The Department of Political Science offers students a multi-faceted exposure to American politics, comparative politics, international relations, public policy and political philosophy and theory. We see thousands of students in our introductory classes. Many fulfill their requirements and move on. For others the introductory classes whet their appetites, and they return for more.
We have more than 800 majors and minors. It is the goal of the department to provide students with a broadly based, critical examination of politics near and far. Of course, the bulk of that instruction comes in a traditional on-campus classroom setting. Occasionally, though, students can extend the classroom, or more precisely, they can step out of it.
The department seeks to create Signature Experiences for as many students as possible. We hope that they have memorable experiences in the classroom and become inspired. But we want to extend their education beyond the classroom as well. Summer 2022 saw the first full strength, post-pandemic study abroad programs. The department supports two programs in Western Europe that enable students to immerse themselves in the vibrant cultures, rich histories, and vivid politics of the United Kingdom and Italy.
The London program welcomed fourteen new students that undertook the five-week academic term, during May and June. Nine of the 14 stayed on for an additional five-week internship that placed the students in a variety of settings – a barrister’s chambers, a law firm, at nonprofits, and a think tank. The end of pandemic restrictions meant that site visits were also less constrained than they had been in summer 2021, when many parts of sites remained closed. At Westminster Abbey, for example, students were able to access the Queen’s Gallery, something that had been closed to visitors previously. At the same time, everyone also had to deal with an incredible post-pandemic surge in tourism to London.
Students were also able to meet Members of Parliament in person again at the Houses of Parliament, where in 2021 the meetings had been forced on to Zoom. In the picture below the students are seen with Hywel Williams, MP, Plaid Cymru (the Party of Wales). Other MPs that students met included Mike Wood (Conservative Party), Lisa Cameron (Scottish National Party), and Francie Molloy (Sinn Fein).
Back to Italy
No country felt the initial force of the global COVID-19 pandemic more than Italy. Italians faced a rising death toll, hospitals filled beyond capacity, curfews, multiple restrictions, and economic decline. Travel to Italy was virtually halted. The study abroad programs to Italy were canceled for two years, a minor nuisance compared to the prolonged consequences that the people of Italy faced. In summer 2022, students returned for the first time in three years to Florence, the site of the program.
There were a few concessions that still needed to be made to the specter of COVID. Students wore masks in class and on field trips to museums. The usual weekend trip to Rome was a casualty, though most students made the trip to the Eternal City on their own.
Italy itself was a little different. The streets, cafes, restaurants, and bars were less crowded. Museums, churches, and tourist sites were similarly less crowded as the government made an effort to stagger and limit admissions.
Some things did not change. Students were able to take most of the traditional field trips including visits to Siena, Pisa, Orvieto, and San Gimignano. Italy remains beautiful. The food and the gelato remain exquisite. The people were even more friendly. Florence and Italy were waiting with open arms to welcome UT students back. The program had a group of a dozen students who enjoyed their time in Italy and would be happy to share their experiences.
Italy continues to recover and the department looks forward to returning at the end of May.