Political Society will be hosting a debate about vaping and e-cigarettes on Tuesday, October 8, at 7:00 p.m., in 112 Reed. The group meets on alternating Thursday evenings in a Kochel classroom. To get involved, contact President Rachel Mills at [email protected]
  • Model United Nations meets Mondays at 7:00 p.m., in 112 Reed. They will be hosting a scrimmage against other universities on October 26. To get involved, contact President Carlos Mora at [email protected].
  • College Democrats meets Tuesdays at 6:00 p.m., in 113 Reed. County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper is scheduled to visit the meeting on October 22. Some members will be attending a Meet and Greet with U.S. Senator Bob Casey on Monday, September 30, from 5:00-7:00 p.m., at La Nuova Aurora Society, 1518 Walnut Street, in Erie. All are invited to join College Democrats at the event with Senator Casey. To get involved, contact President Tiffany Zinn at [email protected].
  • College Republicans usually meets on Wednesday evenings. To get involved, contact President Andrew Griglio at [email protected].


12. GRE Sessions

Anyone interested in learning more about the graduate school exams (GRE and GMAT) is invited to attend one of the information sessions listed below. These sessions are free and will be held in 208 Lilley Library.

  • Thursday, October 10, from 12:00–1:-00
  • Wednesday, November 13, from 1:00–2:00

You'll receive guidance on the types of quantitative, verbal, and essay questions on the exams, and also be shown where to access free online test prep resources. No preregistration is required. Please call the Learning Resource Center at 898-6140 with questions or visit the LRC website.


13. Facebook Page

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.