Growing Ph.D. Program in Political Science Gaining Notice

Nov. 23, 2010

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Baylor University's 2012 commitment to building strong, research-intensive graduate programs is producing impressive results in a relatively short time, according to national data released from Academic Analytics, a private firm that measures faculty research activity in 27 separate areas.

Baylor began using Academic Analytics when it became increasingly clear that the long-delayed decennial rankings of doctoral programs by the National Research Council (NRC) would be insufficient for all of its assessment needs. A doctoral program like that of political science is too new to be included in the recent NRC study.

According to the latest Academic Analytics report of 2008 data, "Baylor faculty in political science are exceptionally productive in writing books, ranking among the top 10 in the nation among Ph.D. programs for the number of books published per faculty member and first in the percentage of faculty authoring or editing books. These are remarkable accomplishments for any program, and especially so for one as new as Political Science," said Dr. Larry Lyon, dean of the Graduate School at Baylor.

Sharpened focus

The doctoral program in political science began with a focus on the history of political philosophy and constitutional studies, which quickly allowed Baylor to develop a strong national presence, according to Dr. Mary Nichols, who served as department chair from 2004-2010, and is currently the director of graduate studies. In recent years, strategic hires have strengthened the department's program in international relations theory and security studies.

Dr. W. David Clinton, professor of political science and department chair, contributed two scholarly books to the recent data collected by Academic Analytics: Tocqueville, Lieber, and Bagehot: Liberalism Confronts the World (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003) and The Realist Tradition and Contemporary International Relations (LSU Press, 2007).

"Political science is certainly an example of Baylor's increasing presence in graduate education, as our rising profile nationally attests," Clinton said.

Building on strengths

One thing the academic community recognizes in an era of tightened budgets everywhere, he said, is a program that knows its strengths and builds on them.

"Increasingly, we are making a name for ourselves as a department that excels in at least two ways: first, as an excellent program in political thought in particular and, more generally, in a humanistic and historically and philosophically informed approach to the study of politics in all realms, and, second, as a place where it is expected that one will receive a solid grounding in teaching," Clinton said.

"Both of those accomplishments set us apart from many other places," he added. "They give our faculty a special reason for the close involvement in the training of our graduate students that is characteristic of the department, and they serve as a standing advertisement for our program among talented undergraduates across the country and abroad who are considering the graduate schools to which they will apply."

Clinton also said results matter. In the first year in which Baylor's political science Ph.D. program has been in existence long enough for graduates to seek academic jobs, practically all have found tenure-track posts at solid institutions.

"In making further good faculty hires, in continuing to seek outside funding to supplement the increasing support we are receiving from the university, and in melding graduate and undergraduate education in our teaching assistantships and teaching apprenticeships, we intend to improve our ranking still further," Clinton said.

Baylor's political science doctoral program also received a major boost from two recent articles in PS: Political Science and Politics, published by the American Political Science Association. The article in the spring issue mentions the reputation in political theory of Baylor's political science doctoral program, and an article in the summer issue highlights the department's teaching apprenticeship program for doctoral students.

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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