Government Department to Require Theses for Honors
The Government Department has voted to amend the system for granting honors in government beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year. These changes will apply to government majors in the classes of 2013 and 2014, but not to those in the class of 2012.
In the new system, candidates for honors in government will no longer have the option of choosing to complete an exam track as opposed to a thesis track to receive honors. All eligible senior government candidates interested in receiving honors in government must complete a thesis. However, under the new policy, a thesis proposal is no longer required.
The process for becoming a candidate for honors in Government has also changed.
Previously, to become eligible for honors in government, students had to complete the government major course requirements, hold a University grade point average of 88.33 or above—calculated at the end of the spring semester of the junior year—and complete Stage I and Stage II of the General Education Expectations. Government Department professors would then determine which of the students who fulfilled these requirements should be given access to the thesis or exam tracks to be honors candidates. Each professor nominated students they believed deserved candidacy, and those with the most nominations would be eligible candidates to receive honors in government.
In the new system, students interested in receiving honors in government must fulfill the same requirements but with two amendments. First, they must have a University grade point average of 90.00 or higher, increased from 88.33.
Second, instead of professors choosing from a pool of qualified applicants, a student who meets the eligibility conditions must speak with a Government Department faculty member about the proposed research topic, and that faculty member must then agree to advise the student’s honors thesis. Each government faculty member decides for whom he or she will serve as a thesis tutor. If students who meet the eligibility requirements cannot find a full-time Government faculty member to tutor their thesis, they will not be granted candidacy for honors in government.
“The switch from professors nominating students to students approaching faculty members to tutor their thesis was the result of students and professors alike wanting a closer mentoring relationship throughout the thesis-writing process,” said Professor and Chair of the Government Department James W. McGuire. “Previously, a student worked informally with a professor in the fall semester and then more closely with a tutor in the spring semester. In the new system, the student and professor maintain close contact throughout the year.”
According to McGuire, another reason behind the changes to the system of selection for honors candidacy was students’ unhappiness with the nomination process.
“Students thought the criteria for being nominated for the thesis or exam tracks were not transparent enough,” McGuire said. “In the new approach, the professor can use his or her best judgment in deciding whether or not to supervise a thesis based on the student’s qualifications and how well the professor believes he or she could assist the student with his or her topic.”
The decision to eliminate the exam track for honors in government was largely the result of the high demand for spaces in government courses.
“Students pursuing the exam track took a class covering a broad overview of political science and its four subfields: American, comparative, theory, and international,” McGuire said. “This course, which was accessible only to a small number of students, took professors away from teaching classes with many more spots for those interested in government.”
McGuire reported that, at the end of the first day of Spring 2012 semester classes, 730 of the 770 total seats offered by government department classes were filled, and 400 students had submitted enrollment requests for the remaining 40 spots.
“By eliminating the exam track, we are able to free up the talents of two top professors who would have normally been teaching the exam [track] classes and allow a greater percentage of the student body access to their courses,” McGuire said.
According to McGuire, the process of amending the system for granting students honors in government was not easy.
“Within the Department, there was extensive discussion about the changes to be made,” McGuire said. “When you have 16 political science professors, the result is many equally intelligent proposals for granting honors. For weeks, we debated back and forth on a Moodle page, at the water cooler, and by email. Finally, we held a couple of department meetings and ultimately synthesized a couple of different proposals. A strong majority of the Government faculty prefer the new system.”
McGuire emphasized that the current changes to the system are not permanent amendments.
“The Government Department will continue to develop the system in the years to come,” McGuire said. “Our goal is to give students interested in government, as well as those who are candidates for honors in government, the best learning experiences we can.”