Letter from the Chair

Fall 2014


Rochester Political Science takes pride in its youth and its record of achievement. Our PhD program is just five decades old, and it is only since the 1970s that we have routinely supported one of the largest undergraduate majors in the College. Yet we number many prominent public officials, attorneys, and business leaders among our undergraduate alumni, and we number many of the leading political scientists of the early twenty-first century among our graduate (and undergraduate) alumni and faculty. Senior scholars on our faculty include two past presidents of the American Political Science Association, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, three fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, former managing editors of the American Political Science Review, Journal of Theoretical Politics, and Perspectives on Politics, Fulbright fellows, two Guggenheim fellows, two Woodrow Wilson Center fellows, and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. Our faculty also includes a large number of the discipline's emerging young stars, scholars and teachers engaged in innovative and award-winning work.

We first made our mark as a department in formal theory, statistical methods, and the study of Congress. We continue our commitment to those fields alongside vigorous new initiatives in comparative politics, international relations, normative theory, and a broad range of subjects in American politics, including race and ethnic politics. The department is diverse in its interests and approaches, but distinctively single-minded in its commitment to a vision of political science that requires systematic testing, analysis, and theory.

One of the rare and laudable traditions of this department is that we are constantly conscious of the relationship between teaching and scholarly research. William Riker, who established the graduate program at Rochester in the early 1960s, always held that scholarship consists in the production and dissemination of knowledge, and that publication and teaching ought to fit almost seamlessly together in that process. Thus the department faculty includes two winners of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award, given for the year's best book in political science, as well as recipients of the College's and University's highest awards for teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Today we remain as committed as ever to the principle that world-class teaching and research are complementary. New research enriches and energizes our teaching, and good teaching forces us to explain clearly what we think we know, to apply theory, and to generalize convincingly from facts--an often humbling experience if not taken seriously.

The department now supports two undergraduate fields of concentration, one in political science and the other in international relations. With the full support of the College and University's leaders, we are in the midst of an initiative to expand the size of the department faculty, as we continue to nurture and build on the distinctive spirit of learning and teaching that has long been the Rochester hallmark.

We invite you to explore our department, on the web or in person. Please feel free to contact me or any of my colleagues with any questions.

Gretchen Helmke
Associate Professor and Chair