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Political Science

Available as a major or minor

Our program encourages you to examine the ideals of governance, politics and responsible citizenship — both in your own life and on the world stage. 

Seminar-style classes allow you to take a proactive approach to problem-solving in governance, equipping you with both the insight and skill to affect public policy. Many of our graduates currently work as lawyers, judges, policy experts, professors and political advisors.

Students in class

Curriculum & Courses

POLI 202: Voting in Elections 
POLI 222: Comparative Political System: Asia
POLI 261: Arab Israeli Conflict

Students discussing in a classroom

What Makes Roanoke Different?

Roanoke's Henry H. Fowler Public Policy Program has hosted speakers ranging from presidents, prime ministers, national commentators, Supreme Court justices, renowned scholars and recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Students have the chance to hear firsthand from global leaders and learn about issues facing the world.

Jen Psaki at Roanoke College

Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sat down with journalist Howard Kurtz for a conversation on "Civil Discourse and Democracy" on Nov. 12, 2019. Psaki served in high-level posts in two presidential administrations.

Mara Liasson at Roanoke College

NPR national political correspondent and FOX News panelist Mara Liasson shared her insights about the landscape of the media and the electorate in a Nov. 2, 2022, talk entitled, "Implications of the Mid-Term Elections: A View of Democracy in America."

President Jimmy Carter at Roanoke College

The 39th president of the United States made a headline-generating visit to Roanoke College on April 10, 1984. President Jimmy Carter delivered a talk entitled, "Conflict and Consensus: America Today." 

General Clapper at Roanoke College

The nation's fourth director of national intelligence offered his expertise on the complex and evolving field in a talk entitled, "Intelligence Needs for the Future." Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper's address took place on March 22, 2018. 

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor at Roanoke College

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who made history as the first woman to serve on the high court, headlined Roanoke College's 2009 commemoration of Constitution Day. Her talk on the subject of judicial independence took place on Sept. 17, 2009.

Learn By Doing

In the Washington Semester program, students take two academic courses, plus tackle an internship. In recent years, Roanoke College students have interned at the White House, U.S. Supreme Court, State Department, Pentagon, ACLU, U.S. Senate offices and more.

Group of students in the library of congress
Students on the steps of the U.S. Supreme court
Student with a senator
Students leaning on the podium for the Department of Justice
Student posing for a photo by the reflecting pool
Student in front of the Capitol building
Students behind the podium for the United States Department of Defense
Students posing in front of the Lincoln memorial
Student posing by portraits in a government building
Student posing for a photo by the reflecting pool
Students in a boat on a river

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

A group of students and Dr. Rubongoya in a government building

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

Students walking on a trail along a river

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program. 

Students and Dr. Rubongoya with community members

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

Students posing by the sign signifying where the equator is

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

Students sitting in the bed of a pickup truck

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

Three rhinos

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

Ugandan community members participating in a traditional dance

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

Students smiling as a Ugandan community member speaks to them

Students travel to Uganda with Professor Joshua Rubongoya for May Term in the intensive learning program.

Three students stand over a table with a t shirt and books on the table

The Public Affairs Society at Roanoke College offers students the unique opportunity to encourage public discourse between the various disciplines of the public affairs department, such as political science, criminal justice, and international relations. The organization aims to promote awareness, as well as participation, in public issues that affect students in any and every major on campus. It offers students the unique opportunity to encourage and partake in public discourse; something that not every club can offer.

Student Experiences

Megan Onofrei ’24 got to dive into life in D.C. as part of Roanoke College’s Washington Semester program. The initiative puts students in the capital city for a full semester to take courses and tackle a professional internship.  

Onofrei, a political science major, interned with The Normandy Group, a bipartisan government relations firm. The opportunity gave her hands-on experience working with teams that develop legislative proposals, track federal funding streams and engage with Congress. 

“My internship was a perfect fit for me. It showed me the vital intersections of policy and law,” said Onofrei, who’s headed to law school after graduation. “I got to be behind the scenes of discussions on a variety of different issues, which deepened my understanding of our national policies.” 

Megan Onofrei in Washington DC

Careers & Outcomes

Andrew Sturmfels ’05 is fulfilling his call to public service. As Deputy Director for Legislative Affairs at the Department of General Services for California, Sturmfels said he likes to “work with stakeholders to solve problems and make it easier to do business in California.”

His interest in public service started at Roanoke where he helped launch the College’s first Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. “Roanoke instilled in me the belief that I could do anything, which gave me the confidence to go to graduate school so that I could pursue my master’s in public policy and my true calling to public service,” said Sturmfels, who earned a master’s degree from Sacramento State University in 2012.

man stands at a podium with stage curtain behind him

Maggie Anderson stands in front of building with columns

A Capitol Hill internship in the Washington Semester program gave Maggie Anderson '13 a jump in her political career. Anderson now is a legislative correspondent for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., working in the same office as her internship. 

As a Roanoke student, she immersed herself in politics. She volunteered for President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign, and she was president of the Roanoke College Democrats and the Public Affairs Society. 

At Sen. Warner's office in Washington, D.C., Anderson covers agriculture, the environment, animal welfare and other issues. "I have a deep passion for public service, especially in Virginia," she said.

Zahava Urecki '16 set her sights on a career in Washington, D.C. as an 11-year-old watching "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report." The shows ignited her excitement about what was going on in the world.

Fast forward to Roanoke College where she interned for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, and lived and worked in D.C. through the College's Washington Semester program. Now she wants to write legislative policy.

"I saw a lot of the behind-the-scenes people," she said of her D.C. experience. "They were at the heart of everything, getting everything done. I really wanted to be a part of that."

After graduation, it was an easy transition to a job in Manchin's office. She is now a professional staff member at the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 

Zahava Urecki stands with Senator Joe Manchin of WV
Logos for Cigna Healthcare, the US Senate, the US Navy, and Merrill Lynch

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