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Political Science Senior Honors Program

Senior Honors Seminar and Senior Thesis

To receive departmental honors, students are required to complete Political Science 191A-B Senior Honors Seminar: Frontiers in Political Science. The two-quarter graded seminar satisfies two upper division Political Science courses toward the twelve required for a degree. Through the two-quarter seminar, students will complete a senior thesis. Please note that POLI 191A is offered only in fall quarter and POLI 191B is offered only in winter quarter and these courses must be taken in consecutive quarters.

Admission Criteria

To be admitted to the seminar, a student must have:

  • Senior standing in the first quarter of the seminar
  • Minimum GPA of 3.6 in political science (this includes lower division courses at UCSD, courses taken through University of California Education Abroad Program [UCEAP], and Summer Session courses taken at UCSD)
  • Completed ALL lower-division requirements including POLI 30(D) - Political Inquiry
  • Completed at least five upper-division Political Science courses
  • A faculty advisor from the list of Core Faculty in the Department. 
  • Completed and submitted the Senior Honors Seminar Recommendation Form 
    • Students may submit the form electronically via email to the Undergraduate Advisor, Natalie Ikker (nbikker@ucsd.edu) and must CC their Faculty Advisor in the email as well. 

Final eligibility is evaluated after Summer Session 2 grades have been submitted; this means that students may take courses to complete the criteria above during the summer session(s) prior to the Fall quarter in which the Senior Honors Program begins. 

For the 2020 - 2021 Senior Honors Program, the recommendation/advisor form must be submitted to the undergraduate advisor by September 14, 2020.

Finding a Faculty Advisor

To be considered for the honors seminar, students must submit a substantial piece of writing to a member of the faculty. The department defines "substantial" as a paper in which the student has carefully developed an argument and systematically mustered evidence in support of it. This written work is intended to give students practice so that the 40-100-page thesis does not loom as an intimidating prospect. These papers may develop out of any of our upper-division courses that require papers, any departmental seminar, or in conjunction with coursework completed on EAP or OAP.

If the faculty member feels that the student is adequately prepared for the seminar, they will sign the Senior Honors Seminar Recommendation Form  stating they are willing to advise the student during the course of the seminar. When submitting the recommendation form and piece of writing to the faculty member, students must provide a copy of their academic history from TritonLink. For ease of reading, select the "sort by subject" link when printing the academic history to print in subject order rather than quarter by quarter.

How the Thesis Grade is Determined

Each thesis will be read by two members of the department faculty; both of whom will assign the thesis a point score. The standard of evaluation will be that normally used by each faculty member to grade seminar papers of graduating seniors. Grades, point scores, and their honors equivalent are as follows:

Letter Grade

Point Score

Honors

A

4.0

3.9

3.8

3.7

Highest Honors

Highest Honors

High Honors

High Honors

A-

3.6

3.5

Honors

Honors

A-/B+

3.4

3.3

No Honors

No Honors

B 3.0 No Honors
B- 2.7 No Honors
C+ 2.3 No Honors
C 2.0 No Honors


If the point scores assigned by two readers differ by more than two tenths of a point (e.g., 3.5 versus 3.8), the thesis will be read by a third reader. Beginning 2013/14, in the honors calculation involving a third reader, the median score will be used.

To graduate with honors in political science, a student must have received an average point score of 3.5 or higher on the honors thesis and maintained a GPA of 3.5 or above in the major through the end of the second quarter of the honors seminar.

How Honors is Awarded

The award of honors level (Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors) is by vote of the political science faculty. The award of honors will be based on the average of (1) the student's departmental grade point average at the end of the second quarter of the honors seminar (50%), and (2) the point score assigned the honors thesis by the readers (50%) .

Timeline for the Senior Honors Seminar Program & Course Enrollment

Pre-Senior Year:

Meet with the Department's Undergraduate Advisor to determine if the Senior Honors Seminar Program is a good fit for you academically:

  • Verify eligibility requirements
  • Review application materials needed for program eligibility
  • Review your POLI GPA
  • Review remaining courses needed for your Political Science Major

Academic Year Before Desired Participation: 

Fall Quarter through Summer Session II: Students continue to take courses needed to be eligible for the Senior Honors Seminar Program. The Political Science GPA is determined AFTER Summer Session II grades have been posted. 

Winter Quarter through end of Spring Quarter: Students planning to apply for the program should be seeking out and confirming their Faculty Advisor. The Faculty Advisor MUST be a current Core Faculty member in the Department of Political Science.

Spring Quarter through Summer Session II: Students can begin to submit all required application materials to the Department's Undergraduate Advisor. 

Monday prior to Week 0 of Fall Quarter: Deadline for the submission of all application materials.

Week prior to Week 0 of Fall Quarter: Application materials and student eligibility are reviewed; students accepted to the Senior Honors Seminar Program are notified via email and VAC, and they are preauthorized to enroll in POLI 191A for Fall Quarter.

