I have retired from both Boston University and the University of Wisconsin – Madison and am no longer teaching regularly. The courses I taught are decribed below — feel free to borrow ideas. 


This course is designed for political nerds, junkies, and activists who want both hands-on involvement in an electoral campaign this fall and would like to integrate that activity with an academic experience to yield deeper, broader, and more generalizable knowledge than you could gain from experience alone. In this course you will learn about elections and campaigns by participating in an electoral campaign (at least 5 hours a week required) and framing and integrating that experience with critical reading of high quality research and journalism and investigation of current election-related data.

This course will expand your understanding of American campaigns and elections; improve your ability to be a critical consumer of election-related communications including journalism, campaign communications, and public opinion poll reports; develop your skills of integrating your personal political experience and observation with the findings of systematic and scholarly knowledge; and give you valuable experience in participating in serious, constructive, and civil discussions about politics across differences of belief, opinion, and commitment.

There are two phases to the course. In the pre-election period you will be very involved in a political campaign. During this period and our work will revolve around critical topics required to understand what is going on as well as discussion of the ongoing campaigns and your experience. During election week we will make a transition: Following our review of the election outcomes, the class will devote one class period to discussing and choosing a set of topics to be covered for the remainder of the course. I will create a syllabus for the remainder of the course on the basis of that deliberative process.

Here is a syllabus from 2016, just to give you an idea of what the course is like:  PO314Syllabus090116

Prerequisites: An American Politics course or consent of the instructor. To seek consent, email me at and explain why you think you have the background to take this course successfully.

The Political Psychology of the Group-Based Politics (undergrad & grad; cross-listed with Psychology)

Most recent syllabus: PolPsychSyllFall18

Political psychology is a field of study that integrates psychological theory and research, especially in cognitive and social psychology, with political science approaches to the study of political thinking, behavior, decision-making, conflict, and cooperation. In this course we will study political psychology as it informs group-based politics, including especially race, gender, class, and political party affiliation. Students are taking this course under both PO and PS numbers, which means some students in the class have more background in psychology, some in political science.

Too often, commentators who try to understand the political psychology of particular dimensions of human society, such as race or gender, focus only on race or gender, neglecting the ways that a broader understanding of the dynamics of intra- and inter-group relations and politics, as well as the nature of human perception, thought and interaction, can inform how we understand the cases of particular groups in politics. This course will provide that critical grounding for understanding by focusing on systematic observational studies of human behavior.

This course will

  • give you an understanding of essential theories and research on political psychology;
  • develop your ability to analyze contemporary issues of race, gender, class, and other aspects of group-based politics using the most current findings of high-quality research;
  • enable you to sketch out research designs that would help us answer tough questions about the political psychology of groups and politics;
  • give you experience reading, understanding, evaluating, and applying the results of contemporary research in social and cognitive psychology and political science;
  • provide multiple opportunities to hone your skills of oral and written communication.

Prerequisites:  Jr. standing and a course in Political Science OR Social Psychology or consent of instructor.

THE 19TH AMENDMENT  CENTENNIAL: A LENS FOR GENDER & POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT (undergrad; cross-listed with Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies)

Syllabus: POWS50519thAmendmentSYLLABUS DRFT

I blogged about this course, week by week. See here:

19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed by Congress June 4, 1919, ratified on August 18, 1920, certified on August 26, 1920:  The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution did not grant “women” the right to vote. It merely said that the right to vote could not be “denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”  It extended the franchise only to people who were being denied the right to vote only on account of sex – all of these, presumably, women. But it did not extend the franchise to people who might theoretically be denied the right to vote on account of sex, but were also denied the right to vote for other reasons – most notably race or age or the fact that one’s grandfather did not have the franchise or that one could not pass a specified literacy test or that a person had a reasonable fear of facing violence for attempting to vote.

Nevertheless, that 100 years ago the United States Constitution barred denying a person this fundamental democratic citizenship right on account of sex was a major historical event, and a turning point in American history. The history of women’s citizenship, the struggles around the right to vote (and other acts of empowermen, and the history of the aftermath of 19th Amendment are treated in most general American histories and history courses as unworthy of anything more than cursory attention. And that fact is itself a sign of how much full citizenship remains abridged “on account of sex.”

This course will take the occasion of the centennial of the ratification to explore its place in the history of democracy and democratization and the political empowerment of women in the United States.  We will probe some of the different ways this history can be told, and the political significance of the histories we tell.

