When the “Boyer” Report on reinventing undergraduate education was published by the Carnegie Foundation in the late 1990s, it accented the importance of a “research-based education.” What this meant, in concrete terms, was not merely exposing all students to high-quality instruction in the classroom informed by the latest disciplinary research findings. Rather, what was also being recommended was that students learn first-hand the essentials of good research practice from the earliest stages of their undergraduate training, including opportunities to participate in original, meaningful research projects. As noted by the authors of this landmark report, collaborative investigation, mentorship by senior researchers, and applied problem solving through internships and other real-life situations were all key to this learning-as-inquiry model of education.
Today there is no longer anything new or radical about this perspective. Indeed, students looking for top-notch preparation for employment or for admission to graduate and professional school readily appreciate that this must include strong skills for consuming and conducting research. Due to the integration of academic and experiential education throughout its curriculum, Northeastern University is an outstanding institution both for gaining these skills from accomplished scholars and for exploring the translation of research-based knowledge from the classroom to the community. Political Science is a department that has led the way regarding many of these activities over recent years.
A few examples will serve to suggest the intriguing varieties of research undertaken by our Political Science majors. Additional information can be provided to those eager to know more.
- The option to participate in co-op employment is a cornerstone of the Northeastern undergraduate program, and many positions available to Political Science students have featured significant research responsibilities on topics running the gamut from law to public policy to local government operations to international security issues.
- Our faculty has won many prestigious grants, and undergraduate majors often benefit directly by becoming valued members of the research teams assembled to complete these supported studies. In recent years, such work has explored the areas of social network analysis, the European financial crisis, the international spread of technology, and more.
- The Community-Based Research (CBR) Practicum is a small seminar in which the instructor and students collaborate on a semester-long investigation of a research question formulated in conjunction with a community agency or group. An extensive series of CBR reports has now been published, among them discussions of the problem of health care underinsurance, budget cuts for public libraries, innovative programs for combating homelessness, container recycling, newspaper coverage of mental health issues, and public opinion on health care reform.
- While participating in Northeastern’s Dialogue-of-Civilizations program—a form of course work combining travel and study—students typically are able to carry out short-term research activities in exotic locales. Thus, in a recent dialogue program to Germany offered by the Political Science Department, students visited the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich and reviewed and wrote about primary documents from the Nazi era.
Last, it should also be noted that Northeastern University’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities, in which the Political Science Department is located, offers a competitive “Undergraduate Research Initiative” providing funding for student research that is supervised by a faculty member.
In short, students will find the Political Science Department to be a virtual beehive of research on different issues, using different methodologies, all reflecting the broad scope of interests encompassed by our curriculum. As the department continues to make rapid strides in its size and in its attraction of exceptional new faculty at all levels, so too will its commitment to undergraduate research deepen and diversify.