Politics & IR Earns Major Draw

by Morgan Clark '05

During my sophomore year, Professor Donald Crone convinced me to sign up for what sounded to me like the most boring, un-sexy, and unscrupulous major offered at Scripps—politics and international relations (IR). What he said, if I remember correctly, was, “This field directly relates to every issue that you have told me interests you.”

I now admit, he was right. I have become totally captivated by this major that is both exciting and thought provoking. But sexy? I’ll let you decide.

When taking my first three politics classes in the spring of 2003, I was surprised to find that other Scripps students—droves of them—are fascinated by the field as well. I set out to find why this relatively new department is causing such a stir.

Turns out, it may be the additional component of politics to what was traditionally just an IR major. The change happened in 2000, and, in four short years, there has been a staggering jump in students enrolled in the program. The 2003 graduating class boasted 29 politics and IR majors. It was the most popular major that year, up from fifth most popular in 2002.

Why? Politics and IR major Erin Grant ’04 speculates: “I think the surge reflects a growing awareness of political matters, the net effect of events such as 9/11, and the 2000 presidential election.” Professor Crone, who is chair of the department, also credits “the advantages of having a small but active faculty—currently only three dedicated politics professors—who teach courses based on their particular interests and specializations. And, because the College is small, faculty have that added ability to continue discussions with students outside the classroom.”

While Pomona, Pitzer, and Claremont McKenna each have strong comparable departments and offer introductory courses similar to those taught at Scripps, it is the Scripps classes that seem to enroll a sizeable number of cross-campus registrants. Perhaps it’s because the Scripps course offerings are exciting and varied enough to attract majors and nonmajors alike. For example, after taking the popular course “Race in American Politics,” classics major Christa Edwards ’04 realizes that “race is essential in understanding nuances in American politics.” Art history major Mara Sobesky ’04 adds: “Prof. Thomas Kim shows you a perspective that makes you re-evaluate the U.S. history lessons you had in high school.”

But despite the many wonderful aspects of our budding department, it does lack what is generally thought of as a full politics curriculum. Fellow major Abi Blanchette ’04 sums up the problem: “In general, the program is great, but it could really benefit from an established theoretical element with a dedicated faculty member.”

Typically, political theory is one of the five branches of political science offered at liberal arts schools (the others being comparative politics, American politics, international relations, and political economy). With this essential element, students receive a strong foundation in the analytical concepts, philosophical and ideological approaches that are often assumed by other branches. While courses in political theory are available through the other colleges, at Scripps, largely due to budgetary constraints, these courses are limited to offerings from visiting professor Mark Golub. Golub currently teaches “Radical Political Theory,” a course that examines a full range of theory from historical through postmodernism.

Considering domestic and world events in the last decade, there really is no better time to get involved with politics, and I think it is critical that women assert their presence in this traditionally male-dominated field. In pursuing a politics and international relations major, my experiences with the department have been by far my most interesting at Scripps. I enjoy the classes, the faculty, and certainly my fellow majors, and I highly recommend the program to all underclasswomen who are leaning towards a social science.

I only ask them—just so I am guaranteed a seat in class—to please wait until I graduate to enroll.