Politics

  • Degree Type Bachelor of Arts
  • Department Politics
  • Academic Division The Williams School
  • Offerings Major

A group of students pose for a picture in front of a tiled fountain A group of students pose for a picture in front of a tiled fountain

At W&L, the study of politics is a combination of theory and practice and our proximity to D.C. is a plus. We are close enough for students to benefit from study in the nation’s capital, but far enough away to be one step removed from the day-to-day D.C. experience.

Politics 

W&L offers a liberal arts approach to the study of politics. It’s interdisciplinary. Our department stresses the close reading of texts. We enable students to think seriously about the most important questions regarding being a member of a community and how we relate to other nations. Instruction is not focused on lectures, but on a question-and-answer approach between students and faculty. We offer small classes, and faculty have an open-door policy and are highly interested in their students’ success in the classroom and in the world beyond W&L.

The Department of Politics at Washington and Lee University teaches students to be informed and active citizens of a free society, able to think about politics with rigor and nuance. We offer a wide array of courses in American government, political philosophy, global politics, and statistics and methods. We encourage students to pursue their education in an interdisciplinary manner and we provide opportunities to augment their study in off-campus and experiential learning programs.

Opportunities 

The study of politics at W&L includes opportunities to participate in our Mock Convention, publish in our Political Review, work with high school students in our Model UN program and engage in a host of community service projects.

Many have earned prestigious scholarships, such as Fulbright, Rhodes, Rotary and Watson fellowships. Some of our students go on to pursue graduate study and are now teachers of politics themselves. The major offers something for everyone. We support off-campus research and study, and conference participation. There are opportunities to study with professors during the academic year as well as the summer.

Washington Term 

The Washington Term Program has provided more than 400 W&L students with memorable living and learning experiences in the nation's capital since 1987. Students have used the six-week Spring Term course to launch careers in every branch of government. The program includes three components: an academic course, an internship and a lecture series.

“Politics rules the world. Everything else is ordered by policy. The most important questions we face in a civil society, such as what laws should be made, are decided through politics. Politics helps humans relate to each other in an ethical fashion.”

Lucas Morel
Professor of Politics and Head of the Politics Department

Lucas Morel

Department Head

Joy Swartz

Administrative Assistant

News


2024 Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee University is proud to announce this year's Distinguished Alumni Award winners

Continue Reading

W&L Alumna Lane Johansen ’22 Selected for Fulbright to Poland

Johansen has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to teach English to students in Poland.

Continue Reading

Meet Emma Scott ‘26

Scott’s passion for the environment carries over from the classroom to opportunities on campus and beyond.

Continue Reading

Washington and Lee Names Four Faculty Members to Endowed Professorships

These faculty have been recognized for their outstanding teaching, scholarship and service to the university.

Continue Reading

Meet Emma Conover ’24

Leading Campus Kitchen, a student-run organization focused on addressing food insecurity, has been a rewarding experience.

Continue Reading

Record Number of W&L Students Awarded Critical Language Scholarship

The Critical Language Scholarship Program funds a summer of overseas language and cultural immersion.

Continue Reading

W&L’s Leslie Frederick to Present at the 2024 AACSB Assessment and AoL Conference in New York City

Frederick will serve as co-presenter for a session that demonstrates the beneficial uses of technology in the curriculum mapping process.

Continue Reading

Lucas Morel to Deliver Endowed Professorship Lecture

Morel’s talk “Lincoln, the 1860 Election & The Future of Slavery in America” will be held March 12 in Northen Auditorium.

Continue Reading

Meet Leif Smith ’24

Smith’s W&L experience includes finding a family in his lacrosse teammates and helping other students discover their career paths as a career fellow.

Continue Reading

Laura Murambadoro '26

An Extraordinary Combination

Laura Murambadoro ’26 brings varied interests, a collaborative leadership style and a passion for community engagement to W&L’s campus.

Continue Reading

Constitutional Law Expert Kermit Roosevelt III to Deliver Lecture on his Book “The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing America’s Story”

The March 7 talk in University Chapel was made possible by a $5,000 grant from the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati.

Continue Reading

Robin LeBlanc to Present Nobel Prize Symposium Talk

The W&L professor of politics will present on this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, Narges Mohammadi, on March 8 in Leyburn 128.

Continue Reading

Sample Courses

At W&L, we believe education and experience go hand-in-hand. You’ll be encouraged to dive in, explore and discover connections that will broaden your perspective.

POL 360

Lincoln’s Statesmanship

This seminar examines the political thought and practice of Abraham Lincoln. Emphasis is on his speeches and writings, supplemented by scholarly commentary on his life and career.

POL 384

Middle East Politics

This course examines contemporary politics in the Middle East and North Africa. Topics include the role of colonial legacies in state formation, the region's democratic deficit, nationalism, sectarianism and the influence of religion in politics. We explore inter- and intrastate conflict, including the use of terrorism, economic development and underdevelopment, and the recent Arab uprisings (commonly referred to as the Arab Spring). Throughout, we consider why the Middle East attracts as much attention from policymakers and scholars as it does, how analysts have studied the region across time and space, and why understanding different cultural perspectives is critical to understanding the region.