Fall Quarter

Week 0 - Friday of Week 2: Student accepted to the Senior Honors Seminar Program enroll in POLI 191A before the add deadline.

Finals Week: Faculty Advisors are contacted by the Department's Undergraduate Advisor regarding student's grades in POLI 191A. 

Post-Finals Week: Department's Undergraduate Advisor preauthorizes eligible students to enroll in POLI 191B for Winter Quarter.

Winter Quarter

Week 0 - Friday of Week 2: Student eligible to continue with the Senior Honors Seminar Program enroll in POLI 191B before the add deadline.

Finals Week: Faculty Advisors are contacted by the Department's Undergraduate Advisor regarding student's grades in POLI 191B. 

Post-Finals Week/Spring Break: Students begin to submit their completed thesis online and three (3) bound, hard copies of their completed thesis to the Department's Undergraduate Advisor.

Spring Quarter

Monday of Week 1 by 2:00pm: Deadline for students to submit their completed thesis online and three (3) bound, hard copies of their completed thesis to the Department's Undergraduate Advisor.

Early April - Early May: Department of Political Science Faculty read and evaluate theses. Decisions are made regarding level of honors for each student. 

Mid-May: Results of honors are sent to students via email. Those who have earned a level of honors are invited to attend the Senior Honors Reception in mid-June.

Departmental Awards

Sanford Lakoff Award

Political Science offers undergraduate majors the opportunity to graduate with honors in the major. Each spring quarter, the department faculty votes for the senior honors candidate who has submitted the best thesis. The award is called The Sanford Lakoff Award for the Most Outstanding Senior Thesis. This award is named for Sanford Lakoff, Professor Emeritus, Department of Political Science, and the founder of our department.

Congratulations to our 2019-2020 Sanford Lakoff Award recipient:

  • Thomas Brailey (BS Political Science/Data Analytics, Highest Honors, Spring 2020)

Past recipients include:

  • Lindsay Van-Horn (BA Political Science/Political Theory, Highest Honors, Spring 2019)
  • Pravin Wilkins (BA Political Science/Comparative Politics, Highest Honors, Spring 2018)
  • Eaton Liu (BA Political Science/International Relations, Spring 2017)
  • Alison Bildsoe (BA Political Science/Comparative Politics, Highest Honors, Spring 2016)
  • Austin Peters (BA Political Science/American Politics, Highest Honors, Spring 2015)
  • Brandon Amash (BA Political Science, Highest Honors, Spring 2014)
  • Arik Burakovsky (BA Political Science/International Relations, Highest Honors, Spring 2013)
  • Charles De La Cruz (BA Political Science/Political Theory, Highest Honors, Spring 2012)
  • Donna M. Farag (BA Political Science/International Relations, Highest Honors, Spring 2011)
  • Jonathan A. Chu (BA Political Science, Highest Honors, Spring 2010)
  • Kelly Zhang (BA Political Science/International Relations, Highest Honors, Spring 2009)
  • Melissa Lee (BA Political Science/International Relations, Highest Honors, Spring 2008)
  • Kaveh Sanandaji (BA Political Science/International Relations, Highest Honors, Summer 2007)

Departmental Honors

Senior Honors Seminar and Senior Thesis
To receive departmental honors, students are required to complete Political Science 191A-B Senior Honors Seminar: Frontiers in Political Science. Through the two-quarter seminar, students will complete a senior thesis. Please note that POLI 191A is offered only in fall quarter and POLI 191B is offered only in winter quarter and these courses must be taken in consecutive quarters.

Admission: Send an inquiry to the Virtual Advising Center

To be admitted to the seminar, a student must have senior standing in the first quarter of the seminar, have a minimum GPA of 3.6 in political science (this includes lower division, courses taken through Education Abroad Program, and Summer Session), have completed all lower-division requirements including POLI 30 (Political Inquiry) and five upper-division courses. Also, students must have an advisor prior to being allowed to enroll.

Award of Honors

The award of honors is by vote of the political science faculty. The award of honors will be based on the average of (1) the student's departmental grade point average at the end of the second quarter of the honors seminar (50%), and (2) the point score assigned the honors thesis by the readers (50%).

DeWitt Higgs Award

In addition to Honors, students may receive an award called the DeWitt Higgs Award for the Most Outstanding Honors Thesis in Law and Public Policy. This award is named for DeWitt "Dutch" Higgs, a prominent San Diego attorney who served as a member of the UC Board of Regents for 16 years. He was chair from 1968 to 1970 and vice chair from 1970-71, at a time when students were protesting at the various UC campuses over America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict. Former UC President Charles Hitch said that Higgs was the very "glue" which held the university together during that difficult time.