We will begin by considering the history of women’s political rights and especially the struggle for empowerment before the ratification. We will then turn to the continuing battles for full citizenship and empowerment after ratification. By thinking about this history as part of the process of democratization we will frame it not just as the story of women, but as a critical part of the story of the American republic. Moreover, we will attend to this history not as the story of generic women, but as the story of a diverse population of people whose experiences, rights, challenges, actions, and struggles were shaped not just by their gender, but also other important aspects of their life situation such as race, class, religion, and region.


GENDER & POLITICS: (undergrad and grad; cross-listed with Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies)

Most recent Syllabus: 2019:  SYLLABUSPO516GenderPoliticsF19

Despite the dramatic changes that have taken place over the past century, gender remains one of our most fundamental bases of identity, divisions of labor, social roles, life opportunities, and social and political power. Nowhere on earth is that not true to some degree. Given that, it seems odd — a function of the nature of people’s assumptions about gender? — that exploring the relationships among gender, citizenship, law and policy, and political thought and action is not more widely a core part of the study of political science.

In this course we will begin by considering the ways that our understandings of fundamental principles of democracy, the nation, and the state shape and are shaped by gender. We will pay special attention to how these definitions and the relationship have changed historically, especially in the United States. We then contemporary practices of democracy and citizenship, considering questions of public opinion; political action and participation; political parties and elections, social movements, and leadership. We conclude with an examination of a key set of public policy issues.

In this course gender will be understood in broad, contemporary terms and definitions, with its variability encompassing transgender, as well as its linkage to sexualities.

Prerequisite: Junior Standing. This course is appropriate for graduate students.

HISTORICAL TRADITIONS OF FEMINIST THEORY (undergrad and grad; cross-listed with Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies; Philosophy)

Most recent syllabus:  PO594FeministTheorySyllabus19

For as long as we have recorded history, we have examples of women, and sometimes men, who struggled against the confines of cultures, societies, and institutions that defined men, their actions, and their apparent attributes as the core of what constitutes humanity, and women as contingent, subservient, and “other.” In many cases this resistance was expressed through theoretical or theory-based texts that explored these problems with an eye toward understanding what we now call gender, addressing the situation of women, and identifying solutions.

Toward the end of the 18th century these occasional writings began to grow in number and reflect and intertwine with a diversity of schools of social theory and philosophy that shaped European and American social and political thought. With the growth of women’s movements, these ideas were also increasingly linked to action.

In this course we will explore selected writing from the history of feminist theory, largely from the late 18th century to the rise of the late-20th century feminist movement, to understand the richness of that history and the varieties of approaches theorists took in understanding and resisting gender-based oppression in the United States and Western Europe. We will emphasize the relationship of that history to some of the major schools of social theory of those eras, and to the broader historical context of politics and social life.

This course will change how you think about how people “used to think.”

Prerequisite: Junior standing. This course is appropriate for graduate students. If you try to register and can’t get in, there might be room under one of the other numbers — you can take it that way or ask for a spot to be shifted to the course number you want. Talk to the folks in your program of choice: PO, PH, WS.

Higher Education and American Political Development (undergrad and grad)

Almost as soon as settlers and migrants from outside the North American continent formed stable communities, they developed institutions of higher education. For well more than the first two centuries, these institutions were often founded even before there were schools to educate younger children. The history and development of institutions of higher learning reflected, interacted with, and sometimes drove key challenges and opportunities in the history and development of the larger society and state such as changes in the political economy and labor market; technology; ethnic and cultural profile of the country; and changing dynamics of racial and gender politics

It is unfortunately common to distinguish colleges and universities on the one hand, and “the real world” on the other. It is also common for people to express the view that higher education has been roughly the same for centuries, and is only now facing challenges that will require fundamental change. This course will lay both of those claims to rest. Institutions of higher education are now and always have been very much part of the real world of society and state. And throughout their history they have faced a constant set of core challenges that are linked to fundamental problems of society and state.

This course examines the history of higher education in the United States, framed around a core set of challenges that have shaped their history and role in society, and public discussion and policy affecting higher education, its history, role, and impact. Rather than moving through the history chronologically, we will look at historical development in the context of these core challenges and themes.

Time TBA.  Prerequisites: Jr. standing and a course in American politics or history or consent of instructor.

This is the starting syllabus from the last time I taught the course:  PO 408608HistHigherEd012417


Many professors require that their student “participate” in class discussions. It is often not clear to the professor, or especially the students, exactly why this is something that should not only be done, but be evaluated. This requirement is especially hard on the many students who are uncomfortable speaking publicly in a classroom setting.  While that fear afflicts a lot of students, over the years I have noticed this reluctance is especially common among women and among underrepresented students of color. The result is that they are placed at a disadvantage.

