Located across the street from the state capitol, Willamette University is an ideal setting for the study of American politics. Students are able to test the theoretical knowledge of the political process gained in the classroom against the practical, hands-on experience of working in the legislature, in the governor's office, or in a state agency. The department's vibrant internship program is set within the context of a diverse curriculum emphasizing the study of environmental and welfare policy, legislative politics as well as the initiative and referendum process, political parties, bureaucratic organizations, and the presidency. Always, the department's focus on institutions and policies is leavened by a deep commitment to the study of American political development and political thought, and a profound engagement with the ethical and evaluative questions that must be asked of politics in the United States.
The study of American Politics also includes opportunities to examine the United States judicial process, including its origins, conceptual foundations, and its influence on public policy. Although the department offers some specialized courses in the study of public law (Critical Theories of the Law, Constitutional Law, and Law and Public Policy), several faculty also utilize exemplary legal cases, court briefs, and oral arguments in courses not usually considered "pre-law," such as Politics 118 (Privacy), Politics 210 (Introduction to American Politics), Politics 303 (Topics in Political Theory), and Politics 341 (Environmental Policymaking). This reflects the department's commitment to pursuing analysis of the law in a liberal arts environment, where law, legal culture, and their influence are considered an integral thread woven throughout the political fabric of our society.