May 22, 2019
Return to: College of Arts & Sciences: Departments/Programs
Requirements for Major
The major has four basic components:
- PST Seminars (8 credits)
- Foundation Courses (6 credits)
- Area Studies (18 credits)
- Thesis (6 credits, full year)
PST Seminars - Credits: 8
Open to majors only, consisting of PST 4850, 4870 (3 credits each), and PST 4980 and 4989 (the fourth-year thesis workshops) 2 credits.
Each student must complete at least six credits from the following list of courses, or equivalents approved by the director, dealing with political and social thought or its historical foundations:
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; environmental justice. Note that an area of study is more specific than simply the name of a department or discipline.
For each area, the student must complete two relevant courses, normally at the 3000 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
The PST thesis, of about 80-100 pages, is written over the course of the fourth year. Working with a faculty advisor, students define a topic and engage in serious research, often using primary source materials. The thesis is due on March 31, followed in late April by a full day conference at which students present their completed work. Abstracts of past theses are available on the PST website.
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 to twenty new students a year. A 3.20 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:
- a completed PST application form (available on the PST website);
- an official transcript
- a letter of recommendation by a faculty member sent directly to Prof. Smith
- 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.
- a writing sample–preferably a previously completed and graded term paper or essay that represents one’s work at its best.
- a brief statement of one or two significant extracurricular activities, and why the commitment is worth the time.
The above materials should be assembled in a manila file folder and placed under Professor Smith’s office door, Gibson S-396, by March 1. (Students studying abroad may submit applications online.)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.
For more information contact Michael J. Smith, Program Director, Gibson S-396, email@example.com. Also consult the program’s website; www.virginia.edu/pst.
All courses in political and social thought are open to PST majors only.