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Bachelor of Arts inPolitical Science

Program summary

Develop a deep understanding of politics and government, and gain skills to critically analyze political institutions, processes, and behavior. This online political science degree program can help prepare you for a career in the political science field or provide background for graduate studies.

100% Online

Complete your Penn State course work at your own pace and 100% online.

Application deadline

Apply by March 15 to start May 13

Credits and costs

123 Credits$626/$671 per credit

Nationally Recognized

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Our bachelor's degrees are highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Develop an In-Depth Understanding of Domestic and International Politics and the Politics of Other Nations

  • Develop an understanding of political behavior, institutions, and processes in order to analyze and address policy issues and social problems.

  • Create coherent, persuasive, and empirically grounded oral and written arguments.

  • Systematically analyze problems and draw evidence-based inferences.

Your Political Science Degree Online Courses

You can develop analytical reasoning and critical thinking skills while gaining substantive expertise in one or more areas of political science. Students can orient their course work in several areas, including:

  • American politics 
  • international relations 
  • comparative politics

This degree provides maximum flexibility when selecting classes, allowing you to tailor your program of study to suit your goals for specialized or general knowledge of politics and related fields. Upper-level courses in the political science program emphasize research-based writing projects that allow you to hone sought-after skills. 

In meeting these requirements, students must take at least one course at any level from four of the five fields offered in the department:

  • American Politics — PLSC 1, 210N, 404, 429, 447, 468, 471, 472, 473, 480W, and 490
  • Comparative Politics — PLSC 3, 200N, and 456
  • International Relations — PLSC 14, 410, 412, 418W, 439, 442, and 467
  • Political Methodology — PLSC 10, 308, 309, and 410
  • Political Theory — PLSC 7N and 17N

A grade of C or better is required for all courses in the major.

Foundational Courses (select 9 credits)

  • 3
    credits

    This course examines the American democracy by looking at the dynamic interaction between the founding ideals of the United States government, the institutions established by the Constitution, and the ongoing contest for power within and through those institutions.

  • 3
    credits

    This course examines the variety of ways that people seek and wield power around the world. Through cross-national comparison and individual country analysis, the course considers different forms of democratic and authoritarian regimes, sources of stability and change in different regime types, and the relationship between cultural, economic, and social factors and political processes.

  • 3
    credits

    This course introduces students to both the scientific study of politics and the way that study advances our understanding of political actors, events, processes, and institutions.

  • 3
    credits

    Characteristics of modern nation-states and forces governing their international relations; nationalism; imperialism; diplomacy; current problems of war and peace.

  • 3
    credits

    Introduction to basic issues in political theory through analysis of selected major political thinkers.

Select 15 credits of PLSC Courses at Any Level and 15 credits of PLSC Courses at the 400 Level (30 total credits)

At least 9 of the any level credits must be at the 100 level or above. Up to 6 of the any level credits may be taken in related or complementary disciplines with approval of an academic adviser. Select 15 credits at the 400 level.

  • 3
    credits

    This course introduces students to the politics and governing institutions of European countries through a historical and comparative perspective.

  • 3
    credits

    This course explores the historical and contemporary struggles of particular groups within American society to expand their rights.

  • 3
    credits

    Introduction to conceptualization, research design, and measurement in political research.

    • Prerequisite

      any 3 credits in political science

  • 3
    credits

    Data analysis and statistical applications in political research, including data processing, inferential statistics, contingency analysis, correlation and regression, and multivariate analysis.

    • Prerequisite

      any 3 credits in political science

  • 3
    credits

    This course provides students with the tools to empirically evaluate policy proposals and outcomes in the American states.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1 and PLSC 309

  • 3
    credits

    Introduction to various methods of analyzing strategic behavior using social choice and game theories.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1 , PLSC 3 , or PLSC 14

  • 3
    credits

    The transnational politics of trade, investment, aid, raw materials, and the environment; nation-states, multinational corporations, and the U.N.

