Undergraduate

Preparing graduates of the field of government for business, law, politics, teaching, and a host of other professions

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Concerning Undergraduate Study in the Department of Government

  1. What do I need to get into the Government Major?
  2. How do I get a Government Faculty Advisor?
  3. Who is my Faculty Advisor?
  4. What is my Professor/ Advisor’s contact information?
  5. How can my Government Department faculty advisor help me and how often should I see my advisor?
  6. Which Government courses should I take first?
  7. I am a double major. Do I get any special exemptions from the Government Major Requirements?
  8. How do I apply for the Cornell in Washington program?
  9. Will courses I take in Washington count toward my major?
  10. I am conducting surveys and interviews for my research in a GOVT class. How do I get permission to work with human subjects?
  11. I intend to apply for the Cornell Abroad Program. What do I need to do before I apply?
  12. I am participating in Cornell Abroad, and I now have the syllabi for the courses that I might take while I am abroad. How do I know if I will receive Government credit when I return?
  13. How do I apply for approval for my Cornell Abroad coursework?
  14. How do I apply for transfer credit?
  15. I am a transfer student. How many transfer credits can I apply to the major?
  16. I almost finished my degree at Cornell, and I am now taking courses at another university to satisfy the remaining course requirements. How do I obtain transfer credit and permission to graduate?
  17. Where can I get information about the International Relations Minor?
  18. Independent study in Government
  19. How do I apply for the honors program?
  20. What is plagiarism and what are the rules that govern academic conduct?
  21. What is a Government Senior Seminar, and how do I enroll in one?
  22. How can I be certain that I have completed the Government Major?
  23. Have I have completed my Arts College requirements (and what is my SPUDS report)?
  24. How does the new on-line add/drop system work?
  25. Application to Graduate

  1. What do I need to get into the Government Major?

    Students need to have completed and passed two Government courses at Cornell (with the exception of external transfer students). This does not include Advanced Placement courses, though they can be used to complete the Major. These courses do not have to be introductory courses.

    Major applications are available in the Government Department Office, located in 210 White Hall, or here:

  2. How do I get a Government Faculty Advisor?

    Students are assigned an advisor when they are accepted into the major. Students will be informed of their acceptance and advisor assignment via e-mail shortly after the application is submitted.

  3. Who is my Faculty Advisor?

    We give new Government majors the names of their faculty advisors when we send them an e-mail message confirming their acceptance into the Major.

    If you need any further information about your advisor assignment, please contact cu_govt_undergrad@cornell.edu

  4. What is my Professor/Advisor’s contact information?

    Government faculty directory

  5. How can my Government Department faculty advisor help me and how often should I see my advisor?

    Each student should meet at least once or twice each semester with his or her Government Department faculty advisor. Your advisor will give you academic advice about choosing courses and completing the Major. To make the most of these meetings, please bring a rough list of the courses you would like to take, a draft of your proposed course schedule, and a list of questions with you. He or she is also available for one-on-one meetings to discuss your academic progress, your future intellectual/career plans, and your applications for graduate school or law school. Students are asked to plan meetings with their faculty advisors well in advance to avoid last-minute requests for assistance.

  6. Which Government courses should I take first?

    Students can enter the Major once they have completed any two Government courses. Also, our courses typically do not have pre-requisites. However, we are assuming that students are gradually building up their understanding of the Government field as they make progress in the Major. We strongly recommend that students take their Introductory courses before they attempt to take courses at the 3000-level. This preparation is particularly important for students who wish to enroll in 4000-level courses. Students will find that if they complete the Introductory course in a particular sub-field (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory), before moving on, that the higher level courses in that sub-field will be more accessible for them. In short, the student is given a lot of freedom to structure the major themselves, but he or she will benefit from a coursework schedule that allows him or her to establish a foundation at the introductory level before proceeding to more advanced work at the 3000- and 4000-level.

