One of the unusual things about pursuing a PhD at FSU is the common vision of our faculty. We believe that the best training comes from providing students with a core education in the scientific pursuit of knowledge and actively mentoring students to help them develop their own research agendas. Our goal is to provide students with the foundations needed to achieve life-long success in their careers as political scientists.
Scientific Approach to Studying Politics
Our faculty is committed to the use of the scientific method to pursue knowledge of politics. This approach allows students to convert their own ideas and questions about politics into academic research programs that will be taken seriously by other academics and, of course, prospective employers. To develop robust theories and test them with empirical evidence, students must be conversant with core literature in their area, be able to devise sophisticated research designs and employ advanced statistical techniques. Our core curriculum ensures that students have the cutting edge training they need to pursue their own research agendas by their second year in the program.
Developing a Research Agenda through Hands-on Training
Because we believe in the importance of mentoring graduate students through the research process, we build into the program several research projects that provide students with hands-on training.
First year students develop a paper in their area of interest for presentation to the faculty at the end of the spring semester. They work closely with a faculty advisor and the instructors in their core research courses during this undertaking.
In the second year, our PhD students select an advisor to direct their Research Practicum, a project expected to produce a paper that the student will present at a professional meeting and submit to a peer-reviewed journal for potential publication.
Mentoring through Research Assistantships
In addition to coursework funded PhD students receive mentoring through our Research Assistant (RA) appointments. When faculty request RA support, they must describe how the appointment will aid in mentoring the student assigned to them and their expectations for the professional growth the student can be expected to make. Those projects that are more beneficial to a student’s professional development are then given preference in the assignment process.
Our program also encourages faculty-student collaborations by providing students with an opportunity to work in a Research Assistant position. Students find a faculty member with whom they wish to work jointly on a research project. The faculty member and student then write a proposal to have the student assigned as an RA for one semester to work on the joint project. Research assistantships have led to the presentation of co-authored work at professional conferences and publications in some of the leading academic journals in political science, as well as independent publications.
We view our Ph.D. students as future colleagues to be cultivated and mentored by working with them to produce original research. We find that both students and faculty members alike are more productive when they work together to complete projects of mutual interest and benefit.
We offer many opportunities outside the classroom for students to develop skills in the areas they need to launch a successful career in academia. We provide a series of professional development workshops on topics such as presenting research at conferences, submitting papers for publication, and preparing for the academic job market. In addition, all students attend and participate fully with faculty in department research colloquia. Finally, graduate students serve alongside faculty on many department committees.
Instruction on Teaching
Students from our program enter the job market with classroom experience from teaching courses in their areas of interest. Each graduate student takes a summer course on undergraduate teaching within our department before stepping into the classroom. Students apply the lessons learned during the summer course in developing and teaching their own independent courses to FSU undergraduates, typically starting in the third year. This enhances their attractiveness to prospective employers and eases the transition as they become new faculty members.