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The Scarlet & Black

New class debuts innovative structure

By Kelly Pyzik

During this semester’s pre-registration season, those who just cannot get enough political science might consider “Democratization and the Process of Regime Change,” taught by Danielle Lussier, Political Science. As a small part of the larger strategic plan, which called for more innovative learning opportunities, this class will follow a non-traditional format, meeting intensively during the last week of winter break beginning on Jan. 14 and having fewer class sessions and more research projects over the rest of the semester.

At the beginning of Fall Break, the administration sent an announcement to all faculty, offering the chance to teach a class that already existed in a non-traditional time frame. The offer gave the example of meeting intensively for one or two weeks before the semester began, then meeting for less time during the semester. The course should have an equivalent amount of work and class time. The new format is not intended for required courses that have no substitutes.

Lussier was the only professor to take the administration up on this offer, which she believes is due to the time constraint, so that only professors who were already thinking of re-structuring their classes, as she was, would have had sufficient time to create a proposal. Lussier taught the class in a standard format last spring and received positive feedback from her students, but many said they wished they could have had more time to research the democratization of individual countries and do more case study work. The new structure will allow for that.

“I think the real advantage of this class is for students who are interested in international politics and studying countries outside the U.S. in a more intensive way,” Lussier said. “We have classes in our department on Russian politics, Latin American politics, but we don’t have single courses that deal with Asia or the Middle East or North Africa, for example. It gives the chance to students who are interested in a particular geographic region to explore that area with some independence, yet is linked to a very core set of theories that have some universal application.”

The class will begin the last week of winter break and will have nine class sessions, meeting for about three hours each day, doing intensive theoretical reading about democracy. The morning session will consist of lectures and discussions and in the afternoon, students will work in small groups, analyzing indicators of democracy.

Once the semester starts, the class will meet normally for seven weeks, talking about theories of democratization and factors that lead to successful democratization during regime changes. After this, for six weeks, class will not meet and students will work on individual and group projects. Each student will do a research paper on democracy in a different country and then the students whose countries are in similar regions will create a presentation together. The last week of the semester will be spent in class, sharing the information that was discovered in the previous six weeks.

“I am excited to see what kind of independent study projects come from the students,” Lussier said. “I’m interested to see how they take this assignment that I’ve used in several different classes and make something more of it for themselves.”

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