  7. I am a Double Major. Do I get any special exemptions from the Government Major Requirements?

    Double majors only get one type of exemption. Where the College requirements are concerned, they do not have to do “electives;” the College considers the second Major as sufficient evidence that the student has achieved the required breadth in the course of study. But it should be noted that this is a College rule, and it has no effect on the Government Major requirements. Government Majors who have a second major can, however, double count a single course for both of their Majors. For example, if a History Major takes a 3000+ level History course, he or she can count it as both part of the History Major, and course for the Government Major, if it is cross-listed as both a History and a Government course, Some double Majors -- for example, those who are combining their studies in Government with a second Major in the sciences or math -- will find it more difficult to do this sort of double counting, because these courses are rarely cross-listed. In other words, double Majors do not receive special treatment, but they can double-count a Government course even if they also use it to fulfill the requirements for a second major.

  8. How do I apply for the Cornell in Washington program?

    Cornell in Washington has a program office in M101 McGraw Hall. The Program Administrator is Christine Hass, who can be reached at crm1@cornell.edu or 255-4090. She has all the information about the program as well as applications. They also have information on the Web at http://ciw.cornell.edu/

  9. Will courses I take in Washington count toward my major?

    Government 4998, the core course that most Government Majors take in Washington, counts as two upper level government courses (4 credits each) toward the Major. Other courses offered in Washington (Government 4000.XX, History courses) also count toward the major. However, students should note that Cornell in Washington courses cannot be used to satisfy the seminar requirements.

  10. I am conducting surveys and interviews for my research in a GOVT class. How do I get permission to work with human subjects?

    Please consult the Institutional Review Board for Human Participants.

  11. “I intend to apply for the Cornell Abroad Program. What do I need to do before I apply?”

    The Department of Government would like to remind our Majors about the procedures you need to follow with respect to the Cornell Abroad Program. When students who have been abroad return to campus, they must see our Director of Undergraduate Studies to obtain transfer credit. We have, in the past, turned down several requests for transfer credit, and so it is important that any of you who are currently in the Program or thinking about participating in this Program, follow our procedures very carefully. We are not trying to create more “red tape;” we are trying to make sure that everyone faces the same challenges with respect to completing their degree.

    1. Before you apply: you should meet with your advisor and discuss your application. When you go abroad, you need to take courses with genuine politics content if you want to obtain GOVT credit upon your return. And since most of you finish your introductory coursework by your Junior year, you also need to take courses at the upper-level. Make sure you are choosing your courses with this in mind. Some schools do not even offer any Government courses at all, and they will try to tell you that taking a History or Geography course will be good enough. This is simply not true. Just because you are a Government major does not mean we will accept what you do abroad as GOVT coursework. We consider transfer credit applications on a course by course basis.
    2. Think about the work involved. We only give GOVT credit if you receive at least a B-. Cornell does not include your abroad grades in your Cornell GPA, but we only accept transfer credit if you received at least a B-. Studying abroad can be difficult: new teaching styles, culture shock, exam-driven courses, and foreign languages all make academic success especially difficult. If you are not sure that you can get a B- or its equivalent in government courses when you go abroad, you should re-consider your application to the program.
    3. If you do go abroad, keep your paperwork organized. See our following FAQ item for instructions on how to apply for transfer credit; you will see that we need a lot of documentation when you return.

    Note: As of 9/8/03, students are required to get only the signature of their advisor for the Cornell Abroad Application forms--not both the DUS and their advisor.

  12. I am participating in Cornell Abroad, and I now have the syllabi for the courses that I might take while I am abroad. How do I know if I will receive Government credit when I return?

    We cannot approve your coursework in advance. This rule makes sense because you will only receive Government credit if you obtain at least a B- or its equivalent, and we will need to look at your transcript and assignments. But we can inform you that when we examine your application for Cornell Abroad coursework approval in the Department of Government upon your return, we will look at many factors, including: the level of difficulty of the course, the assignments and course requirements, the amount and type of reading, and the teaching contact hours. We will not give you credit for coursework completed abroad that does not meet, at a minimum, our own 3000-level course standards. You should compare the courses that we offer here in the Department of Government very carefully with the ones you are thinking of taking while abroad to ensure that they will meet or exceed our standards.

