Courses by semester
Complete Cornell University course descriptions are in the Courses of Study .
Introduction to American Government and Politics
A policy-centered approach to the study of government in the American experience. Considers the American Founding and how it influenced the structure of government; how national institutions operate in shaping law and public policy; who has a voice in American politics and why some are more influential than others; and how existing public policies themselves influence social, economic, and political power. Students will gain an introductory knowledge of the founding principles and structure of American government, political institutions, political processes, political behavior, and public policy.
Introduction to Political Philosophy
This course offers a survey of Western political Philosophy. We will be reading and discussing the spectrum of great canonical theorists that include Plato, Aristotle, Christ, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, J.S. Mill, Burke, Marx, Fanon, Malcolm X and M. L. King. Our approach will be both historical and conceptual, as we explore the nature of justice, freedom and equality—their presence and absence--in the Western Tradition.
Making Sense of World Politics
An introduction to the basic concepts and practice of international politics with an emphasis on learning critical thinking. The course is divided into two parts. In the first half, we will learn about different explanations. In the second half, we will apply these explanations to a set of international events.
Strategic Advocacy: Lobbying and Interest Group Politics in Washington, D.C.
How is public policy really formed in the United States today? Who are the key actors and decision makers who shape the laws and regulations that impact us at the local, state and federal levels of government? Most importantly, how do private individuals (lobbyists, trade associations, media and other influencers) sway how laws, rules and regulations impact our daily lives? The goal of this course is to provide a foundation of how private influence impacts our public policy. Building upon this foundation, students will learn who the key policymakers are in the public sector alongside of those in the private sector who seek to influence them. Students will gain knowledge through academic texts looking at the role of interest group politics in America as well as the Instructor's 30 years of experience working as a public policy practitioner working at the highest levels of government on Capitol Hill and the White House as well as being a former lobbyist and licensed attorney at law.
The United States stands alone among Western, industrialized countries with its persistent, high rates of incarceration, long sentences, and continued use of the death penalty. This "American exceptionalism" -- the turn to mass incarceration -- has been fostered by the use of sharply-delineated categories that define vast numbers of people as outlaws and others as law-abiding. These categories that are based on ideas of personal responsibility and assumptions about race are modified somewhat by a liberal commitment to human rights. Our purpose in this course is to understand how such ideas have taken root and to locate the consequences of these ideas for policy and practice.
The American Legal System
This course offers a comprehensive introduction to the American legal system, its roots in natural and common law, the purposes/values it serves (e.g., resolution of private grievances; punishment of offenses against the polity and individuals; preservation, development, and limitation of individual and group rights; and facilitation of commerce and private agreements), and the roles of the judiciary, legislature, and private parties. The course is taught using the Socratic method employed at most US law schools and introduces students to fundamental concepts and techniques used by attorneys and courts in analyzing cases, interpreting statutes, and determining disputes. As in law school, students are expected to read assigned materials before each class meeting and to participate actively in class discussions. For additional information, see the Summer Session website.
This course will explore the traditional dynamic and norms of political press coverage in the United States, and the impact of those patterns on both the government and the nation; some of the ways longstanding norms have recently shifted, and continue to shift; the larger historical forces and long-term trends driving those changes; and the theoretical questions, logistical challenges and ethical dilemmas these changes pose for both political journalists and those they cover. The course will equally cover the practice of political reporting, including weekly analysis and discussion of current press coverage, in-class exercises and simulations, readings from academic and journalistic sources, and visits from leading political reporters and former spokespeople able to offer a firsthand perspective on the topics.
What Makes Us Human? An Existential Journey Amidst Crises
"What's true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves," wrote Albert Camus in The Plague. It is not just the current pandemic: climate change, warlike politics, polarization, tribalism, raging anxieties, AI advancement – these are just some of the many existential troubles and challenges we all, and our very "human nature," now face. This is our time to realize our humanity: find out what sets us apart as humans, and live up to it. This course invites you to an existential odyssey into the human condition and politics. Are we truly different from animals and machines? What does it mean to "be yourself"? What's the difference between freedom and liberty? Should we pursue happiness? Why do we yield to fear and anxiety? Is the search for meaning meaningless? Do we live in a post-truth era? What are the roles of morality in our society and politics? Why is God dead, but religion alive? Can we defeat alienation? Is love all we need? How much can, and should, we hope for? In this course, utilizing the award-winning edX HOPE (Human Odyssey to Political Existentialism; see https://tinyurl.com/hope44), we will address these questions, and then some more. We shall examine a dozen themes, entwining each with critical reflections, both personal and political, amidst the current crisis: Human/nature, identity & authenticity, freedom, reflection, happiness, death & dread, meaning, morality, truth & trust, God & religion, alienation & love, and finally – hope.
|Winter, Spring, Summer.|
International Human Rights in Theory and Practice
This course will introduce students to the law, theory, and practice of international human rights. Students will think critically about the effectiveness of the international human rights system by examining its successes, failures, and dilemmas in preventing and responding to human rights abuse. Topics covered will include the origins and foundations of international human rights; the role of international, regional, and domestic institutions and actors in enforcing human rights; critiques of the human rights movement; and the relationship of the United States to the international system for the protection of human rights. The course will also explore issues such as the death penalty, women's human rights, migration, climate change, global poverty, racism and xenophobia, and responses to mass atrocities. During in-class activities, students will have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a human rights advocate and work with their classmates to address simulated human rights problems.
Undergraduate Independent Study
One-on-one tutorial arranged by the student with a faculty member of his or her choosing. Open to government majors doing superior work, and it is the responsibility of the student to establish the research proposal and to find a faculty sponsor. Applicants for independent study must present a well-defined program of study that cannot be satisfied by pursuing courses in the regularly scheduled curriculum. No more than 4 credits of independent study may count toward fulfillment of the major. Students who elect to continue taking this course for more than one semester must select a new theme or subject each semester. Credit can be given only for work that results in a satisfactory amount of writing. Emphasis is on the capacity to subject a body of related readings to analysis and criticism. Keep in mind that independent study cannot be used to fulfill the seminar requirement. The application form for independent study must be completed at the beginning of the semester in which the course is being taken.