Department of Political Science
The mission of the department is to provide students with both a substantive knowledge of politics and the skills necessary to make use of that knowledge effectively, not only as private citizens participating in a democracy, but also in a wide range of careers. The department has implemented a program of assessment to measure achievement of these objectives. Students in the department are exposed to both the theory and practice of politics. The department’s faculty covers a broad range of substantive specializations, encompassing American politics, comparative politics, constitutional law, international relations, and political theory. Courses in the department also strive to instill in students a number of important skills, including critical thinking, analysis, writing, and the practical application of ideas to real world situations. The combination of substantive knowledge and practical skills instilled by courses in the department provide a solid background to help our students to excel as leaders in a variety of fields, including politics, government service, law, teaching, and business.
Over the past 12 month, the faculty in the Political Science Department taught 52 sections of undergraduate courses, 19 lower level and 33 upper level. Of those 52, 45 sections were taught by full time faculty and 6 by adjunct faculty.
The Department continued its long tradition of supporting multiple programs on campus, offering classes that contributed not only to political science, but also to international studies, Middle Eastern studies, presidential studies, and the Donaghey Scholars Program.
Department faculty continued their emphasis on excellence in the classroom. This included a commitment to continuing pedagogical training, with multiple faculty members regularly attending events sponsored by the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence and one (Dr. Rebecca Glazier) presenting her pedagogical research at an ATLE event. Dr. Greg Shufeldt revamped our internship program, regularizing and institutionalizing more contact between the faculty member and internship supervisors and bringing in a number of guest speakers to talk to the course. Dr. Daryl Rice, who returned to the classroom after a number of years in administration in the fall, introduced a strong current events component into his Intro to Political Science course, with support from the Provost’s Office allowing the department to purchase newspaper subscriptions for every student in his two sections of the course.
This was a productive research year for faculty in the Department. Faculty members had four articles published in refereed journal articles. Dr. Glazier had articles published in Politics and Religion, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, and Religion and Politics in the United States, and Dr. Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm had an article published in the International Journal of Human Rights. Dr. Glazier, Dr. Margaret Scranton, and Dr. Wiebelhaus-Brahm each also had a chapter published in an edited volume.
Three faculty members in the Department had articles accepted for publication in refereed journals. Dr. Glazier has a forthcoming article in the Journal of Political Science Education, Dr. Shufeldt has forthcoming articles in the Labor Studies Journal and Social Indicators Research, and Dr. Wiebelhaus-Brahm has a forthcoming article in Transitional Justice Review.
Faculty members were also very active participants at professional conferences. The six full-time faculty members in the Department attended a combined 11 state, national, and international conferences.
Two members of the Department received College of Social Science and Communication Research and Creative Activities Grants. Dr. Glazier received a grant from the Alma Ostrom and Leah Hopkins Awan Civic Education Fund of the American Political Science Association’s Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs for her work on religion and politics.
In addition to work at the department level, faculty members made strong contributions to service at the College, University, and community levels.
Each member of the faculty served on at least one College level committee, including the Undergraduate and Graduate Curriculum Committees, the Scholarship and Creative Activities Committee, the Awards Committee, the Policy Advisory Committee, and the Assessment Committee.
At the University level, two members of the Department, Dr. Joe Giammo and Dr. Scranton, continued their service on the Faculty Senate. Dr. Giammo was a member of the Provost’s Assessment Pilot Group. Dr. Rice served on the Registrar Search Committee, and Dr. Scranton served on the Finance and Planning Committee. Dr. Giammo also served on the committee looking at the learning objectives for the U.S. traditions portion of the core, while Dr. Wiebelhaus-Brahm served on the committee looking at the learning objectives for the social sciences portion of the core. Dr. Glazier served on the Workload Taskforce. Additionally, Dr. Giammo, Dr. Glazier, and Dr. Wiebelhaus-Brahm all served on the Middle Eastern Studies Committee. Members of the Department also contributed to committees overseeing the creation or revision of two interdisciplinary programs, with Dr. Rice and Dr. Wiebelhaus-Brahm serving on the committee creating the new Legal Studies Second Major and Dr. Giammo serving on the committee revising the Graduate Certificate in Conflict Mediation.
At the community level, members of the department did dozens of interviews with local, national, and international news organizations about a number of different political issues. Dr. Giammo and Dr. Shufeldt collaborated with Cheryl Hellman from the School of Mass Communication in creating a monthly program entitled Understanding Politics for University Television. Faculty members also worked on events and projects with a number of community organizations, including the Clinton School of Public Service, the Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, among others.
The Department awarded 12 bachelor’s degrees during the past year, with at least four of those students pursuing graduate degrees - two in the UALR MPA Program, one in the ASU MPA Program, and one at the Bowen School of Law.