  13. How do I apply for approval for my Cornell Abroad coursework?

    First, make sure you are following the right procedures. You apply for Cornell Abroad coursework approval only when you studied abroad under the auspices of the Cornell Abroad Program. If you studied abroad during the summer, for example, then you need to apply for transfer credit (see our FAQ item on this). Transfer credit is an entirely different matter.

    Next, make sure you are going to the right Department. If you are seeking approval for a course that is specifically a political science course, then come to the Department of Government and use the following instructions. But if the course in question is not a political science course, you must go to the Department here at Cornell that teaches a similar course. We can only help students seeking approval for political science courses.

    Then, make sure you have your paperwork in order. You need all of the following (and we do not make any exceptions):

    1. an official transcript documenting your receipt of a letter grade of at least B- (or its equivalent).
    2. a copy of your course syllabus, detailing the objectives of the course and documenting exactly what you read for the course and the course assignments/requirements. This material must demonstrate that the course in question has substantial political science content and that it is equivalent to or exceeds our own Cornell course standards for 3000/4000-level coursework with respect to teaching contact hours, quantity and quality of reading, difficulty of assignments, grading standards, and so on.
    3. copies of your course assignments (preferably with your instructor’s comments on them.)
    4. the Cornell Abroad coursework approval form. Independent Study : The only Independent Study courses we will accept as GOVT coursework must be conducted with a Cornell faculty member, must be approved using the Arts and Science College procedures, and must be conducted during a period in which the student is registered as a Cornell student. Further, the Cornell professor and student must meet at the Ithaca campus throughout the Independent Study. In short, no GOVT credit will be granted for any Independent Study coursework that is conducted while the student is abroad.

    Note: our special rules on internships. We do not give any credit whatsoever for internships that are not organized as part of Cornell in Washington.

    Note: also that as of 1 July 2003, we will no longer grant GOVT credit for any coursework taken under the auspices of the Hansard Program.

    After you have all of your paperwork organized, please sign up for an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. You must bring all of the paperwork listed above to your meeting. We have, in the past, refused to grant approval for Cornell Abroad credit in the Government Department in cases in which the student had achieved a passing grade but did not reach our B- standard; the student had taken a course that had very little political science content; the student had taken a course that was not sufficiently rigorous, scholarly and/or advanced; the student had taken an Independent Study; the student had not properly enrolled in the Cornell Abroad Program; and the student could not provide all of the paperwork specified above.

  14. How do I apply for transfer credit?

    You need to apply for transfer credit from the Department of Government when you have taken coursework in the political science field at another university, and you wish to receive GOVT credit from Cornell. Students who have studied abroad during the summer need to follow this procedure as well.

    First, make sure you have all the paperwork. You need to have:

    1. an official transcript documenting your receipt of a letter grade of B- or better;
    2. a copy of the course syllabus, documenting the course description, the reading assigned, course requirements, teaching contact hours, and so on;
    3. copies of your course assignments (preferably with your instructor’s comments on them.)
    4. the transfer credit form from the College of Arts and Sciences.

    Independent Study: The only Independent Study courses we will accept as GOVT coursework must be conducted with a Cornell faculty member, must be approved using the Arts and Science College procedures, and must be conducted during a period in which the student is registered as a Cornell student. Further, the Cornell professor and student must meet at the Ithaca campus throughout the Independent Study. In short, no GOVT credit will be granted for any Independent Study coursework that is conducted at another college or university.

