PSCI 2500 - Syllabus

  PSCI 2500




Course Description

What rules, principles, norms and conventions govern how states interact in the contemporary world? Are states free to act as they wish or do they face constraints from international institutions, power asymmetries and even self-interest? What are the mechanisms by which we seek to enhance cooperation and manage conflict? This semester, we will address these and other questions pertaining to international politics. The course will utilize a text supplemented with videos and additional readings.

Learning Outcomes


  • You will learn the various ways both political scientists and political leaders view how the international community of states interact.
  • You will gain knowledge of the factors that influence the formulation and conduct of foreign policy.
  • You will understand the institutions and practices that constitute global governance.
  • You will gain familiarity with a variety of challenges faced by the international community and both successes and failures in addressing them. 


  • You will gain skill in "border crossing," seeing things through someone else's eyes, understanding others' cultural "lenses."
  • You will strengthen your critical thinking skills, especially (but not exclusively) by remembering the following guidelines:

  • Complex problems have complex and multiple causes. Simplistic explanations lead to simplistic solutions that don't work.
  • Correlation is not causation. (It might suggest a causal relationship, but it's not a given.)
  • Evidence and inference guide our conclusions, not ideology, not preconceptions and not emotion.
  • There is never only one side to a conflict. Rarely is one party always right.

Course learning outcomes intersect with these WMU and College of Arts and Sciences global learning outcomes:

  • Knowledge #2: Demonstrate knowledge of the varied forces that have shaped the world.
  • Skill #2: The ability to think critically and problem solve while relying upon globally relevant knowledge and a variety of cultural frames of reference.
  • Perspective #4: Concern for becoming a globally engaged citizen who will work toward a sustainable future.

Academic Freedom

You have the right to engage in reasoned disagreement with me without any penalty to your grade. I have the right to challenge any belief, ideology, worldview, or attitude you have, including those beliefs you hold sacred. Students likewise have this right with each other and me. Everyone has the right to express his or her views without fear of bullying or reprisal. I or another student may ask you to support your view with evidence, logic, or an expression of values, just as you may ask of me or anyone else in class. Respectful disagreements and challenges should not be seen as attacks or insults, but as part of the reasoned dialogue we engage in as students, professors, and citizens. Look at disagreements as an opportunity to explore your own views as well as attempt to see an alternative viewpoint as if it were your own, even if only temporarily in order to understand it better. Understand that intellectual discomfort is a stepping stone to better understanding all points of view – even our own. And it is a critical foundation for learning.


The assigned text for the course is Steven Lamy, Introduction to Global Politics, 5th edition (it is essential you get the 5th edition; otherwise, pagination will be incorrect and you will not be able to answer some quiz questions).

There are some articles listed on the schedule of classes and assignments that are on e-reserve. You will need a password to access them; the pw is international. Go to the library website, click on "Course Reserves," then search for PSCI 2500. Once you've logged in and found the article you are seeking, you can download it as a pdf or read it online.

Requirements and Grading



Attendance (10 points for each class session)


Periodic short papers (in class)


Online quizzes (open book)


Exam I


Exam II


Final Exam




Bonus: 5% for office visit (see below)


Office Visit

You can earn a 5% bonus for your final course grade (roughly equivalent to a half-letter grade) by visiting either Dasha or me during our scheduled office hours sometime in the first half of the semester. This is nothing more than a one-on-one get-acquainted meeting with no specified agenda. We'll be happy to answer any questions you have, of course. But this is primarily about establishing contact outside of class and helping us to get to know you a little better.


Advice: don't put it off. I expect office hours to get busier as we approach spring break. I don't want to see you lose the points because the line was too long when you came by to see one of us.


A high priority in this class is placed on attendance and preparation. Attendance in class is something I take very seriously. One learns not by attendance when convenient and cramming for exams, but by regular engagement with the material, both written and verbal. I can't possibly test for everything, and I assume by virtue of being in class and being awake (another expectation!), you'll be learning far more than I can examine you on. Hence: the significant portion of your grade that is placed on attendance.

Quizzes, Exams and In-Class Papers

Every chapter in the text has an associated online multiple choice quiz. They are open book and to be taken outside of class. Each quiz has a posted activation date and deadline; both are posted on elearning and the schedule page of this site.

There are three exams. Each will have a mix of multiple choice, short answer and short essay questions.

Five times during the course of the semester, you will write a short paper in class on a question drawn from previous material. This is to test your mastery of key concepts. I will use them to gauge how well you understand the material and how the class overall is dealing with some of the more complicated concepts and theoretical perspectives.

Class Behavior

Your behavior in class should be guided by a single principle: nothing you do should be disruptive or distracting to others in class. Chatting with your neighbor is one such activity, as is reading a newspaper. Please take note of the electronics policy below.

Make-up Exams and Quizzes

If you do not notify me in advance, and if I do not approve of the reason for being absent, you will not be allowed to make up exams. Excused absences include significant illness, death in the family, and the like. Excuses not accepted: having to work, a major assignment due in another class, a planned family or personal vacation, oversleeping, volunteer activity or a student activities event, and so on. Once the deadline for online quizzes has passed, they cannot be made up since they are available for no less than one week.

Laptops and Other Electronic Devices

This class has a no-devices policy. The reason is twofold. First, although sometimes students wish to take notes on a device, it is much more commonly the case that they are surfing or social networking. Second, although we think we multitask well, in fact we are not as good at it as we imagine. So it is not surprising that there is good evidence that student grades suffer when they are using devices for non class-related activities. There is also very good evidence that device usage distracts other students. For these reasons, electronic device usage is banned in this class. (See footnotes at bottom of page for references.)


There are an exception. If you have a learning disability that can be aided by technology, let me know. In such a case, and with confirmation from the Office of Student Services, I will be happy to make an exception. In such cases, I will require that you sit in the front of the class.

Religious Observances

WMU has a religious observances policy that I will follow as much as possible. Note that advance notification is essential, the more the better.


Students with Disabilities

I will make every effort to accommodate students with verified disabilities. Please see me to discuss it.


I will communicate with you often. You are responsible for monitoring communications. To communicate with me, you should use email. Leaving a message on my office voice mail will likely result in a delayed response. I will do everything I can to answer your email message promptly. Please help me distinguish between important messages from you and annoying spam from pranksters and criminals by using your WMU address. Also, when you write to me, please put "PSCI 2500" in the subject line. I cannot guarantee that emails that do not follow these instructions will be answered promptly.


Academic Integrity

Students are responsible for making themselves aware of and understanding the University policies and procedures that pertain to Academic Honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. The academic policies addressing Student Rights and Responsibilities can be found in the Undergraduate Catalog. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s) and if you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with your instructor if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test.


Students and instructors are responsible for making themselves aware of and abiding by the “Western Michigan University Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment and Violence, Intimate Partner Violence, and Stalking Policy and Procedures” related to prohibited sexual misconduct under Title IX, the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Campus Safe. Under this policy, responsible employees (including instructors) are required to report claims of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or designee (located in the Office of Institutional Equity). Responsible employees are not confidential resources. For a complete list of resources and more information about the policy see University Sexual Assault and Misconduct Policy.


In addition, students are encouraged to access the Code of Conduct, as well as resources and general academic policies on such issues as diversity, religious observance, and student disabilities:



Grading Scale


100-93% = A

92-88% = BA

87-83% = B

82-78% = CB

77-73% = C

72-68% = DC

67-60% = D

below 60% = E

Semester Points

1000-930 = A

929-880 = BA

879-830 = B

829-780 = CB

779-730 = C

729-680 = DC

679-600 = D

below 600 = E