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Election Year Brings Spike in Political Science Majors

As excitement builds for the upcoming presidential election, more undergraduate students have considered the political science major at Buffalo State. Hovering around 100 declared majors for the past four years, enrollment this fall stands at more than 140 students who are pursuing the bachelor of arts degree.

Laurie Buonanno, professor and chair of political science, said the election has become integrated into classes this semester and has progressively engaged students.

“The election is naturally brought up almost daily in every political science class,” she said. “For students, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to test theories and textbook learning during a presidential election.”

The department also offers minors in political science and public administration.

Despite the upward trend in majors, political science at Buffalo State bucks national trends when compared to its sister disciplines: economics, history, and sociology. In fall 2006, political science had the fewest majors among those programs at Buffalo State. On a national level, however, political science majors eclipse the rest.

Buonanno, however, said she’s more concerned with offering what students want and working with other departments to create interdisciplinary programs. She cites four major pushes for the Political Science Department.

First, she wants to increase pre-law offerings at Buffalo State and continue related curricular activities like mock trial. She said an interdisciplinary pre-law minor will be submitted to the College Senate Curriculum Committee in the next few weeks.

Another minor soon to be submitted will be international relations, which will serve as a precursor to an anticipated B.A. degree program. Buonanno said that only Geneseo and New Paltz offer a similar major in SUNY. Political Science would try to offer a unique sustainable development component in conjunction with the Geography and Planning Department.

The Political Science Department also hopes to offer public administration at the graduate level. Professor Lawrence Flood, former dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, is spearheading the development of an interdisciplinary master’s program in public administration while on sabbatical. If approved, it would be the only program of its kind in the region outside SUNY Brockport. The department submitted a proposal for a graduate certificate program this summer and is awaiting word from the College Senate.

Finally, Buonanno and her colleagues made numerous course revisions that allowed eight existing political science courses to fulfill Intellectual Foundations requirements.

No matter how course and program offerings evolve, Buonanno said, political science students earn a solid liberal arts degree and go on to pursue diverse careers. She said many become interested in campaign management, public administration, journalism, law, and business.

Many distinguished politicians have ties to Buffalo State’s political science programs, including United States Congressman Brian M. Higgins, ’85; Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, ’83; and New York State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, ’92. But professors have their eyes on potential leaders, too. This past summer, three Buffalo State students embarked on competitive paid internships in Albany for the New York State Senate and Assembly. Buonanno is excited for the future.

“There are more opportunities than ever for students to actively engage in their education,” she said.