    • Prerequisite

      ECON 102, ECON 104, or IB 303

  • 3
    credits

    A survey of traditional and contemporary conceptual frameworks and theoretical approaches for the analysis of international relations.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 14 or HIST 181

  • 3
    credits

    This course engages students in the empirical study of electoral politics in the United States.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1 and PLSC 309

  • 3
    credits

    Analysis of political terrorism as a violent alternative for peaceful change and traditional warfare in the nuclear age.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100 or PLSC 14 or permission of program

  • 3
    credits

    Principles of American foreign policy; processes of policy formulation; roles of the President, Congress, the State Department, and other government agencies.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 14

  • 3
    credits

    This course engages students in the empirical study of public opinion.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1 and PLSC 309

  • 3
    credits

    Social forces and processes, governmental institutions, foreign policies of major states of Latin America.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 3 or PLSC 200N

  • 3
    credits

    The international relations of the Middle East, stressing national security policies of regional and outside actors, and major contemporary conflicts.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 14 or HIST 181

  • 3
    credits

    An examination of how politics and public policy affect and are shaped by the news media, as a political institution, in America.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1 or PLSC 3

  • 3
    credits

    The origins of judicial review, landmark decisions of the Supreme Court, and their impact on the American form of government.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1

  • 3
    credits

    Analysis of the roles, procedures, and policies characterizing the American legal system.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1

  • 3
    credits

    Analyzes behavior of judges and other participants in the legal process; examines how and why courts function as policymaking bodies.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1

  • 3
    credits

    Basic characteristics and processes of the national legislature and executive; roles and interaction of these institutions in the policy process.

    • Prerequisite

      PLSC 1

  • 3
    credits

    Advanced analysis of public policy, emphasizing policy evaluation and the factors that determine policy success and failure.

Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements

Some Bachelor of Arts requirements may be satisfied by courses required for the major, General Education courses, or electives. Students should work with an adviser to select courses.

  • Foreign Language: 0–12 credits
    Students must attain 12th credit level of proficiency in one foreign language.
  • B.A. Fields: 9 credits
    Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arts, Foreign Languages, Natural Sciences, Quantification (cannot be taken in the area of the student's primary major; foreign language credits in this category must be in a second foreign language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the first language)
  • Other Cultures: 0–3 credits
    Select 3 credits from approved list. Students may count courses in this category in order to meet other major, minor, elective, or General Education requirements, except for the General Education US/IL requirement.​

General Education Requirements

Some General Education requirements may be satisfied by courses required for the major. Students should work with an adviser to select courses.

  • Foundations: 15 credits  
    All courses require a grade of C or better. Inter-Domain courses may not be used for foundations requirements. 
    • Writing/Speaking: 9 credits 
    • Quantification: 6 credits 
      3-6 credits are selected from mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics; 3 credits may be selected from computer science or symbolic logic. 
  • Knowledge Domains: 15 credits  
    Inter-Domain courses may not be used for knowledge domain requirements.
    • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits 
    • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits 
    • Arts (GA): 3 credits 
    • Humanities (GH): 3 credits 
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits  
  • Integrative Studies: 6 credits
    • Inter-Domain course work: 6 credits  
  • Exploration: 9 credits 
    • Natural Sciences (GN) (may be Inter-Domain): 3 credits
    • GA, GH, GN, GS, and Inter-Domain courses: 6 credits  
      May include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the requirements of the student’s degree program or at the 12th credit level, whichever is higher.

These General Education Requirements are for students who started in summer 2023 or later. Students who started earlier can review the prior version of the general education requirements

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Start or Advance Your Career

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You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, including government, law, business, journalism, and the nonprofit sector.

Job Fields and Opportunities

The bachelor of arts degree pathway is a fit for students with a general interest in politics and career interests that involve working in a multitude of public and private fields, including:

  • legal professions
  • local, state, or federal government
  • domestic or international non-governmental organizations
  • social welfare or social/economic justice organizations
  • business

If you are a military student, this degree can help you expand your knowledge and refine your skills to advance your career as a civilian in the government or within the military.


Career Services to Set You Up for Success

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From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Ready to Learn More?

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State bachelor's degree?

Apply by March 15 to start May 13. How to Apply 

Costs and Financial Aid

Learn about this program's tuition, fees, scholarship opportunities, grants, payment options, and military benefits.

Costs and Financial Aid

Undergraduate Tuition

Undergraduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register and the number of total credits you have accrued at or transferred to Penn State.

Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?If you have 59 or fewer creditsIf you have 60 or more credits
11 or fewer$626 per credit$671 per credit
12–19$7,602 per semester$8,206 per semester

Undergraduate students taking more than 19 credits will be charged the flat tuition rate plus the regular per credit hour rate for each credit above 19. 

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?If you have 59 or fewer creditsIf you have 60 or more credits
11 or fewer$632 per credit$678 per credit
12–19$7,678 per semester$8,288 per semester

Undergraduate students taking more than 19 credits will be charged the flat tuition rate plus the regular per credit hour rate for each credit above 19. 

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

Earn a Valuable Credential along the Way

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Show mastery of specific subjects before your degree is complete. Thanks to shared courses across programs, students can often earn a certificate or another degree in less time than if they earned them separately.

Associate Degree Program Related to This Bachelor's Degree

Credit toward the following associate degree can be earned while completing this bachelor's degree program:

Learn to express ideas orally and in writing while gaining a broad foundation in the liberal arts. Credits earned in this online associate degree program may be applied toward a wide variety of more advanced degrees.

Learn more about the Associate in Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies

Who Should Apply?

This degree is designed for students who want to develop an in-depth understanding and engage in analysis of domestic politics and the politics of other nations.

The B.A. degree pathway is a fit for political science majors with a general interest in politics and career interests that involve working in a multitude of public and private fields, including:

  • legal professions 
  • local, state, or federal government 
  • domestic or international non-governmental organizations 
  • social welfare or social/economic justice organizations 
  • business

A Degree to Meet Your Needs: B.S. or B.A. 

In choosing which program best meets individual needs, you can consider personal interests and strengths, professional aspirations, and plans for graduate school. For those with prior learning experience, the applicability of earlier course work to degree requirements may also be a consideration.

The B.A. in Political Science is a liberal arts degree designed to cultivate the broad knowledge, critical thinking, and research and communication skills you need to be a leader in a complex and changing world. If you want a deep knowledge of U.S. domestic politics, international politics, or the politics of other nations, but also want to develop the critical thinking needed to understand relationships between governments and the populations they serve, a Penn State Bachelor of the Arts in Political Science may be right for you.

  • 123-credit program 
  • 39 General Education requirements 
  • Expanded focus includes foreign language and global culture and humanities 

A research practicum or an internship allows you to gain practical experience and additional skills training. 

If you’re more interested in political analysis and evaluation, a Penn State Bachelor of Science in Political Science may be right for you. As a student in the B.S. program, you’ll balance your studies between understanding political behavior, institutions, and processes and gaining a wide array of skills in data analytics.

  • 120-credit program 
  • 36 General Education requirements 
  • Additional course work closely relates to the major

National Political Science Honor Society

The mission of the honors society is to promote excellence in the study of political science, government, and international and public affairs. As a member, you will have access to networking, grants, awards, scholarships, and other opportunities.

Set Your Own Pace

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Whether you are looking to finish your program as quickly as possible or balance your studies with your busy life, Penn State World Campus can help you achieve your education goals. Many students take one or two courses per semester.

Our online courses typically follow a 12- to 15-week semester cycle, and there are three semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall). If you plan to take a heavy course load, you should expect your course work to be your primary focus and discuss your schedule with your academic adviser. 

To Finish Your Degree in Two to Three Years

  • Take 6 courses each semester

To Finish Your Degree in Three to Four Years

  • Take 4–5 courses each semester 

To Finish Your Degree in Five or More Years

  • Take 2–3 courses each semester

Convenient Online Format

This program's convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education

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Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education, and World Campus has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by March 15 to start May 13

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

Complete your application and submit all required materials by the appropriate deadline. Your deadline will depend on the semester you plan to start your courses.

  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by March 15 to start May 13
  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by June 30 to start August 26
  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by October 31 to start January 13

New students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA by March 1. Please visit the Office of Student Aid website for more information about applying for financial aid and recommended deadlines.

Steps to Apply

  1. To apply for this program, you must be a high school graduate, or have completed your GED.

  2. You will need the following items to complete your application:

    High school transcripts or GED transcript — First-year applicants are required to submit Self-Reported Academic Records (SRAR) when applying. Official high school transcripts for first-year applicants will only be required at the time a student accepts an offer of admission to Penn State.

    Transfer international students will need to submit their high school transcript before their application can be reviewed.