POL 296A

International Political Economy

An introduction to the study of international political economy, including a critical examination of globalization as a dominant trend in the 21st century. First, we explore major theoretical approaches to analyzing international political economy, such as realism, liberalism and critical theory. To apply the theory, we use The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy as a case study that represents specialization and division of labor in production, distribution and consumption of goods on a global scale. Then, we discuss key issues of globalization and international political economy, such as international economic organizations, trade relations, regionalism, multinational corporations, international development, global financial instabilities and economic crisis, U.S. economic hegemony, and the U.S.-China trade war.

POL 295

Minority Rights & Gerrymandering

An introduction to the history of voting-rights discrimination in the United States with a particular focus on gerrymandering. The course begins with a study of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and how it has evolved through congressional amendments and Supreme Court decisions. We then investigate theories of minority representation and democracy. To place the theoretical aspects of the course into practical perspective, the course includes a lab component in which students learn to use redistricting software (ArcMap). We use Virginia elections and census data to produce alternative election maps of Virginia to demonstrate how we can make elections fairer and more competitive and create more opportunities for minority representation.

POL 292

Politics of Film: “Mad Men”

This class uses episodes of the Emmy Award-winning television series “Mad Men” — famous for its depiction of shifting understandings of gender and race relations in the United States in the 1960s — as a basis for exploring the culture of race and gender shared/challenged by the show's 21st century audience. Supplementary reading and films will offer a framework for critique. Students create their own short screenplays to further explore how entertainment can work as social criticism.

POL 287

The Maghreb

This course examines the history, culture and politics of the Maghreb, and especially the Kingdom of Morocco. After a few days in Lexington, most of the course is based in the old cities of Rabat and Fez, the latter a UNESCO world-heritage site and home to the oldest continually operating university in the world. We take field trips to the blue city of Chefchouen, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, and Africa's largest mosque in Casablanca. Throughout the course, students explore the region's political history, including the influence of imperialism and Islam on politics, gender relations in North Africa, Morocco's relationship with the United States, and more.

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.

Lucas Morel
Lucas Morel

Lucas Morel

Department Head, John K. Boardman, Jr. Professor of Politics

Morel has taught at W&L since 1999. His teaching and research interests include American government, political theory, Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Ellison, and race and equality. He is a pre-law advisor and an accomplished writer.

Curriculum Vitae

Brian Alexander
Brian Alexander

Brian Alexander

Assistant Professor of Politics

Alexander teaches courses primarily in U.S. government and international relations. He has nearly 20 years of professional experience and previously worked in the
office of Senator Jack Reed (D-RI).

Curriculum Vitae

Seth Cantey
Seth Cantey

Seth Cantey

Associate Professor of Politics; MESA Program Head

Cantey teaches courses on global politics, Middle Eastern politics, intelligence, terrorism and foreign policy. His commentary on current events has been picked up by various media outlets, such as USA Today and the Huffington Post.

Curriculum Vitae

Stuart Gray
Stuart Gray

Stuart Gray

Associate Professor of Politics

Gray teaches numerous courses on political philosophy, Gandhi and Greek/Indian political theory. His research focuses on the history of political thought, global comparative political theory and South Asian political thought.

Curriculum Vitae

Rebecca C. Harris
Rebecca C. Harris

Rebecca C. Harris

Professor of Politics

Harris teaches applied American Politics courses in government, public policy and environmental policy. Her interdisciplinary work focuses on genetic science and partisanship in food politics.

Curriculum Vitae

Robin LeBlanc
Robin LeBlanc

Robin LeBlanc

Professor of Politics

LeBlanc is a political anthropologist focused on the civic engagement of non-elites in rich democracies. She teaches classes on global politics, urban politics, gender and politics, and political theory.

Zoila Ponce de Leon Seijas
Zoila Ponce de Leon Seijas

Zoila Ponce de Leon Seijas

Assistant Professor of Politics

Ponce de Leon Seijas teaches courses on comparative politics and Latin American politics. Her research focuses on Latin American social policy as well as political representation in Latin America and Western Europe.

Curriculum Vitae

Mark Rush
Mark Rush

Mark Rush

Director of International Education and Professor of Politics

Rush writes on U.S. politics, constitutional law, elections and democracy around the world, global affairs, and higher education. His current scholarly work includes presidential power, international politics, judicial activism, elections and democratic reform, civic education, higher education, and law and technology.

Curriculum Vitae

Lynn Uzzell
Lynn Uzzell

Lynn Uzzell

Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics

Lynn Uzzell is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University. She is currently working on two book manuscripts relating to the records of the Constitutional Convention. She specializes in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the political thought of James Madison. In addition, she has research and teaching experience in political philosophy, rhetoric, and slavery and the Constitution.

Clyde Wang

Clyde Wang

Assistant Professor of Politics

Brian Alexander
Seth Cantey
Stuart Gray
Rebecca C. Harris
Robin LeBlanc
Zoila Ponce de Leon Seijas
Mark Rush
Lynn Uzzell
Lucas Morel