Welcome to the Politics Department

Our goal is to get students to think critically, to understand all sides of issues, to be aware of their own positions and world views, and to recognize the nature and content of political competition.

The Politics Department at Ithaca College challenges students to grapple with complex issues through questions such as:

  • Are political parties still relevant?
  • Why do wars happen? Is there anything that can be done to prevent them?
  • What does it mean to be "conservative" or "liberal?"
  • Is "gangsta rap" political?
  • Is world peace possible?
  • How will the rise of artificial intelligence affect the international order?
  • Should the United States have pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement?
  • Why did Russia invade Ukraine?
  • Is the "right to a home" a fundamental human right?
  • What does it mean to be a "citizen" in the 21st century?
  • Why is there so much poverty in developing countries?
  • What does it mean to be a woman or a man?
  • Why do democracy and capitalism take different forms in different countries?
  • What political lessons can Americans learn from Nigerian films?
  • Why do terrorists use violence?
  • Did US foreign policy help cause political conflict at home?
  • What impact has the COVID pandemic had on the international order?
  • Is the United States an expanding "empire?" Is that good or bad?

Politics major Sebastian Chavez talks about his experiences as a student in the Department of Politics


Courses cover topics such as the role of law in society; the dynamics of politics in the United States, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe; the intersection of music and politics; the role of global migration in politics around the world; the causes and consequences of ethnic and religious conflict; the effect of race, gender, and class on our perceptions of the world.

Most politics classes are small and discussion-based. Students have the chance to share their ideas and debate them with their classmates and professors. Written assignments tend to be essays and papers in which students integrate what they've read and discussed in class with their own thinking.

Global Focus

Politics doesn't happen only in the United States, and it doesn't happen only within countries. It's a transnational, global process. Our curriculum reflects this fact, with a commitment that is reflected in our requirement that majors gain a basic proficiency in a foreign language. Our courses on the United States also incorporate a global focus.

Cross-Campus Connections

Our faculty make crucial contributions to many interdisciplinary programs on campus, including environmental studies, legal studies, women's studies, culture and communication, and first-year Ithaca Seminars. These programs involve not only politics majors but students from many different disciplines and programs. This kind of interdisciplinary experience is part of what makes our classes exciting and challenging.

Faculty Research

Faculty research interests currently range from memory in South Africa to the homeless in U.S. cities; from democracy assistance in the Balkans to the role of unions in U.S. political party strategies; from the connection between militarism and gender to the effects of the "war on terror" on upstate New York; from the role of Native Americans in the birth of international relations theory to the role of women in Islam; from the deportation of undocumented workers from New York City to the question of tolerance in liberal democracies. Faculty members have published numerous books and articles and regularly present at major national and international conferences.

Our research contributes in crucial ways to both the topics of the courses we teach and the way we teach them.

Contact the Department of Politics

309 Muller Center

Chip Gagnon, Professor and Chair
Kenesha Chatman, Administrative Assistant