Our History and Philosophy

The University of California at San Diego was created by the Regents of the University of California in 1959. They selected an unusually idyllic site in La Jolla; the campus stretches from "the Shores" toward Del Mar, running along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. In 1975, the Political Science Department was created. Several years later, in 1980, the graduate program in political science was established. The Department offers a doctoral degree in political science. The program is designed to prepare students to teach and conduct research at major research universities.

Despite the significant growth our Department has experienced since its founding, we continue to foster the ethos of individual mentoring. The Department enrolls an average of ten to twenty new graduate students each year, with the goal of having no more than seventy-five graduate students in residence at any one time. The Department currently has over thirty faculty members engaged in graduate teaching. This small ratio of students to faculty allows for close faculty supervision of graduate education. Graduate classes are relatively small and graduate students have ample opportunity to become involved in collaborative research projects with faculty. Students are also provided many opportunities to interact with other graduate students and to attend colloquia that feature presentations by faculty, outside speakers, and dissertation candidates. The small number of students accepted into the program also makes it possible to fund almost all graduate students throughout their entire graduate careers.

Another hallmark of our program is the willingness and ability of both faculty and graduate students to work across traditional sub-disciplinary boundaries. Many leading departments have embraced the UCSD model of cross-disciplinary work. Ironically, they have done so at a time when the profession itself has fragmented along new substantive and methodological lines. We believe that political science is a coherent discipline, not four subfields loosely grouped under an umbrella. We as a department today seek to break down additional barriers and build bridges across all the subfields in the discipline.

In accordance with these principles, we have recently reformed our graduate program to include a first-year curriculum required of all incoming students and composed of three quarters of courses in "principles of politics" and three quarters of "methods" courses. The principles sequence begins with a survey of basic analytic concepts used throughout the discipline, and continues with courses on the origins, institutions, and consequences of democracy and on the relationship between states and markets. The methods courses include research design, econometrics, and game theory. Our ambition here is to emphasize common problems of politics across fields, as well as the similarities and differences in how different subfields and approaches address them. We want to train graduate students how to think generally about enduring issues of politics. The three principles courses as well as the methods course on research design will normally be co-taught by faculty from different subfields and perspectives.

We believe the design of our graduate program is a unique statement about the discipline of political science. No similar attempt to unify the curriculum has been undertaken in any other department in the country. Our students will not only have a broader command of the discipline as a result of this first year curriculum but will be able to see problems of politics in their more specialized areas of study through new and, we hope, clearer lenses. We are excited about the direction of our Department and hope to provide leadership to the profession by highlighting and building upon this unity in our graduate program.

Our Ph.D. program in Political Science is designed to break down barriers and build bridges across the subfields and give all of our students a broad command of the discipline as a whole, regardless of their area of specialization.


Contact Us

Director of Graduate Studies
Karen E. Ferree
(858) 822-2309
SSB 391

Student Affairs Manager
Regina Ready
(858) 534-7381
SSB 302

Graduate Coordinator
Aubrey Rudd
(858) 534-2705
SSB 305 (301)