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Political Science

Name: Caity Stuhan

Year: Class of 2010

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

Major: Political Science

ASTROLOGY: NOT JUST FOR WACKOS (BUT POLI-SCI MAJORS AS WELL)

My birthday is January 21st, meaning that I was born under the auspicious sign of the water bearer, Aquarius. Aquarians are often described as eclectic, and I believe that I am the Aquarius poster child. I’ve taken an interest in mostly everything, as evidenced by the fact that my parents Aquarius have been driving me around the country for the past twenty years to fulfill my various caprices. Each week of my summer was spent at one camp or another; my clubs in high school were many but never overlapped in members; even now, I find myself bouncing from meeting to rehearsal to practice day after day, changing my clothes four or five times to fit the appropriate dress code for whatever activity comes next. Because of this wildly varying history of mine, completing the inquiries on college applications about possible majors was a meaningless task where I chose whatever subject I had the least homework in that night and thus felt some particular allegiance to (some nights, I intended to be a history major; at other times, chemistry). When I matriculated, however, I was told that this kind of thing—waffling on a choice for a major each day for the next four years—wouldn’t fly. Since another characteristic of Aquarians is that we are quick in mind and quick to respond, decided then and there in my academic advisor’s office that History was clearly the major for me.

College classes felt no different than those I took in high school. Even though my course load for my first semester included classes in a myriad of departments (economics, bioethics, cognitive neuroscience, Spanish, and of course, history), readings were readings and the essays I had to write were just as banal. I felt little inspiration even though the professors were impressive and the subject matter fairly interesting and I embarked upon spring semester with a smaller course load and low expectations. The turning point in my education came during the section meeting for a class that I had chosen because the description didn’t sound completely distasteful: our TA, Luke, explained a concept that our professor had introduced in class by using an analogy from the Simpsons. When Luke, utterly serious, compared Homer’s philosophy to that of the esteemed author of our book, the metaphorical seraphim sang as the sun’s rays soaked into the classroom in Clark Hall through the damp chill of February. Not only did I understand exactly what the author was saying, but I actually found it—would you believe it—interesting! Because Aquarians are born intuitive, I usually never found it necessary to read every word of the readings that were assigned in my various classes (that is to say, I skimmed every chapter), but in the American Presidency with Professor Adam Sheingate, I scoured every page and didn’t fall asleep in lecture. Studying for the exams was not only not unbearable, but enjoyable. This class was different from those in the other departments that I had taken, the reason being that political science was the major for me.

Some might think that there is no differentiation between political science students and international relations students, but the more people I meet in my department, the more I am convinced that that is where I belong. For example, political science students tend to be more aggressive, opinionated, and practical because political science classes deal more with concrete policy making than historical and contemporary analysis. Aquarians? Aggressive, opinionated, and practical. Political science students are not easily persuaded that they are wrong, demonstrated by the heated debates in which we engage, not only with other students but professors as well. Hello, Aquarians! Political science students are frank, outspoken, and forceful, because theories are only as strong as their proponents. Ask any astrologist, and she will tell you that these are the shining bastions of Aquarianism.

I have never been disappointed in my classes in the political science department. The requirements that are necessary to fill the poli-sci quotient of graduation are at least 13 classes—at least one each in comparative governments, international relations, political theory, and American government. The professors in the department collaborate often with other departments, like history, public health, international relations, gender studies, and Latin American studies, so there is no shortage of unique and exciting classes to take. In addition, the poli-sci major requirements leave room for students to take anything they like in the social sciences and history, as well as any other department in which they might be interested. For example, during the time that I took a two-semester course in American Constitutional Law with the amazing Joel Grossman, I also had the freedom to continue my study of Spanish, take a few creative writing courses, and participate in a Dean’s Fellowship Teaching course which discussed the changing face of the religious republic of the United States. My Aquarian eclecticism is continually fed.

My Aquarian imagination and originality have also been satisfied by the kinds of opportunities that the political science department offers. One class, Punishment and Politics with Jennifer Background_headerRight Culbert, took us to the Maryland Transitional Center (also known as the state prison in Maryland) where we toured the facilities, talked with guards, and learned about the legal system in drug-related crimes. I also belong to the political science honors society, Pi Sigma Alpha (the Gamma Rho chapter), which meets periodically to engage in political thought with the Baltimore community. Aquarians love reforms and are always looking to advance the human condition. The professors in the department are helpful and knowledgeable, and I know this first hand. When applying for an internship at the Cleveland Council on World Affairs for intersession, I approached Dr. Steven David who taught Comparative International Politics my sophomore year about writing a letter of recommendation. He was eager to help, and Steven_David2 asked for my resume, a writing sample, and a cover letter so that he could write a strong letter for me. Needless to say, I got the job.

My eclectic Aquarian nature has an will be a driving force in my activities, from the day I was born until the day I… well, graduate; however, my education in political science at Hopkins has led me in a specific direction. After taking classes in Constitutional law and policy design, I have become increasingly interested in working in government, most likely as part of the staff of a major player in Washington, or actually being that major player (who knows? Aquarians are rarely content being followers and prefer to set the trends). I have grown out of my capricious nature that guided me from summer camp to summer camp, and I now have a vision of what my future will hold. I’m not saying that everyone in the Political Science department has a birthday between January 21st and February 20th, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true.

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Click here to access more information about the Political Science Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Political Science question thread.

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