Departmental Distinction

I. Departmental Distinction at St. Olaf College

Each department’s faculty may award distinction to selected graduating seniors for outstanding performance in the major. The department’s faculty determines the criteria for such distinction. This honor is by its nature selective. Not all majors meet the criteria nor are awarded distinction. The primary criterion for distinction is a demonstrated ability to produce work of the highest scholarly or artistic standard in their discipline.

II. Political Science Department Distinction Policy

The Department of Political Science seeks to foster habits of reflection and analysis, and cultivate knowledgeable, thoughtful, and effective citizens. In the awarding of departmental distinction, the department recognizes those students who have maintained a strong academic record in the discipline and demonstrated exemplary character as students of liberal learning. Departmental distinction will be awarded on the basis of:

  1.  the candidate’s overall record in the discipline and
  2. the submission of a portfolio project which demonstrates excellence.

III. Procedures

A. Determination of Eligibility
To be eligible to be a candidate for departmental distinction, a student must have achieved a combined GPA of all graded courses in the major of 3.8 or above.  Students will be notified of their eligibility during January of their senior year.

B. Submission of Work in the Discipline
Students who wish to be considered for distinction, must submit three papers (of 1200 words or more) which received an A- or better. These papers should demonstrate breadth of accomplishment across the discipline, and therefore should come from classes in at least two distinct subfields and taught by at least two separate instructors. One or more of these papers must come from a Level III seminar.

C. Evaluation of Work in the Discipline
Faculty members in the department will review the submitted work and vote on whether to invite students to apply for distinction. Work that rises to the level of distinction must demonstrate theoretical competence, analytic ability, and originality of thought. The department will examine each paper to ensure that it makes an argument or claim and defends it with evidence by testing a hypothesis, proposing an explanation, addressing a legal or philosophical difficulty, or defending a policy or position. Students will be informed by the department whether their work qualifies them to proceed to the next stage of the distinction process.

D. Evaluation of Portfolio Project
Students who have been invited to submit a portfolio, must demonstrate their ability to reflect upon and critique their own work by including in their portfolio a short essay (1200 words) that addresses how the three submitted papers assisted in their intellectual development in political science. Students should consider how their papers relate to a common theme or foundational principle in political science. The department will evaluate the portfolio and determine whether a student should be awarded distinction.

IV. Timetable

A. The department will notify all students who meet the GPA requirement by the third Monday in January.
B. Invited students must submit three papers for consideration by the second Monday in February.
C. Faculty members in the department will review the submitted work and vote on whether to invite students to apply for distinction by the second Monday in March.
D. All students invited to apply for distinction will submit their portfolio project (three papers and reflection essay) to the department by the second Monday in April.
E. Faculty members will meet and vote on whether to award distinction to candidates by the last Monday in April.
F. All students receiving distinction will present their projects to faculty and students at a departmental colloquium in May.