This began to concern me more as I spent increasing time talking with students — undergraduates and graduate students — about this reluctance to speak. Their explanations reminded me of how I felt in classrooms when I was an undergraduate. While admitting that they have no trouble speaking with me (the professor) privately, and certainly none talking with their friends and family, these students would say that they are just not comfortable speaking in class. I heard again and again that they thought that those who were more able to speak were probably smarter, probably knew the material better, more experienced. None of this is generally true, but the belief that it is true is dangerous, especially if this view is concentrated among groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education and the professions. Many of them said that they tried to speak, but in order to do so they would silently practice exactly what they were going to say. When a point came up they wanted to address, they would start by figuring out how they were going to start to say what they wanted to say, how they would continue, then they would forget the opening and go back to that and start all over. By the time they thought they were ready, the point was long gone. This is exactly what I experienced when I was a student, especially in the courses in which I was most intimidated, especially when there were very few other women in the class.

One solution is, then, not to require participation so as to even the playing field. But there are reasons to regard participation as important, which I will share in a moment. Another is just to spend time urging the silent ones to speak. I think there is another solution which, after all is said and done, provides crucial skill development for students.

Some years ago, while I was still at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I began to borrow a different approach, which emphasized not students’ participation in class  (by which one often means how much one speaks — surely not a good measure of much that is important),  but students contributions to the class discussion. That means that the important measure is not how much one speaks, but what difference a student makes to the quality of the classroom experience for everyone.

I have come to believe that the ability to make important contributions to a group or community discussion or deliberation is one of the most important things we can teach students, especially those who, because they belong to particular groups that have not had a fair share, or who have faced systematic barriers, remain silent in groups, leaving it to others to influence the quality and direction of group discussions. There is a lot of good research on inequality and speech, but one of the most deft treatments is Women and Power: A Manifesto, published by the great classicist Mary Beard in 2017. Women have been kept from power, from leadership, even from citizenship through the ages by being silenced — not being allowed to speak, or being treated like children or idiots when they do speak. And certainly, this is not just the experience of women, but all those who have, as a group, systematically been treated like children or idiots, not being allowed to speak in public, or being disregarded, or punished.

It struck me in a Gender and Politics class I was teaching that I could not longer tolerate facilitating this silence. I want all my students to leave their college education prepared to make contributions to the public good through their speech. This is hard for many of them, and it takes as much craft, work, and holding students to achievement as we do in every other respect.

I distribute an explanation and rubric (attached here) through our course website and on the first day of class. We discuss the meaning of making a contribution to class discussions, working our way through the rubric. We talk about why this skill is something worth having. I discuss the means of evaluation very carefully: At the end of every class meeting, the students will fill out and submit a 3×5 card that evaluates their contribution to that class in according to the rubric we have discussed. At the end of the semester, I have them do one final self-evaluation in which they think about their overall contribution. I grade using their evaluations tempered by mine.

Many of them hate doing the self-evaluation. They dislike having to say when they haven’t really participated. And they feel embarrassed saying good things about their participation. They are used to leaving it to teachers to evaluate them, rather than evaluating themselves. But, I point out, when they have long since left college, they will need to be able to be accurate judges of their own contributions to groups in their work, in their communities, in their organizations. For what does it mean if we participate but have little understanding of how to judge what our impact is?

So they are required to try to make a positive contribution to this community of learning, which is our class. (They are also participating in weekly blogs about the reading, but that is another thing.) They are required to try to develop the skill of doing a clear-eyed job of evaluating their impact.  I welcome them into my office  to talk about what is hard about this for them (and I am deeply sympathetic when they get there), and I tell them we will work on strategies together to help them get going.

Often it is just about getting going, breaking through that fear. Many times, a solution we find is this: They generally seem comfortable talking with me in my office. Or they may have a friend in class. I tell them the first few times they speak, speak up, but focus only on one person with whom they are comfortable. Whether that is me or a friend, I say just focus your eyes like a laser …. at first, don’t see anyone else. Just find a comfortable talking/listening partner in class, and speak with that person, but so others can hear. It doesn’t always work, but often does. And it gives me a chance to smile at them and say with my face that I’m proud of them and they’ve done well.

And then, some of them never get used to this. But we talk about it again on the last day of the class when I give my “closing sermon,” and we talk about what they might do in the next class they take.

See the rubric, attached.