Rethinking the Presidency
Consistently one of the most popular courses in the political science department, The Presidency (POL 239) will expand your understanding of the U.S. presidency beyond what you see in real time; it will also help you build skills in empirical methods and data analysis. The course invites students to think about the executive office as an institution, rather than simply an individual, and examines the president as a political actor who is embedded within a broader set of relationships that collectively shape what is commonly understood as “the presidency.”
“Some students will go on to work in politics, government, and public service more generally,” says Barbara Trish, professor of political science. “But understanding how key concepts – like power and leadership – play out in the presidency, not to mention the way that rules affect outcomes and technology impinges on politics, informs all sorts of careers.”
From examining presidential biographies to scholarly quantitative analyses to the daily White House Press Briefing, the course immerses you in a variety of materials that inform a rich understanding of the presidency. It offers a holistic look at the complex interactions and systems around the executive office, including a consideration of the interplay between the career workforce and political appointees in the federal establishment. This approach is a hallmark of Grinnell’s liberal arts ethos, which places a premium on different approaches to knowledge, rather than any singular route, to offer learning that is beneficial regardless of your post-college journey.
“Scores of Grinnell students have made their way into presidential campaign politics and executive politics, including alumni who have worked in the White House, the Executive Office of the President, the federal workforce – or more broadly in the ecosystem across the nation that ties into the presidential politics,” Trish says. “That’s certainly not my intent in teaching students in this course; however, I would like to think I piqued their interest in a way that shows them the opportunities to work in politics and, importantly, to be impactful as citizens.”