American Studies

Do you wonder why President Clinton agreed to undergo emergency surgery on his injured leg in 1997 but refused to accept general anesthesia? Why Newt Gingrich, when Speaker of the House, was removed from office by his own party in 1999? Why Justice John Paul Stevens – appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ford in 1975 – refused to resign from the Court until  2010, when he was 90? Why the Democratic and Republican Parties have become so ideologically oriented that they cannot agree on much of anything now except to disagree?

Whether or not you’re a citizen of the United States, the American system of government appears to be filled with mysteries. The faculty who teach American politics courses explore why the political system devised by the Framers of our Constitution has come to be described  in so many contradictory ways:   “broken,” “frustrating,” “creative,” “magnificent,”  “convoluted,”  “wondrous,”  “deadlocked,”  or, by some, “the product of  divine  inspiration.”

Teaching and Research

In our classes, students learn about issues such as:

  • Why the federal system is now locked  in  bitterness and conflict;
  • The impact of having a political campaign process  for president that lasts as much as two years before a president is elected;
  • The role of the  President, his powers  and such matters as how his socialization, health, and life experiences  shape the way  he performs in office;
  • Why Congress – an  institution that once was once described as  “the  greatest deliberative body in the world” – is now seen as an ineffectual, even counter-productive, branch of government;
  • The Supreme Court, and how interpretations of the Constitution have changed over time, affecting laws, the legal system, and the daily lives of the American people;
  • The role of state and local governments, which often function as  laboratories  or training  grounds for the rest of the nation and, at other times, as sources of discord and  dissention;
  • The problems posed by urbanization and suburbanization and how these trends may be guided in constructive ways.

If you are intrigued by the various features and complexities of the American political system, anticipate studying for a career in the law or in the public sector at the national, state or local level,  or even in the private sector where the skills we help develop are also very relevant, we invite you  to consider studying within the Political Science Department at Northeastern.

Our faculty our known for their excellence in teaching – to date, seven have won Excellence in Teaching Awards. Many have published path-breaking books, articles in some of the most prestigious journals in political science, and treatises in major law journals. They are regularly invited to speak at conferences, civic meetings, and at other major universities in the United States and abroad and are interviewed for the mass media. They serve as consultants on challenging public sector projects in Massachusetts and other states and at the level of the national government as well. They have served as members of commissions, advisory committees, and study groups that have authored major reports on the national, state and local levels.

Cooperative Education and Internships

Political Science students are fortunate to have access to a large number of Northeastern University co-op job placements and internships with federal, state, and local governments.  The Washington D.C. Internship Program places students in the White House and the U.S. Congress. At the state level, students can get co-op placements in such offices as the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services, the Office of Consumer Affairs, the Governor’s Office,  the Attorney General’s Office,  or the Massachusetts  Department of Transportation.  Many undergraduate students pursue co-ops in local government, such as the Boston City Council, or within the Boston Mayor’s Office. There are also a large number of co-op and internship positions in non-profits, such as MassINC, the Charles River Conservancy, Health Law Advocates, or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Law firms are another popular placement for students emphasizing American Studies through the Political Science Department.  Through these Co-ops and internships, students gain first-hand experience with knowledge of how the political and legal systems work, thereby enriching their classroom experience.