    Official college or university transcripts and/or official military transcripts (if applicable) — All college or university transcripts are required regardless of the length of time that has passed, the grades earned, or the accreditation of the institutions attended. Acceptance of transfer credit toward your degree is subject to final approval by the academic department. For detailed information, see the Transfer Students page.

    Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.

    English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Language Proficiency section on the Undergraduate Admissions International Requirements page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

  3. To begin the online application, you will need a Penn State account.

    Create a New Penn State Account

    If you have any problems during this process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

    Please note: Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application or create a new Penn State account. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.

  4. Accessing MyPennState

    The MyPennState Portal provides access to our online admissions services. Before accessing MyPennState, you must have a Penn State account that will be used to access all Penn State systems. After creating an account, you will receive a unique Penn State User ID. You will need to enter your User ID followed by @psu.edu when signing in to MyPennState and other Penn State sites. For example, you should be entering something like '[email protected]' in the Sign In field.

    The application consists of six sections:

    1. Application Setup
    2. Program of Study
    3. Citizenship and Residency
    4. Academics and Experience
    5. Miscellaneous
    6. Review and Submit
    Application Setup
    • Be sure to select "Online" for the "How would you like to complete your degree" question if you plan to attend Penn State World Campus.

    • The rest of this section will ask some basic questions about your education experience and military affiliation.

    Program of Study
    • You will choose the degree type and then the starting semester.

    • Your starting campus will be selected as Penn State World Campus by default as long as you picked "Online" in your Application Setup. Click Continue.

    • On the Choose a Program page, select your intended major from the list.

    • Review your selection on the summary screen and click Continue to move on to the Citizenship and Residency section.

    Citizenship and Residency
    • Complete the series of questions about your citizenship status, demographic information, Pennsylvania residency status, and family history.

    Academics and Experience
    • You will need to enter academic experience information about your high school and any attempted courses at a college or university after high school.

    • The Education Gap Statement offers a place to explain any time that has elapsed between your high school graduation and your anticipated enrollment at Penn State. Please provide a summary of why that gap occurred. Some examples that would explain a gap in your education include work, family, attending another college or university, etc.

    Miscellaneous
    • In the Miscellaneous section, you will provide any program-specific requirements (e.g., a personal statement), information about activities, and financial aid information.

    Review and Submit

    Review your information, digitally sign your application, and provide payment for the application fee ($65 domestic or $75 international).

    High School Transcripts and Academic Record
    • After your application is completed, you will also need to self-report your high school course work before the application deadline. You will be directed to fill out the Self-Reported Academic Record (SRAR). It is helpful to have a high school transcript available when completing this section. In the third section, you'll select your program of study and campus.

    • Official high school transcripts or GED transcript, along with records from high school, are required, regardless of the length of time that has passed.

    • Include any college/university transcripts (required), military transcripts, and Proof of English Language proficiency (if applicable). SAT/ACT scores are not required if you are identified as an adult learner or transfer student.

    All official documents should be sent to: 

    Undergraduate Admissions Office
    The Pennsylvania State University
    201 Shields Building
    University Park, PA 16802

    You can also have your transcripts sent electronically through Parchment, eScript-Safe, or the National Clearinghouse directly to Penn State from the college/university where course work was attempted.

    Acceptance

    After receiving your application, application fee, and all required materials, your application will be evaluated for admission. You can check your application status online. This will provide the most up‐to‐date information about the status of your application and is updated once daily, before 8:00 a.m. (ET). Once a decision has been made regarding your application, it will be available to you through the MyPennState portal.

    For information on when you can expect an admissions decision, visit the Dates and Deadlines page of the Undergraduate Admissions website. Make sure you click the "+" sign to see these dates for World Campus Applicants (First-Year and Transfer).

  5. 5. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

Contact Us

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Have questions or want more information? We're happy to talk.

To learn more about the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
[email protected]

Learn from the Best

This program will give you the opportunity to study with highly regarded faculty from Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts, one of the premier institutions in the world to study and work in the liberal arts disciplines.

Faculty

  • Burton Atkins

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, University of Kentucky
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, University of Kentucky
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison

    Dr. Burton Atkins is an instructor for Penn State World Campus and Professor Emeritus (political science) at Florida State University. His research interests and publications have focused on American constitutional law and judicial behavior, as well as on comparative judicial studies with an emphasis on the British appellate courts.

