The first years of graduate school are filled with class assignments and seminar discussions as well as concentrated individual work on the Master's paper and exams. When students begin their dissertations, however, their world changes dramatically. They often work alone, conducting library research or fieldwork, and then meet individually with faculty advisers. In many universities, they have no regular forum to meet other students and faculty, and no place to talk about their discoveries and try out their ideas. Yet discussion and constructive criticism can be extremely valuable at this stage. Equally important, these advanced graduate students are well equipped to offer sophisticated comments and advice to others.
To meet these special student needs and to take full advantage of graduate student capabilities, the political science department has designed several workshops for advanced graduate students. Within the department, there are workshops in American politics, comparative politics, East Asia, organizations and state building, political theory, Middle East politics, security studies, and international relations. In addition, there are literally dozens of interdisciplinary workshops throughout the University—from law and economics to Judaic studies—all of them open to political science students. There are also several centers with strong ties to the department. Together, they produce an active intellectual environment for advanced graduate students.
The Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT) is an interdisciplinary research center that counts two members of the Department, William Sewell and Lisa Wedeen, among its Faculty Fellows. Proceeding from the sense that contemporary theory is lagging behind historical events, the center's programs—including graduate seminars, workshops, conferences, and symposia—aim to "theorize the present" through sustained comparative, interdisciplinary investigation of disparate local and translocal social and political forms in the context of the rapidly evolving global order.
For students interested in public opinion and survey research, the data files and computer facilities of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) can be invaluable. Located on campus, NORC is one of the country's leading institutes for survey research, with senior researchers drawn from political science, economics, psychology and sociology. Students and faculty from the department have always played an active role in NORC's research.
These centers, institutes, and workshops are important sites for discussion and debate. But they are not enclosed universes, segregating scholars in small fiefdoms. Quite the contrary. Most students and faculty are involved in several programs and seminars, creating a larger dialogue within the department.
This dialogue is strengthened by close contact among students and faculty. Faculty offices are located near each other in Pick Hall, along with graduate student common rooms and computer facilities. This proximity might seem like a small matter. In fact, it means that students and faculty meet frequently and informally to talk about the full range of political phenomena. The various Centers and Programs reinforce this active discussion. The result is that our advanced graduate students not only master their specialties, they often achieve broad (and fresh) perspectives on the field as a whole.
Taken together, the department's programs have created an active community among advanced graduate students, one engaged in lively debate about current research. Graduate students at Chicago play a vital role in this discourse, and their education reflects its importance. In the end, it is this lively debate and original scholarship that define graduate education at Chicago.