May 25, 2024  
Undergraduate Record 2007-2008 
Undergraduate Record 2007-2008 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Political and Social Thought

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Arts and Sciences

Requirements for Major

The major has four basic components:

  1. PST Seminars (8 credits)
  2. Foundation Courses (6 credits)
  3. Area Studies (18 credits)
  4. Thesis (6 credits)

PST Seminars - Credits: 8

Open to majors only, consisting of PST 485, 487 (3 credits each), and PST 498Y (the fourth-year thesis workshop) 1 credit per term; 2 credits total.

Area Studies

Each student is required to define three different area studies. An area is defined as a particular intellectual theme or subfield of interest to be investigated in the course of the student’s studies. These areas can be derived from within, between, or outside traditional disciplines. Some examples of area studies might include aspects of modern (or contemporary) political thought; ethical issues in modern economic development, human rights; religion in world politics; identity politics in modern social movements; state-building in third world societies; the modern welfare state; mass media and contemporary social communication.

For each area, the student must complete two relevant courses at the 300 level or above. The total of six courses necessary to fulfill the area requirements must be drawn from at least three different disciplines, programs, or departments. In brief: 3 areas; 2 courses per area; 3 disciplines; Total credits:  18.

Taken together, the three areas of study should be well thought-out and intellectually coherent, and form the general basis of study for the fourth-year thesis. The three areas of study define the interdisciplinary character of the student’s program and must meet a rigorous standard of coherence. In consultation with their advisors and the program director, students are expected to articulate the rationale of their choices in a brief written statement due by the end of the third year.

Fourth-Year Thesis - Credits: 6


Interested students currently in their fourth semester in the College of Arts and Sciences are invited to apply for admission into this interdisciplinary program. As a distinguished major, the program admits only eighteen new students a year. A 3.000 cumulative GPA is generally required for admission; the average GPA of recent classes is well above this. The program assumes the students will be in Charlottesville their third and fourth years. It is highly desirable (but not mandatory) that students applying for the PST program should take at least one of the courses listed under the foundations of political and social thought by the end of their second year. Courses taken before admission to the major can be counted toward fulfilling its requirements.

Students interested in becoming PST majors should submit:

  1. a completed PST application form;
  2. a letter of recommendation by a faculty member;
  3. a 300-500 word essay. This essay should address the following questions: (1) What are your intellectual goals and why are they best addressed in the interdisciplinary PST major? (2) At this (tentative) point, what three area studies will you select in constructing your PST curriculum and why? This answer does not commit students to a particular course of studies if they are accepted into the program; but it should reflect a thoughtful and coherent curricular plan.
  4. a writing sample. Students may submit a previously completed term paper or essay (preferably with the instructor’s comments on it) that represents their work at its best.

The above materials should be brought to the PST office in 248-A Cabell Hall by March 1. Candidates should hear from the committee by the end of March.

The director of the PST program holds a meeting for the prospective majors in early February to answer any questions about admission procedures and program requirements. Students may also obtain this information from the PST website. Abstracts of recent PST theses are available on the website; these provide a concrete sense of how students pursue the intellectual opportunities of the program.

Additional Information

For more information write to Michael J. Smith, Program Director, 248-A Cabell Hall, P.O. Box 400786, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4786, (434) 982-2235;;

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: College of Arts and Sciences