Professor Jenny Garcia pointing at a bar graph on the screen.
Program Overview


Investigate the dynamics of collective power and governance.

Photo credit: William Bradford

What is Politics? The Power behind Ideas, Institutions, and Interests

How can democracy survive polarization and populism? How do workers and minorities gain greater recognition and rights? How does the American political system compare with those around the world? Oberlin’s politics department explores the many dimensions of political life, ranging from small groups to citizens’ organizations, to cities, countries, and the international system. We present a variety of approaches, combining conceptual and theoretical analyses with historical, policy, and practical orientations. With courses in American, international comparative politics, and political theory, our program prepares students for careers in a range of sectors, including government and policy work, journalism, law, nonprofits, movement politics, and academia.

From Theory to Practice, from Grassroots to Global

Politics at Oberlin combines the scholarly and academic renown of larger universities with the collegiality and close faculty-student collaboration of a liberal arts college. Our faculty are experts in a broad range of areas of study: Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. We facilitate internships in NGOs, the labor movement, congressional offices, and more. The politics department is also a collective of scholars who are excited to challenge received wisdom and engage in wide-ranging, rigorous discussion. We are politically diverse and thrive on students bringing their own perspectives and critical capacities to bear in class and out.

Each year Oberlin brings in a large number of political speakers from activists to ambassadors to journalists and scholars
Each year Oberlin helps to place about 15 students in the Congressional Internship Program

Undergraduate Research

Francesca Corti

I felt discouraged because I believed my research interests were too niche. That quickly changed when I found a professor who encouraged me to follow my passion.

Featured Courses

POLT 200

Mass Politics in a Media Age

American politics has fundamentally changed over the past quarter century. Sound bites are shorter, cynicism is higher, hard news is giving way to soft news, and new media have made political information ubiquitous. In this media-driven world, do we fulfill our obligation to be “good citizens”? Do we make rational voting decisions? In this course, we develop an understanding of the relationship between citizens, the media, and politicians in a rapidly changing media age.

Taught by
Michael Parkin
POLT 219

Work, Workers and Trade Unions in Advanced Capitalist Societies

This course examines the nature and organization of work in capitalist societies, and the forms of labor organization created by workers. It is a comparative course, looking at Western Europe, Japan, Australia and the United States. Students explore questions of conflict and cooperation in the workplace, the intersection of race, class and gender at work, types of trade unionism, and the role of the state and employers in the regulation of class relations.

Taught by
POLT 228

US Foreign Policy

In this course students analyze foreign policy theories concerning the President, Congress, the bureaucracy, and those hoping to influence the policy making process. In addition to theory, the course focuses on pivotal moments in U.S. foreign policy, including Washington’s farewell, Monroe Doctrine, Truman’s 1947 speech, Kennan’s ‘Containment’ writings, and several recent Presidential foreign policy doctrines. Students will also analyze several current ‘hot spots’ confronting the United States.

Taught by
Eve Sandberg
POLT 231

Justice, Virtue, and the Good Life

What does it mean to live a good life? How do different understandings of justice and injustice, virtue and vice, help us to answer that question? How do they draw boundaries between those who get to enjoy a good life and those who do not? In this course students place these questions in conversation with ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary thinkers. Authors include Plato, St. Augustine, Locke, Weber and Lorde.

Taught by
Jade Schiff

Student Profiles

Running the Marathon of Campaign Work

At Oberlin, León Pescador ’18 majored in politics and East Asian studies. Since graduating last May, Pescador has been working on political campaigns, including Dan Helmer’s campaign for Virginia’s 40th House of Delegates district.

León Pescador.

Crafting Strategies To Aid Health Care Reform

During her senior year, Emma Eisenberg ’17 was the director of placement for the politics department’s Winter Term Congressional Internship program. Since graduating, Emma has worked for the communications agency GMMB.

Emma Eisenberg.

Fulbright Fellow in Malaysia

Jacques Forbes ’19, a double major in politics and law and society, was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Malaysia. A native of San Angelo, Texas, Forbes sought out the fellowship as a meaningful transition before he applies to law school.

Jacques Forbes.

What does Politics at Oberlin look like?

A 2016 graduate Machmud Makhmudov and Professor Mike Parkin.

Rhodes Scholar and Politics major Machmud Makhmudov ’16 with Professor Mike Parkin. Machmud was also a Truman Scholar, a Politics department Cole Scholar, and head of Oberlin’s Student Senate.

Photo credit: Jennifer Manna
Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley in a white suit chatting with students.

Diplomat-in-residence and former US Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley meets with students while leading a course on “Practicing International Affairs.”

Photo credit: Pang Fei Chiang ’19
Professor Marc Blecher and students sitting on the grass.

Professor Marc Blecher leading a small discussion group in his Marxian Theory course, a survey of political thinkers from Marx and Engels to the present day.

Photo credit: Matthew Lester
Dozens of students in a large lecture hall.

A campus forum held the day after the 2016 Presidential Election. The Politics department hosts regular forums in response to current events.

Photo credit: Jeong Hyun Hwang

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.

Wilder Bowl on a sunny fall day.