Political science may change BA/MA requirements

One of Yale’s most popular majors, political science, may increase the math requirements for its BA/MA program.

The BA/MA program in political science, which typically admits one to three juniors each year, has previously only required interested students to write a proposal and provide one professor recommendation to apply and to take one graduate-level statistics course once admitted. Under the new requirements, students would need to maintain an A or A- in every political science course, complete the BA portion of the major without a senior thesis by the end of junior year and submit two letters of recommendation to apply. After enrollment, students would be required to complete two graduate-level statistics courses and two core graduate classes.

Political Science Director of Graduate Studies Gregory Huber said in an email that the BA/MA program is undergoing changes because the distinction between the BA/MA program and the undergraduate major has not been clear enough.

“The MA [half of the BA/MA] program is designed to introduce students to graduate level work in political science,” he said. “Because graduate work is research oriented, the [BA/MA] program is also research oriented.”

Huber said he believes the changes will emphasize the graduate element of the program, helping students partake in more rigorous research-oriented graduate work. Last year, the program admitted fewer BA/MA students than it has in the past — a trend that is likely to continue after the changes have been implemented, he added.

Political Science Director of Undergraduate Studies David Cameron said in an email that he does not yet know when the changes will be implemented because the department has not heard back from the Committee on the Simultaneous Award of the Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees about their approval, adding that he is unsure whether the program itself would continue.

Stacey Chen ’13, who is currently enrolled in the program, said she has enjoyed her experience because she has had the opportunity to take more advanced seminars than in the undergraduate program. The changes “make sense” for students who want to pursue a Ph.D. in political science after graduation, she said, because the new program — and particularly the additional statistics requirements — would encourage students to conduct deeper analysis.

“Most graduate research calls for more tangible analysis than the undergraduate program,” Chen said. “It does pose a problem for people who are not mathematically inclined, but the statistics classes that you take are essential in graduate study even for people not particularly interested in math.”

Andrew Connery ’13, another political science BA/MA candidate, said he thinks the new requirements would make the program more selective, but students enrolled in it would be more committed to graduate work in the field.

“It might make it more difficult to get into the program, but I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing — people should be sure in wanting to study political science if they are getting a Master’s in it,” he said. “It is a different experience and commitment.”

Students who are less interested in pursuing the quantitative aspect of political science and more interested in policy should undertake graduate work in an area such as humanities or history, Connery added, because a Master’s degree in political science is by definition research-driven.

Both Chen and Connery said they naturally fulfilled the new requirements, so they think those who apply to the program would already be inclined toward a rigorous academic commitment to political science.

Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences also asked all departments that offer BA/MA degrees to reevaluate their programs this year.

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