    Note: We do not give credit for: any internship experience that is arranged outside the Cornell in Washington program, coursework leading to another degree, coursework where the student receives a Pass/Fail grade or a letter grade of C+ or less, or for coursework that falls outside the Government field. You may not receive credit for coursework that essentially duplicates a course that you are taking or have previously taken for credit. We will examine the course syllabus and determine, according to our own Department’s curricular standards, the number of credits and the level of the course. Ithaca College courses. Cornell students may take Ithaca College courses and apply for transfer credit under these rules. However, we will not give credit for any Ithaca College courses that are essentially the same as Cornell courses. Taking courses elsewhere (e.g. at Ithaca College or by distance learning) while you are enrolled full-time at Cornell is not advisable. We will add the transfer credits to your Cornell course load for the semester in question, and we will apply the ›over-hours※ rule. Students with a 3.0 or better the previous semester may earn up to 22 credits in any semester. Students with less than a 3.0 may take up to 18 credits. We will not count any course that raises your course load above these limits for any one semester toward the degree, no matter where they are completed, without permission from the College of Arts and Science. In short, you may not receive any credit whatsoever if you take this route. You should consult the College and obtain explicit permission, in writing, before attempting any course of study elsewhere during a semester in which you are enrolled at Cornell. We reserve the right to evaluate the transferred courses independently, and we may assign fewer credits or a lower level for the course than the credits and level recommended by the host institution. After you have all of your paperwork organized, please sign up for an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. You must bring all of the paperwork listed above to your meeting.

  15. I am a Transfer Student. How Many Transfer Credits Can I Apply to the Major?

    The College determines the number of transfer credits it accepts when you are admitted as a transfer student to Cornell. But then the Government Department, as the home of your Major, must decide how to apply your transfer credits towards the Major. We want you to graduate with a degree that is truly a Cornell Government experience. For this reason, we ask you to make sure that at least 50 percent of your Government major requirements (i.e. half of all your Government coursework credits) are completed with coursework conducted under Cornell’s direction. In other words, make sure that when you add up all of your Cornell, Cornell in Washington, Cornell summer and winter session, and Cornell Abroad credits, that they satisfy at least half of the total Government Major requirements.

    For example, let’s say that you took ten political science courses at Elsewhere U., and that the College has accepted all of them. But we require you to take a total of ten Government courses for our major. You could count your ten Elsewhere U. political science credits for the purposes of calculating your College credits, but you would only be able to use five of your Elsewhere U. courses for the Government major. You would have to complete at least five of the Government courses through a Cornell program, and you would also have to make sure that you took the right combination of Government courses (seminar, distribution within the major, 3000+ level, etc.).

  16. I almost finished my degree at Cornell, and I am now taking courses at another university to satisfy the remaining course requirements. How do I obtain transfer credit and permission to graduate?

    There are two steps involved here: 1) transfer credit and 2) permission to graduate.

    1. Students who are finishing up the Government Major and the undergraduate degree by taking courses at another college or university must obtain transfer credit from the appropriate office at Cornell. If you have taken general Arts and Science coursework to finish your degree, then you should approach the College of Arts and Science for transfer credit. If you have taken Government courses to finish your degree, then you must apply to the Dept. of Government’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for transfer credit approval. We will need the same documentation that is required for normal transfer credit procedures (see the transfer credit item above for a complete list.) The only exception for students in this situation is that they do not have to meet with the DUS in person. Make sure that you gather all of the required materials together, and send them in one package by regular US mail or special delivery to the DUS, White Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. Please send only hard copy materials; we do not handle e-mail attachments for this purpose. And please be sure to include your contact information : telephone number, e-mail, mailing address, and so on. Note: It is against Department policy to allow Cornell Government Majors to obtain transfer credit for a Government course taken elsewhere when that same course will be used to satisfy the requirements of a different degree, such as a Masters in Public Policy, or a law degree. We reserve the right to correspond with the Dean’s offices of other colleges and universities and to disclose to them any details relating to the application for transfer credit.
    2. Once transfer credit has been approved -- and please note that this process can take several days -- you may apply to the Dept. of Government DUS for permission to graduate. It may be helpful for you to consult the other items on this FAQ page to double check that you have indeed completed the Major. Where the College requirements are concerned, you should check with the College Dean’s office, and the university publication, Courses of Study.
  17. Where can I get information about the International Relations Minor?

    Students choosing to minor in International Relations should see the International Relations Coordinator in 140A Uris Hall. For further information, please visit www.einaudi.cornell.edu/initiatives/irc.asp.

