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New era in politics creates a demand for political science graduates

Photo of associate professor Christopher Stout, who teaches political science online and on campus for Oregon State University.

Associate professor Christopher Stout says graduates of Oregon State’s political science program possess the critical thinking and applied skills to start an exciting career and “bring a new perspective to understanding politics.”

Oregon State’s online program primes students for careers in a rapidly changing field

By Tyler Hansen
Dec. 28, 2020

Christopher Stout, Ph.D., is the author of two books on politics in the United States, both regarded as “important” works that examine increasingly vital aspects of America’s political landscape.

Stout is also an associate professor at Oregon State University, and he believes — given the current, unprecedented state of affairs — that an entirely new book is in order.

“We basically need to rewrite what we know about political science,” he says.

The rules of politics have changed in recent years, according to Stout. Much of what was written merely five or six years ago is no longer applicable in the current political context.

“That makes it an exciting time to study political science,” he says. “It’s not, ‘Let’s analyze elections from the 1960s and look at patterns.’ Instead, we’re trying to understand what’s happening now, and that’s driving a real uptick in interest and more engagement in our field.”

Oregon State University’s political science bachelor’s degree — delivered online by Oregon State Ecampus — provides wide-ranging opportunities for aspiring and working professionals to closely examine local, national and international politics. Rooted in research and faculty expertise, the program curriculum immerses students in the analysis of societal patterns and equips them with skills to build successful careers.

As the Ecampus coordinator for the School of Public Policy’s political science program, Stout is an authority on the benefits of earning an Oregon State political science degree online. Here, he shares his thoughts on the program’s value and more.

On the data-driven rise in political science career prospects

“There are so many more jobs in politics now than there has been in recent history. The amount of money that is being flooded into politics means that people are needed to fill these new jobs.

“At the same time, there’s so much more data, both internationally and domestically. Organizations want to understand that data, (political) parties want to understand that data, so they’ve been doing a lot of hiring to make sense of what’s going on.”

On Oregon State’s ability to prepare students for in-demand jobs

“I have numerous students, both online and on campus, who worked in campaigns this fall. I think the political science department at Oregon State is doing a fantastic job of training students to get those jobs, and that’s aided by doing data analysis.

“All the students in our major are required to take research methods. In research methods courses, students are collecting data, analyzing data, using different statistical programs, learning how to do interviews and content analysis. When they graduate, they don’t just have the critical thinking skills, they also have the applied skills to go out and get some of these jobs and bring a new perspective to understanding politics.”

On a diverse range of perspectives being shared in online classes

“Our students get a chance to interact with people with a wide variety of ideological stances. That breeds empathy and can lead to more critical thinking and a better understanding of our political world rather than writing someone off because they’re of a different political party. …

“Over the last couple of summers, I began seeing new perspectives being shared. I think it’s because there is a greater diversity of students in Ecampus courses — students who are represented and who come from all over the world. I’ve asked similar questions over time, and I’m seeing new answers that I hadn’t seen before. That’s a lot of fun.”

On the lively, welcoming and in-depth conversations between students

“I’ve found overwhelmingly that students in online classes — and this is true in on-campus courses as well — are really respectful of the other side. That makes people feel confident that they can express their opinions without being viewed differently by their classmates.

“Often you’ll see longer conversation between the students. They do really seem to want interactions with their classmates and that they enjoy talking about politics.”

On the expertise of OSU’s political science faculty

“My predecessor (as Ecampus coordinator), Erika Wolters, she did a wonderful job putting together a program with a diverse array of courses taught by political scientists and practitioners who are experts. Students get to work with faculty who are the experts in their chosen fields. That means our students learn in a way that others aren’t. That’s a major benefit to studying political science at Oregon State.”


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