The contemporary world presents us with longstanding and novel challenges. Political Scientists understand that solving our energy, environmental, health, conflict, economic, education, and community problems requires not only technical but also political solutions. The Department of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island seeks students interested in understanding the domestic and international political environment in which these challenges reside.
We invite you to explore our website to learn more about our professors' exciting research activities. Read about the pursuits and successes of our alumni as well as our current students. If you are considering Political Science as an undergraduate major, then visit our curriculum pages or read about why Political Science is among the most popular majors at URI. Prospective graduate students can read about our two degree programs (MA & MPA).
Come back frequently to get updates about our events and lectures.
Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz's recent article in Pacific Standard notes that in all of the debate and punditry over the extent of polarization in American politics today and the abhorrence with which voters view Congress and many of their governors, one factor seems to be missing from the discussion: How little input the American people currently have into their choices of candidates. Every American registered with a political party, and in some states even those who are not, has the ability to weigh in on whom the nominees for the general election will be -but few people actually do. One major reason is that few voters even know when the primary election will take place.
Hutch of All Trades
Professor Marc Hutchison is a familiar face to any student lucky enough to
take Political Science 116: Introduction to International Politics. His
enthusiastic attitude towards international politics has swayed many
freshmen to further study Political Science. He conducts research on
international conflict and its causes and societal and individual
consequences. He directs both the MA program in Political Science and the
Naval War College internship that is open to undergraduates. I had the
pleasure to sit down with Professor Hutchison and discuss his research, why
he chose to study politics, and even his favorite class to teach.
What brought you to URI?
I went from working in corporate America, to graduate school,
and then I taught at the University of Kentucky, with all but my
dissertation completed. While I was working on my dissertation, I
interviewed with URI. I had applied to 80 different schools. I was invited
to interview here and they liked my work.
What is different about URI's Political Science department compared to the
University of Kentucky?
It's smaller, more student-focused, and there are lots of differences. URI
is a collegial department with, I think, more plurality in approaches to
What's your favorite class you teach?
It's 116, Introduction to International Politics. I love it for many
reasons. There's such a diversity of students who take the class because it
is a general education course. This class is often the first time students
put everything together, I see a lot of ah-ha moments. That's why you teach,
for me, if you can get that moment and you see it in their faces. I love the
e-clickers, student interaction, new students, and the energy from a diverse
crowd. I geek out about that stuff!
You conduct research on international relations and international conflict,
how do you relate your research to what you teach students in your class?
I've never really taught a class assigning my research, but that doesn't
mean I don't use it constantly. Having deep knowledge of the literature from
my research allows me to bring those insights into the class. I'll give an
example of how my research informs my teaching: Most of the time we think of
war as having lots of material conflict, people die, land transfer, lots of
economic activity and disruption. What we don't consider are the
psychological effects rendered on society, how are people changed and what
will that mean for the future prospects of internal and external peace. What
I've found is that certain types of conflict trigger people to become less
tolerant, less trustworthy of government, but they do often participate more
Why did you decide to study and teach political science?
When I was 15 I lived in a house with one TV. My father controlled the
remote and he made me watch a Ken Burns' Civil War documentary and I watched
that first night basically against my will. I ended up being totally
captivated. I remember saying to my dad, "we're going to watch this
." And I became obsessed with the Civil War. I read every book that
I could and that just spread and there were other wars and events to learn
about. I loved studying History, so I double majored in History and
As a junior in college I took a class with Leonard Gambrell. The class put
everything I loved about History and Politics together and it was just a
magical class. I was a Political Science minor at the time and decided I
wanted to be a major. He inspired me to become a professor. I remember
thinking, "I want to be him; I want to be that guy."
Why should students pick Political Science as their major?
Because Political Science is amazing! The study of Political Science gives
you deep insight into how the world works. It is a fantastic liberal arts
degree. But from a practical stand point I think Political Science also
really puts a heavy emphasis on skills that are portable and will prepare
students to handle a diversity of challenges in the workplace.
Interview conducted by Sara Shapiro.
Life in the Ukraine
Nicolai N. Petro, a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, has received a Fulbright research grant to study in Ukraine.
Professor Petro recently Skyped from Ukraine with a URI International Political Economy undergraduate course about his views on the Ukrainian protests, the role of Europe, the US and Russia in Ukrainian politics, and the prospects for reconciliation and unity.
He has not only been actively engaged in discussions with Ukrainian politicians, religious leaders and academics, but Professor Petro has also written widely about the situation.
While in Ukraine, Professor Petro has provided commentary on current events to media outlets around the world, including O Globo (Brazilian TV), Democracy Now!, The Real News Network, BTB.tv (Ukraine), RT News (Russia), Voice of America, Voice of Russia, Radio New Zealand, Radio Popolare (Italy), Korean Radio, BBC 5 and BBC World Service, South Africa Live, Global Journalist Radio (KBIA), Uptown Radio (Columbia University), Pacifica Radio (KPFA), National Public Radio, the New York Times, The Nation, and The National Interest.
Links to his commentary can be found on his web page.
Bikes not Bombs
A class of URI Poltical Science students were able to organize, recruit, and ultimately obtain 80 bikes that will be sent to support development projects (access to health care) in Uganda and (a bicycle cooperative for the physically disabled) in Ghana. This was a huge organizational effort, executed under the leadership of Associate Professor Kristin Johnson and MA student Lizzie Dore.
Below is the URI news release about the effort.
Meet Hannah Tickle