The Department engaged in efforts in a number of areas to promote various aspects of student success, including financial support of students, engagement in high impact activities, recruitment activities, and retention efforts.
Financial Support of Students:
The Department awarded $13,000 in scholarships to four students for the 2015-2016 academic year, including our first scholarship awarded to an incoming student.
The Department awarded an International Studies travel grant of $500 to one student.
High Impact Activities:
The Department placed 17 students in internships and took 13 students who enrolled in our Model Arab League Travel Course to conferences in Houston and Washington, D.C.
The Department co-sponsored the College of Social Sciences and Communication Student Research and Creative Works Symposium and two political science majors presented research at the event.
The Model Arab League Club, under the leadership of Dr. Glazier, hosted a Model Arab League high school conference, bringing a record number of high school students to campus.
Dr. Scranton taught at Governor’s School over the summer, where she had an opportunity to work closely with high performing students from across the state.
Dr. Giammo followed up with students who visited the Department’s table during Discover UALR and contacted newly admitted students who had expressed an interest in either political science or international studies.
In an effort to improve student performance, every faculty member agreed to use a strict attendance policy in their classes and to work with Rachel Jones in the Link to reach out to students who were not regularly attending class during the first two weeks of the semester. Dr. Glazier continued her experiment with rapport building activities in her online courses, which had a positive impact on student performance. She is currently working to expand this experiment to include faculty members from a broad range of disciplines, whom she will train on the specific techniques that she used.
The Department participated in the Provost’s program assessment pilot group, and as part of that effort created a new assessment plan for the political science major. This involved creating new student learning objectives, mapping them to the curriculum, and coming up with a plan to collect instruments to test student learning on them. The biggest challenge for the department was the lack of sequencing in our courses. While some programs have a mandatory progression of courses that all of their students must follow, the nature of the discipline of political science is such that a much more flexible curriculum is both common and necessary. Given that, faculty agreed to tie specific learning outcomes to specific subfields, so that, regardless of which course in American politics or international politics a student takes, he or she will be exposed to a course with an emphasis on a specific outcome. In that way, any student who completes all of his or her classes at UALR and majors in political science will have taken courses linked to each of the program’s learning objectives.
For the international studies major, the Assessment Committee reviewed senior projects in order to evaluate student learning this year, but based on previous assessment findings and faculty experiences with international studies majors, began moving toward a different system for the long term. Dr. Giammo, Dr. Brahm, and Dr. Glazier joined an interdisciplinary group of faculty from anthropology, business, history, speech communication, and world languages to discuss revamping the major and eliminating the senior project as a requirement for all students. While it is extremely useful for students preparing to pursue graduate education, it has become a stumbling block for students who do not want to continue with their education beyond the BA level. The group has developed a preliminary plan for revamping the curriculum and will submit those proposed changes for approval in the fall. This will require revising the international studies assessment plan in a way that will likely mirror the new plan for political science.
VI. Priorities for Next Year
The faculty and staff from the Department have four main priorities for the upcoming academic year:
The Department will cease to exist as a separate entity on July 1, 2016, merging with the Institute of Government to form the UALR School of Public Affairs. Faculty and staff have already worked extensively to help plan the new school and will continue to work to implement those plans. The major goal will be to ensure that this merger facilitates cooperation across all of the constituent units in ways that will help all of them to grow and better serve students and the community.
Second, we will continue to work to improve student retention. This will be the second year of our efforts to work closely with Rachel Jones in the Link to reach out to struggling students and the second year of a department-wide commitment to requiring attendance in class. We believe that these efforts will boost overall retention in the long run.
Third, we will continue to build on its recruitment efforts. This will involve close coordination with the Recruitment and Student Outreach Specialist in the CSSC, as well as greater efforts to increase our outreach to local high schools.
Finally, we want to build on our efforts to improve our relationships with alumni, increasing our contact with them through various media and inviting them to participate in events that will bring them in contact with our students. This past year, we launched an “Alumni Spotlight” page on our website, and the plan is to broaden this to include alumni from all programs in the school. The School will also work to put together an alumni board to help with fundraising and provide an outside perspective on program and School efforts.
VII. Appendix: Fast Facts
Enrollment (fall census, 1st major headcount and SSCHs)
Fall 2015 Enrollment:
Personnel (number per category, tenure and promotion, etc.)
Current rank of full time faculty:
Professor s – 2 (Daryl Rice and Margaret Scranton)
Associate Professors – 2 (Joseph Giammo and Rebecca Glazier)
Assistant Professors – 2 (Greg Shufeldt and Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm)