Teaching

Courses (links to recent syllabus)

This course aims to help you understand major political events of the day by giving you a grounding in the principles, processes and institutions of American government. We will go beyond standard civics lessons to critically evaluate the rationale and implications of our governing principles found in the Constitution. We will also examine the institutions of government, paying special attention to how they make decisions and the factors that influence their decisions. In addition to rules and institutions, we will study how citizens behave in our democracy, how they interact with their government, and what role the media, interest groups and political parties play in that interaction. Along the way we will discuss current events, tying our readings to the issues of the day. We will learn how to find trustworthy sources of information about American government, how to evaluate the quality of information, and how to weed out the facts from the spin. The course should help students be better informed about American politics and better consumers of information.

Law and Courts (POL AMER 2147)

This course will acquaint students with the institutions, processes and actors of the U.S. trial courts, including an examination of political issues related to the civil and criminal justice systems.  During the first few weeks of the semester we will examine the nature of the American judicial system by exploring various sources of law and studying the role of the courts within our constitutional system.  We will then investigate the various actors in the legal system—lawyers, judges, and litigants—with an eye toward explaining their importance within and influence upon the system.  The course then turns toward examining how these components of the legal system operate to settle both criminal and civil conflicts.  Along the way we will tackle many controversial political issues relating to the courts, including tort reform, incarceration’s effects on crime, and the influence of race in the criminal justice system.

Law and Politics (POL AMER 3146)

This course will acquaint students with the institutions and actors of federal and state appellate courts in the U.S., especially the U.S. Supreme Court.  After first examining the nature of the American judicial system by studying the role of the courts within our constitutional system, we will study the intersection of law and politics by exploring in some detail: the selection of federal and state judges; the inner-workings and decision-making of appellate courts, particularly the U.S. Supreme Court; and the capabilities and limitations of courts as policymakers. Throughout the semester, we will look at these issues through multiple theoretical lenses so that students gain a deeper understanding of how political scientists study the courts. 

Constitutional Law (POL AMER 3141)

This purpose of this course is to acquaint students with the powers granted the institutions of the federal government by the U.S. Constitution.  We approach this task by analyzing the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that have sketched the boundaries of those powers.  We will pay considerable attention to the legal, political and environmental influences upon the Court in our effort to understand and explain its decisions.  After a short refresher on the Constitution and an introduction to the Supreme Court, the course examines the powers of each of the three branches of government and the relationships among them.  We then explore the relationship between the federal and state governments, focusing especially upon the power of Congress to regulate commerce.  Finally, we look at the evolution of several legal doctrines regarding the balance between individual freedom and the state’s power to regulate the economy. Along the way we will discuss many of today’s most controversial constitutional issues, including presidential-congressional relations, war powers, and the balance of power between the federal and state governments in issues like health care policy.

Civil Rights and Liberties (POL AMER 3144)

This purpose of this course is to acquaint students with the scope and boundaries of the protections of civil rights and civil liberties under the United States Constitution.  We approach this task by analyzing the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that have, over time, given meaning to the sometimes vague or broad protections guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and the Civil War Amendments.  We will pay considerable attention to the legal, political and environmental influences upon the Court in our effort to understand and explain its decisions.  After a short refresher on the Constitution and Bill of Rights and an introduction to the Supreme Court, the course examines the protections of religion, speech and press under the First Amendment.  We then explore the rights of the accused under the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.  Finally, we cover the 14th and 15th amendments. Along the way, we will discuss many controversies recently before the Supreme Court (or soon to be there).

Analyzing Politics (POL GEN 2010)

This course acquaints students with social scientific approaches to explaining politics and the tools political scientists use. In short, at the end of this course you should understand how political scientists look at the world, what kinds of questions they ask in an effort to explain political events, and how they design research projects to find answers to those questions. The course will equip you with the means and tools to design your own research projects in upper level political science courses. Throughout the semester you will become acquainted with a variety of scholarly sources that will aid your research as you continue your studies. You will learn how to find such sources on your own and how to read them critically. You will learn how to apply these methods and approaches to explain political phenomena that interest you.

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