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Welcome to the homepage of the graduate program in political science. The graduate program of the department of political science, a division of the University of Houston’s Graduate School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, provides advanced training in the discipline of political science to students whose career goals include college teaching and advanced research. The department offers programs for both master's and doctoral degrees.

The department is organized into five major subfields: American politics, comparative politics, political theory, international relations and public policy. Doctoral students take comprehensive exams in a major and a minor subfield of their choice. The department has a long history of being quantitatively oriented. All students in the department must fulfill a requirement in research methods.

Ph.D. candidates must choose one major and one minor field. Offered are:

American Politics | Comparative Politics | Political Theory | Public Policy | International Relations

American Politics

Houston American Politics has a long tradition of scholarship in political behavior, American institutions and public policy. We hope to attract students whose interests bridge American politics and public law, political theory or comparative politics. Our placement record in American politics is strong, with recent graduates receiving tenure track positions at the University of Alabama, Misericordia University and the University of Montevallo. An important strength of our program continues to be its culture of publication. Our faculty is young but productive and active in the field. We have published monographs in the fields’ leading university presses and have published articles in American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly and Political Research Quarterly, as well as articles in more specialized journals. Moreover, our faculty regularly participate as section heads for the major conferences. In the past few years, we have expanded the socialization and professionalization opportunities for our students. The American Politics Workshop at the University of Houston meets twice a month to workshop a graduate student or faculty paper, and each semester to provide tips for publishing and job applications. In addition, we regularly host prominent American politics scholars for seminars and lectures. Recent visitors include Shanto Iyengar, Terry Sullivan, Ken Meier and Daniel Carpenter. On these visits, our graduate students can attend seminar-style research presentations, and our more advanced students are often invited to dinner with visiting speakers.

Comparative Politics

Houston Comparative Politics also has a long tradition of scholarship, and we are growing. We continue to hire in international relations, with a focus on international and comparative political economy, which will provide great opportunities for students interested in those subfields, and more generally, interested in issues that cut across the fields of comparative politics and international relations. We wish to attract students interested in Latin American and European politics and in acquiring strong methodological skills, some of the strengths of our department. We also hope to attract students interested in the connections between comparative politics and international relations or public policy. We have placed recent comparative politics students at Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) and University of Glasgow.

Our program is small but vibrant. In the past few years, we have developed The Center for Comparative and International Studies, which now sponsors a number of activities throughout the year and brings nationally recognized speakers to campus to discuss current affairs with students and faculty. In addition, a bi-weekly comparative/international relations workshop gives students the opportunity to share their work and receive feedback from students and faculty. Our department recently organized a conference on analyzing Latin American Politics, which was attended by a number of distinguished scholars. In addition, we regularly host prominent comparativists for seminars and lectures. Recent visitors include Scott Gehlbach, Sebastian Saiegh, Michelle Taylor-Robinson, Leslie Schwindt-Bayer and Julia Gray.  

Political Theory

Political theory at the University of Houston has a long-standing focus in constitutionalism and liberal theory, and we currently have seven theorists working in these general areas. Our core graduate faculty includes Jeremy Bailey (American political thought), Naomi Choi (contemporary political thought), Jeffrey Church (late moderns) and Alin Fumurescu (early moderns). In addition, Dustin Gish (ancients) contributes to the program as an affiliated faculty in the Honors College, Greg Weiher teaches Religion and Politics and Daniel Engster of the Hobby School of Public Affairs works on the ethics of public policy. Our faculty are active scholars, publishing in the discipline's top journals and university presses.

Our program also encourages connections between political theory and other parts of the discipline (particularly public law, American politics, public policy and research methods). This approach has yielded successful placement for our students, with our most recent graduates getting jobs at Utah State University, Angelo State University and King University.

We regularly invite visiting speakers to campus through the support of the Tocqueville Forum on American Ideas and Institutions. Recent visitors have included Thomas Pogge, John Tomasi, Keith Whittington, Ruth Grant, Jim Ceaser, Sharon Krause, Michael Zuckert, Thomas Pangle, Arthur Melzer, Elizabeth Ellis and Gary Jacobsohn. On most visits, our graduate students get a chance to attend the research presentation in a small setting, and our more advanced students are often invited to dinner with visiting speakers. In addition, the Political Theory Workshop at the University of Houston meets each month to workshop a graduate student or faculty paper, and each semester to provide tips for publishing and job applications.

Public Policy

Public policy at the University of Houston has productive scholars in a wide range of issue areas related to inequality, welfare, immigration and health. We offer rigorous training in public policy research and policy analysis. Our department more generally has strengths across all subfields and offers solid training in political methodology. An important strength of our program continues to be its culture of publication, cross-subfields collaboration and its focus on student success. The public policy teaching faculty is drawn from across subfields to resemble both cutting-edge analytical tools and substantive expertise in various policy areas. Our faculty is young but productive and active in the field. Our faculty actively engages graduate students in research collaboration. We also provide professional trainings to help students be well prepared for future job opportunities. The American Politics and Public Policy Brown Bag Series at the University of Houston meets every 23 weeks to workshop a graduate student or faculty working paper. In addition, we regularly host prominent scholars across different subfields for seminars and lectures.

