Government incorporates the combined knowledge and methodology of several disciplines – history, economics, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, among others – and applies them to the study of politics. The discipline has porous boundaries, and is therefore an extremely flexible concentration. It allows you to decide the direction of your studies according to your inclinations and interests: globalization, human rights, the U.S.
The main difference between Government and Social Studies is that Social Studies requires a thesis, while Government does not. Beyond that, you should think about how you want to approach your studies. The sophomore year looks quite different.
The Government department has many people you can talk to about the concentration. Concentration Advisers in the Houses can offer you guidance in your choice of concentration, and can provide information about different subfields and course selection.
Yes. We recommend that freshmen take Foundational (Gov 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50) and/or 1000-level courses, as well as General Education courses taught by Government faculty. We generally do not recommend that freshmen take seminars, although it is possible for second-semester freshmen to enroll in a Gov 94 (Undergraduate Seminar) with the instructor’s permission.
Come by the Government Undergraduate Program Office and talk to staff or the DUS about changing concentrations, or talk to one of the House Concentration Advisers. They can help you think about your reasons for changing your concentration, review your student record to see which classes can count for Government credit, and help you figure out which classes you will need to take.
Every House has a designated Concentration Adviser (CA) who acts as the departmental adviser for Government concentrators in that House. In most cases, your CA will be the Government Resident Tutor in your House. We make an effort to ensure that your CA stays in your House as long as possible, in the hope that you will have the same CA during your entire time at Harvard.
In addition to the CAs, we are always happy to talk to you in the Undergraduate Program Office in CGIS, where you can make an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and/or speak with the Coordinator for Undergraduate Studies or the Student Services Staff Assistant. The Peer Concentration Counselors can also give you an insider’s perspective on the concentration.
The foundational courses are designed to provide you with a firm grounding in the fundamental concepts and themes of the subfield. If you are unfamiliar with the subfield, or intend to study it in greater depth later, you may find it useful to take the foundational course rather than a 1000-level course in order to ensure that you have a good overview of the subject matter.
Professors hold office hours weekly, and welcome students. You may want to contact the professor beforehand to see if making an appointment is necessary (there is an online list of contact information for the faculty, including office hours). Many students are intimidated by the idea of approaching a professor. Remember that you must be proactive in establishing a relationship with a faculty member; the faculty member most likely does not have time to seek you out, and has many other students.
Research Assistantships and internships are publicized via the weekly “Events and Opportunities” email that is sent to Government concentrators, and on the bulletin board in the Undergraduate Program Office.
In general, cross-listed Gen Ed courses taught by Government faculty will count for elective concentration credit. The exception to this rule falls under the Political Theory requirement. The only Gen Ed courses that count for Theory credit are Ethical Reasoning classes taught by Government faculty.
Since we are so flexible with related fields, and because many of the programs Harvard offers or approves of are government related, it is extremely easy to study abroad as a Government Concentrator. See the Study Abroad webpage for more details.
Gov 10 and courses numbered 1030-1099 and 2030-2099 count for the Political Theory requirement. Courses numbered 1000-1029 and 2000-2029 DO NOT count for Theory credit. In addition, certain Gen Ed courses taught by Government faculty (such as Ethical Reasoning 39, Money, Markets, and Morals, taught by Prof. Michael Sandel) and some undergraduate seminars count for Theory credit. Please ask the Undergraduate office if you are in doubt about the status of a course for Gov Theory credit.
Any cross-listed course printed in the catalog under the subfields of American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations count for Gov elective credit. The only cross-listed courses that may count for subfield credit are those taught by Government faculty.
There is a pre-approved list of Harvard Kennedy School courses for which Government concentrators will automatically receive Gov elective credit. However, the cross-registration form must still be signed by a member of the Undergraduate Program Office. Cross-registration forms are available at the Registrar and your house office. The form must be signed by the instructor of the course, the Government Undergraduate Office, and your Resident Dean.
As a Harvard undergraduate, any course taken at Harvard Summer School will automatically appear on your transcript. If it is a Government course, it will count just as it would if taken during the year. For instance, if you take an American Politics course during the summer, that could count toward your American field requirement. If you took a summer school course before you came to Harvard, you must petition to have it count for Harvard credit. Please see your Resident Dean for details.
You are limited to counting only one course for your Secondary Field and your primary concentration. However, you may double-count more than one Secondary Field course with other programs, such as Gen Ed or language citations. See the Secondary Fields website for more information.
If you take Social Studies 10a, it may count as one Gov elective, but not for a subfield requirement. If you take BOTH Social Studies 10a and Social Studies 10b, you may count those courses together as either the equivalent of Gov 97 OR for the subfield requirement in political theory, but not both.