  • James W. Binney

    • Degree
      Ph.D., International Relations Theory & Comparative Politics, University of Kentucky
    • Degree
      M.Ed., Higher Education, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.A., International Relations Theory & Comparative Politics, University of Kentucky
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science, University of North Carolina at Wilmington
    • Degree
      B.S., Hotel and Restaurant Management, Penn State

    Dr. James W. Binney is an instructor for Penn State World Campus. He has a wide range of teaching interests that include American politics, international relations theory, racial politics and ethnic conflict, comparative politics (regional specialties in Post-Soviet politics and Central Asia), political and economic development, developing nations, and political theory and ideologies. Dr. Binney is interested in research in foreign aid.

  • Christopher Cook

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, California State University, Los Angeles
    • Degree
      B.S., History, Fitchburg State College

    Dr. Christopher Cook’s research and teaching interests include foreign policy with an emphasis on intervention, terrorism, and political communication. He has published articles examining American foreign policy in the Congo and Sierra Leone as well as examining U.S. media coverage of African conflicts.

  • Marie Hojnacki

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, Ohio State University
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, Ohio State University
    • Degree
      M.S., Public Policy Analysis, University of Rochester
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science and Communication, Canisius College

    Dr. Marie Hojnacki is an associate professor of political science at Penn State University Park. Her research examines how organized interests act to shape public policy, and why some types of interests have advantages over others in terms of policy success and agenda setting. A current project investigates how organizations communicate their issue priorities, and how and why communication strategies may differ for different types of groups. Dr. Hojnacki teaches about political parties, interest groups, representation, and research design.

  • Tamar London

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, University of Rochester
    • Degree
      B.A., Mathematics and Political Science, Binghamton University

    Dr. Tamar London is an instructor for Penn State World Campus. Her past research has focused on mathematical models of international negotiation. She teaches courses on international relations, international political economy, and game theory and statistics.

  • Nicole Morford

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science, Geneva College

    Dr. Nicole Morford is an instructor for Penn State World Campus. Her research focused on social movements and civil society development in post-Soviet states, particularly the women's movement in Ukraine. She teaches courses about American and comparative politics.

  • Adam Nye

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, University at Buffalo, SUNY
    • Degree
      M.S., Social Sciences Interdisciplinary, University at Buffalo, SUNY
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science and Psychology, University at Buffalo, SUNY

    Dr. Adam Nye is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Political Science at Penn State’s University Park campus. He primarily teaches courses related to public law and judicial politics. The public law courses focus on landmark Supreme Court cases, while the courses related to judicial politics concentrate on legal procedures and the behavior of judges. In addition, Dr. Nye also teaches about the bureaucracy in America, and the American national government.

  • Amanda Parks

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, Penn State
    • Degree
      M.A., Political Science, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Journalism, Bowling Green State University

    Dr. Amanda Parks, an instructor for Penn State World Campus, centers her research and teaching interests around public opinion and political communication, with a particular focus on the institutional reasons for media distortions and its effect on citizens' evaluations of policies and candidates. Other research interests include deliberative citizen engagement and the effects of new media on political communication.

  • Daniel Ponder

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Science, Vanderbilt University
    • Degree
      B.S., Political Science, Missouri State University

    Dr. Daniel Ponder is a professor of political science at Drury University in his hometown of Springfield, Missouri. For 13 years before that, he was a professor at the University of Colorado. His research and writing focus on the American presidency, but he teaches on the Supreme Court, constitutional law, quantitative methods, congress and the presidency, public policy, and the interplay of film, music, and politics. He wrote two books on the presidency, and his research appears in numerous scholarly journals. In 2019–20, he was president of a section of the American Political Science Association.

  • Ilya Winham

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Political Theory, University of Minnesota
    • Degree
      M.A., Social Sciences, University of Chicago
    • Degree
      B.A., Political Science, Macalester College

    Dr. Ilya Winham is an instructor for Penn State World Campus, and also teaches courses in the history of political thought at the University of Georgia. He was an assistant editor of the journal Political Theory from 2007-2010. His research interests include the political thought of Hannah Arendt, Isaiah Berlin, and Machiavelli.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State bachelor's degree?

Apply by March 15 to start May 13. How to Apply