  18. Independent Study in Government

    All Government Majors are welcome to apply for an Independent Study. The student should approach one of the Government faculty members with a concrete idea for a special course in the politics field, and ask that professor to serve as his or her Independent Study instructor.

    Normally, we expect that an Independent Study would take the student well beyond our existing curriculum. The student’s proposed scholarly project should deal with a topic or area that is not covered by one of our existing courses. Of course, the student should try to approach the faculty members who have special expertise in the field in which the proposed topic is situated.

    Generally speaking, an Independent Study experience works best if the student has already taken some coursework in the field in question; we might advise you to take advantage of our existing courses before you tackle an Independent Study.

    Once the student has obtained a faculty member’s informal approval, he or she then has to obtain the formal approval of the College. Pick up the Independent Study application form in the Government Department Office, and work with your Independent Study instructor to fill in the details (proposed reading and research, course requirements, meeting schedule, etc.). Then have the Independent Study instructor and your Government faculty advisor sign the application. Finally, submit the form to the College for official approval.

    Please note: a student proposing several Independent Study courses at the same time or over the course of the degree may be asked to discuss their curriculum with College advisors. The student cannot officially enroll in our Independent Study course, GOVT 4999, until the College approves his or her application. And undergraduates should enroll only in GOVT 4999; GOVT 7999 is reserved exclusively for our graduate students. And again, we do not give credit for internships organized outside of Cornell in Washington. Your Independent Study must be an exclusively scholarly project; we will not give you any credit for any internship component. We cannot give transfer credit, abroad credit, or extra-departmental credit for an Independent Study; this course must be conducted at our Ithaca campus and it must be taught by one of our Government faculty members.

  19. How do I apply for the honors program?

    Applicants must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in the Government Major. They are also strongly encouraged to complete coursework in the relevant subfield before filing an application. Students in the second semester of their Junior year are eligible and should submit an Honors Program application by March 15th, 2013. The Undergraduate Office will send an email to students and post a flyer listing the deadline and requirements for the Program.

    In extremely rare cases the Undergraduate Committee may allow a student graduating in January to obtain an honors thesis in one semester instead of two.

  20. What is plagiarism and what are the rules that govern academic conduct?

    Plagiarism is a major offence that can result in the student’s expulsion. The university’s code of academic integrity states that it is an offence to knowingly represent the work of another person as your own work. All outside assistance must be acknowledged and the student’s true academic position must be accurately reported at all times. Typical examples of plagiarism include : inserting a text copied verbatim from a book or article without fully and correctly citing the source; copying any material from the internet and failing to indicate that that material was not produced by you; and misrepresenting an essay written by another student as your own academic work. Cheating on tests or examinations is also forbidden. It is the responsibility of the student to understand the code of academic integrity and to observe its rules. For further information please consult the Code of Academic Integrity.

    For more information about the issue of academic integrity, cheating and plagiarism, please consult the College web site. Students will be particularly interested in the on-line tutorial on plagiarism avoidance and the correct approach to citing scholarly sources.

  21. What is a Government Senior Seminar, and how do I enroll in one?

    Seminars (also called “Major Seminars”), arranged particularly for government majors who are seniors, are those government courses numbered 4000.xx. Preference in choosing students for these seminars is given to majors over non-majors and seniors over juniors.

    The seminar requirement can only be satisfied by taking a class taught by a faculty member in the Department of Government with 15 or fewer students. Please visit the Government Department website to review other 4000-level courses that would fulfill your senior seminar requirement. Students interested in taking these courses may be asked to get permission to enroll from the instructor during the pre-enrollment or add/drop period. Cornell in Washington seminars do not count toward this requirement.

    Outstanding undergraduates may approach Government faculty for permission to enter Government graduate courses; the professor has full discretion where such an application is made. Graduate courses taught in a seminar format with a maximum enrollment of 15 students may be used to satisfy the seminar requirement. Students who have completed GOVT 4949 may also use this course to fulfill the seminar requirement. The Independent Study course, GOVT 4999, may not be used for this purpose.

