Political Science: International Relations (Professor Montero)
Students will analyze research questions of central concern to political scientists such as whether the quality of democratic governance is fundamentally determined by economic and social development. A wide variety of democratic institutions correlate with socio-economic outcomes. Our section will be interested in testing theories concerning whether majoritarian or proportional/consensual types of democracy provide better conditions for health and human development in advanced capitalist and developing countries. But regardless of the hypotheses under study, the central learning goals are an understanding of how to use comparative data to form and test hypotheses about how institutions, organizations, and voters respond to differences in political forms and social and economic development across countries and over time.
Potential Research Topics: Students in this section will test hypotheses concerning the political determinants of different levels of social welfare spending, human development indicators such as literacy and life expectancy in a survey of European, Latin American, Asian, and African countries. Do left-of-center governments produce better outcomes or are right-of-center governments just as good or better in generating improvements to human development? Are electoral systems based on proportional representation better for socio-economic development than those based on majoritarian formulas?
Economics (Professor Swoboda)
Economics is the study of decision-making under scarcity. This course will expose students to the ways in which economists look at the many important decisions we make as individuals and as a society. Particular attention will be paid to the ways in which data analysis and visualization can help us make better decisions across many areas, ranging from: health care, higher education, the US budget, trade, and environmental policy. The course emphasizes active learning - students should expect to spend much of their time conducting simulations, participating in discussions, and working “hands-on” with appropriate data.
Social Psychology (Zach Rothschild)
Students will explore how the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of individuals are influenced by powerful social forces. Some of the topics of study include why do people conform, what is the source of prejudice and intergroup conflict, and how are our attitudes and decisions influenced by factors outside of our conscious awareness. We will discuss the application of these topics to important social issues such as climate change, intergroup relations, and immigration. In the afternoon research sections, students will be introduced to the common methods of study and data analysis used by social psychologists (e.g., lab experimentation, observation, surveys) and will be given the opportunity in teams to formulate a research hypothesis, design a study, and collect and analyze data. Some possible projects include how perspective taking activities can reduce prejudice, how communicating social norms influences people’s attitudes, or how different portrayals of a negative event such as climate change may affect people’s willingness to engage in environmental advocacy.