 Here is a short list of public policy teaching faculty:

– Jason Casellas (Race, Ethnicity and Public Policy)

– Jeronimo Cortina (Immigration Politics and Policy and Geographic Information Systems)

– Boris Shor (Health Care Politics and Policy)

– Greg Weiher (Education Policy)

– Ling Zhu (Inequality, Welfare and Health)

International Relations

International Relations at the University of Houston specializes in quantitative and data driven approaches to studying international conflict and cooperation. Specific areas of interest include sanctions, international interventions in elections, propaganda, war finance, the politics of international debt, trade disputes, and economic and financial correlates of war.

Tyson Chatagnier's research primarily lies at the intersection of economics and conflict. He is interested in understanding how economic factors influence the onset and termination of armed conflict and how economic conflicts can be resolved. His published scholarship has focused on interstate war, civil war, the use of economic sanctions and the resolution of trade disputes at the WTO. In addition to this work, he also studies military effectiveness and the role of the military in domestic life. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Texas A&M University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Rochester. He has previously held positions at Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins SAIS Europe and the Bruno Kessler Foundation in Trento, Italy. 

Nikolay Marinov conducts research on sanctions, election interventions and propaganda. Marinov is currently working on three projects. One is on theory and practice of states intervening in the elections of other states.  The second project exploits a new original dataset of more than 900 government documents, containing the full text of American economic sanctions. The third project develops a theory of the comparative use of modern propaganda within and between states. Marinov has published on countries’ post-coup trajectories, on peacekeeping, foreign aid and election observation. He has helped collect, with Susan Hyde, the NELDA dataset of elections around the world.  Marinov's work has been supported by the German Science Foundation. 

Patrick Shea’s research lies at the intersection of political economy and conflict, with a focus on how finance affects international and domestic political outcomes. His work contributes to the war finance literature by not only showing the importance of sovereign credit for conflict outcomes but demonstrating how this importance varies across regime type. Relatedly, he also examines how finance affects political competition across different regime types. These are the first studies to demonstrate how leaders use credit to hold onto power and how this dynamic works more for autocrats' advantage. Finally, Shea is interested in domestic competition's effect on foreign policy decisions, focusing on the role of gender politics in international relations. This research challenges conventional wisdoms in the existing literature and has revealed that women politicians are supportive of free trade and the use of force under certain conditions. 

Besides our core faculty members, there are several other UH faculty that collaborate on issues of IR. Pablo Pinto (Hobby School of Public Affairs) specializes in international and comparative political economy, with a focus on the globalization of production. Zachary Zwald, an instructional assistant professor, focuses on decision making and nuclear proliferation. Zachary D. Kaufman (UH Law Center) teaches and researches on issues related to international law, criminal law, international and transitional justice, human rights and U.S. foreign policy and national security. His subject matter focus is on genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocity crimes, and his geographic focus is on the Great Lakes region of Africa (particularly Rwanda).

Collectively, we have published monographs in the fields’ leading university presses, including Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Michigan University Press and have published articles in journals such as American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, International Organization, British Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Political Science Research and Methods, and Political Analysis, among others. Our faculty actively participate in national and international conferences, and we regularly organize conferences of our own here at the University of Houston. In addition, we encourage scholarly collaboration between our graduate students and faculty.

Research Methods

Though methods is not offered as a minor at UH, we offer a rigorous training in quantitative methods for Ph.D. and M.A. students.The goal of a 'science of politics' is to identify associations between abstract concepts that describe the political world. Making scientific progress requires specifying expected causal relationships among the concepts, measuring them and determining whether the evidence substantiates the expected relationships.

One of the core principles of the graduate programs in political science at the University of Houston is that quantitative methods aid the process of conceptualizing, developing theories, and specifying and testing hypotheses.

Faculty in political science use quantitative approaches to study a wide variety of topics, from wars and terrorism, to corruption and human rights, to legislatures, parties and voters in the United States and abroad. Many faculty use advanced methods in their research and include elements of quantitative and formal analysis in their substantive graduate courses. Because we encourage scholarly collaboration between graduate students and faculty, which has led to many successful publications, students often find that coursework in methods is a useful stepping stone to scholarship.

Most graduate students choose to take at least two semesters of coursework in statistics, learning hypothesis testing and regression analysis. Students who wish to become experts in quantitative analysis have the opportunity to take courses or summer modules in the following topics: maximum likelihood analysis, time series analysis, measurement, experimental design, survey design and analysis, causal modeling and game theory.

Students also have opportunities to develop their skills outside of a formal classroom setting. The EITM Summer Program is hosted by the Hobby Center for Public Policy at the University of Houston. The Texas Methods Conference was hosted in March of 2017 at the University of Houston, in a collaborative effort between the department of political science and the Hobby Center for Public Policy. The conference is expected to return to Houston in 2019. All such programs allow graduate students to discuss research in a small-group setting and to expand their academic network.

Recent graduates of the Ph.D. program have obtained teaching positions at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad. Recent M.A. graduates have applied their training to advance careers in journalism, business, applied research law, political activism and civil service. Others used the M.A. program to determine whether or not to enter a Ph.D. program in political science.

Interested individuals should email Director of Graduate Studies Scott Basinger, Ph.D. at