  22. How can I be certain that I have completed the Government Major?

    Students should meet with their Government faculty advisors on a regular basis to discuss their academic progress. Two semesters before the expected graduation date, students should obtain the Permission to Graduate Form (with two parts) from the College of Arts and Sciences, and make an appointment with their faculty advisor. The faculty advisor will assist the student in completing the form. It is, however, the student’s responsibility to ensure that he or she has met all of the requirements for the Major. The following worksheet can be used to assess your progress in the Major.

    Checklist for Government majors:

  23. Have I completed my Arts College requirements (and what is my DUST report)?

    Tracking college requirements is simply a must. To check your progress, go to http://as.cornell.edu/academics/registrar/. Under Important Resources on the right, click on DUST Report. The report will display the College’s understanding of your progress where the College requirements are concerned. The Registrar will have looked at your coursework and will have automatically allotted you appropriate credit towards each requirement. On rare occasions, errors crop up on students’ reports. If you find any discrepancies, or if you need clarification of the College’s assessment of your progress, you should resolve such issues by contacting Brenda Lind at bll2@cornell.edu.

  24. How does the new on-line add/drop system work?

    Note: The College of Arts and Sciences no longer requires PINS.

    There are two different issues here: the instructor/student relationship and the advisor/advisee relationship.

    1. Instructor/student: From now on, most students will not be using paper add/drop forms. They can add or drop their courses on-line using Course Enroll. But note: these procedures will not apply if the student is trying to get into a course with an enrollment cap, and the course is “full.” Some GOVT undergraduate courses are “capped;” our 4000-level seminars, for example, are limited to 15 students. You need to obtain permission to add these courses. Check the course listings to see which courses are capped. And if you are having difficulty adding a course, contact the Undergraduate Field Coordinator and/or the instructor for more information, and they will inform you about the cap and waitlist rules for that particular course.
    2. Advisor/Advisee: Again, most of the students in the Arts College will be able to do add/drop on-line through Course Enroll without seeking their advisor’s approval.A student in good standing is now, by default, allowed to do add/drop on-line without his/her advisor’s permission.

      What if the College designates the student as someone who must obtain his/her advisor’s approval? The College will identify the following individuals as special cases: students who fail to pre-register at all; those who pre-enrolled but did not meet with their advisors in person; or those who are considered to be “at risk” academically by the College. These students simply must meet in person with their advisors during the add/drop period to change their official course enrollment. Once the advisor is satisfied with the student’s plans, he or she will give his or her permission on-line. The College will keep a student on this special case list until the student satisfies the College requirements.

      What if your advisor chooses to do “hands-on” advising with you even though you are in good standing? This decision is entirely at the discretion of your advisor. If your advisor elects this option, you must also meet also in person with your advisor and obtain his or her permission to complete add/drop.

      What if you are in good standing and your advisor changes his or her mind about maintaining a “hands-on” advising with you? Say, for example, that your advisor at first designated you, the student in good standing, as someone who needed to see him or her to obtain add/drop permission. But now the advisor has changed his or her mind, and he or she currently wants to give you the freedom to do add/drop on your own. This decision is also at your advisor’s discretion.

      Is the student’s obligation to seek the permission of his or her advisor automatically recreated each and every semester? Yes, if the College continues to designate the student as a special “at risk” case. No, if the advisor elected to impose the permission requirement upon the student. Advisors need to re-create the hands-on relationship with their advisors where add/drop is concerned at the beginning of every semester.

  25. Application to Graduate

    The College of Arts & Sciences requires all students to fill out an Application to Graduate during their senior year. Begin the process at http://data.arts.cornell.edu/grad/grad_app.cfm

Primary Contacts

  • Director of Undergraduate Studies Thomas Pepinsky
    322 White Hall
    Ithaca, NY 14853-7091
    tel: (607) 255-4915
    tp253@cornell.edu
  • Undergraduate Field Coordinator 210 White Hall
    Ithaca, NY 14853-7901
    tel: (607) 255-4180
    fax: (607) 255-4530
    cu_govt_undergrad@cornell.edu

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