Congratulations to our 2019-2020 DeWitt Higgs Award receipient:

  • Charlotte Zell (BA Political Science, High Honors, Spring 2020)

Past recipients include:

  • Shafeen Pittal (BA Political Science/Public Law, Spring 2019)
  • Trent Ollerenshaw (BA, Political Science/American Politics, High Honors, Spring 2018)
  • Nicole Paige (BA Political Science/International Relations, High Honors, Spring 2017)
  • Anissa Badea (BA Political Science, High Honors, Spring 2016)
  • Samuel O'Brien (BA Political Science, High Honors, Spring 2015)
  • Rachel Isaacson (Political Science, High Honors, Spring 2014)
  • Brian Daigle (BA Political Science, Highest Honors, Winter 2013)
  • Haley Devaney (BA Political Science/American Politics, High Honors, Spring 2013)
  • Lucia Goin (BA Political Science, High Honors, Spring 2012)
  • Vijaya S. Surampudi (BA Political Science/International Relations, High Honors, Spring 2011)
  • Claire E. Halbrook (BA Political Science/International Relations, Highest Honors, Spring 2010)
  • Nicholas Hromalik (BA Political Science/American Politics, High Honors, Spring 2009); read his thesis in published format - Congratulations, Nicholas!
  • Devin Incerti (BA Political Science/International Relations, Highest Honors, Spring 2009)
  • Colin McCubbins (BA Political Science, Highest Honors, Winter 2009)
  • Mark Elliott (BA Political Science/Public Law, Highest Honors, Spring 2007)

 Students may read theses that have earned honors since 2012 here: 

Theses from 2020

Renewable Energy Adoption Among OECD Countries: The Role of Public Campaign Finance

Talking Points: How Primary Elections Affect Expressed Political Ideology on Twitter in U.S. Senate Elections from 2014-2018

The Role of Country of Origin on Immigrant Voting Behavior

Forecasting Sunlight: Using structural topic modeling to predict U.S. agency responsiveness to 2018 Freedom of Information Act requests

Crafting Political Society: The Role of Electoral Rules and Islamist Party Factions in Tunisia’s Democratic Transition

Young Republican Climate Change Opinion Formation: Investigation into Peer Norm-Setting Influence Using Public Survey Data

Who Listens to the Majority? An Analysis of Institutional Dynamics, Policy-Opinion Congruency, and Same-Sex Marriage Outcomes

Living in Limbo: How legal representation affects asylum adjudication for those under the Migrant Protection Protocols.

Provisions of Power-Sharing: Assessing the Impacts of Segmental Autonomy

Accounting for the Different Levels of Success Between the EZLN and the EPR

The Endless Space Race: The Influence of International Military and Economic Threats on NASA Competitive and Cooperative Spending

Permanent Alliance: A Case Study on the Impact of US-Israeli Relations on US-Iranian Relations

Theses from 2019

A Woman's Place Is In the House And In The Senate

Presidential Elections and Latin American Financial Markets: The Implications of Two Round Voting Systems

“Communities of Interest": An Analysis of Redistricting Litigation from 2010-2018

Indigenous Peoples of Brazil: Guardians of the Amazon Rainforest

Working hard or hardly working?: An Analysis of Primary Elections and Legislative Effectiveness

Saving a Country without a State: Foreign Intervention and State Capacity in 21st Century Somalia

“When Two Authorities Are Up”: The Mixed Constitution in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

Gay Enough? : Assessing the United States’ Adherence to International Human Rights Agreements Regarding LGBTQI Asylum Seekers

Women of Now: Evaluating the Role of Autonomy and Empowerment in Women’s Rising Outmigration

We Don’t Trust You, Either: The Effects of Governmental Surveillance on Trust in Government Among Muslim American Students

Territorial Control & Homicide Rates Rio de Janeiro, 2006-2016

The Most Invisible of the Invisibles: Skin Color and Arab American Political Ideology

The Merida Initiative: A Case Study in International Drug and Security Policy Negotiation

Electoral Candidates’ Position-Taking on Nuclear Energy in Post-Fukushima Japan

Trust and Threat: The Effects of Confidence in the United States and Perceived Threat from the Russian Federation upon NATO Defense Spending

Theses from 2018

Theses from 2017

Theses from 2016

Theses from 2015

Theses from 2014

Theses from 2013

Accomodating Nations in Europe: Does Devolving Power Reduce Conflict?

Crossing the Chasm: The Political Value of Facebook and Implications for Modern Congressional Campaigns

Energy Policy and the Balance between Public and Private Sectors in China and France, 1973-2011

Finding a Job in "a Beard and a Dress": Evaluating the Effectiveness of Transgender Anti-Discrimination Laws

Greece and the Case of the 2012 Open and Closed List Elections

The Impact of Drug Policy Shift on Homicide: A Transnational Study

Institutionally Integrated Voter Access and the Youth Electorate

Perceptions of Media Bias: Viewing the News Through Ideological Clues

Poliltical Attitudes toward the Environment: The Politics of Residential Solar Panel Installations in California

Understanding the Determinants of Terrorist Attack Publicity

Theses from 2012