Reader’s note: Despite graduating with a major of Political Science, because of the way UWM processes second-degree candidates, and because I had already earned a baccalaureate previously, the university noted on my transcript that Political Science was a “certificate of the major,” hence no diploma.
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is considered the second-most popular campus next to its flagship in Madison. If you take the time to read the story of how I became interested in the state to begin with, you learn that in the end, most of my political activist contacts were within Milwaukee County. I hadn’t learned until my second semester that UWM is also the most frequent target for activism in the state, with the flagship being the most popular.
UWM saw a number of things while I was a student: An upgrade to R1 status, hosted a campaign appearance by Hillary Clinton, hosted the the first Democratic National Debate from the 2016 Election Cycle, and hosted Milo Yiannopoulous.
My time at UWM would mark the first time in my undergraduate years that I was inducted into three honor societies as a result of having a 3.0GPA in addition to some transfer of classes.
Summer of 2015
Introduction to Government: For me, this course was a revisit of civics in high school with a deeper understanding of how each branch of government is supposed to operate. This would ultimately be the extension of the civics class from high school that should be taken as a Political Science major. There were some bumps in the road as I began to learn how textbooks can contain misleading content.
Business Writing: I took this class online with a professor whose laid-back, but assertive and challenging approach reminded of what my writing classes at WSU should have been. The work I generated in this class is in my writing portfolio today. I took this class because I was intending on majoring in English before I understood that English is about the study of literature, versus about writing.
Race, Religion, Ethnicity in Politics: While I learned much from this class, again, testing was my downfall. We did weekly discussion posts where I had to do some synthesizing and research on topics, which generated decent grades. This was the first class with a TA who challenged students to develop their discussion posts into thesis for future writing. This was the second class that had me challenging data in an articulate manner from a professor and encountering adverse treatment because our viewpoints weren’t aligned.
Law and Society: This further develops the concepts learned in Introduction to Government and stops just shy of constitutional law. I would say that this course was more of a general overview of the law affects our society, why society functions the way it does, and sparks discussions on the ethical nature of the judicial branch of government. This was also the first class where assignment responses became part of my writing portfolio as a reflection of my ability to form articulate arguments.
Introduction to Political Science Research: This class in theory should be fairly fundamental for Political Science students, but I felt that the instruction I received was very dry and should have been more tailored to political science topics, but the overall ideas and technique were useful. Thanks to this class, I now have a better idea of where to turn when doing research and how to separate scholarly research from that of bloggers. If not for the final exam and its focus on statistics, tables, and diagrams, I probably would have probably earned an A.
History of International Political Thought: This was the most difficult and cumbersome class that I took. The amount of reading, analysis and discussion was more appropriate for a graduate-level class. It was also the first time I took a class with a professor that functioned as the spokesperson for the UN Internship that she heavily encouraged us to take. Her passion for the subject matter was undeniable, but short of the philosophy majors in the class, she had a difficult time holding our attention. I believe the only thing that held me through this was the regular study sessions that my classmates and I formed before the midterm and final.
Constitutional Law – Civil Rights and Liberties: The most difficult thing about this class was learning and memorizing the various judicial tests that came as a result of the various supreme court decisions. Three things I learned as far as being successful in the class: (1) You have to be able to work with the court rulings as they were written versus your opinion of how the case was decided. (2) When presented with a hypothetical, you have to be able to apply tests and precedent as they were decided, versus how you interpret them to be. (3) Depending on who your professor is, it’s acceptable to engage in civil disagreement about rulings, but understand that you cannot change what the court said. For my class, the midterm and final presented us with hypothetical situations (similar to what you face in law school) and we had to apply relevant precedent and law to those hypotheticals.
Comparative Political Systems: The struggle I had with this class could be measured by the hypothetical amount of shots I would have taken every week. If you love research and you love comparing political models, this is utopia for you. This was another dry course that focused more on analyzing how other countries conduct their affairs. I did say earlier that International Political Thought was my toughest course – this could tie it for first place.
Judicial Process: If you’re a court junkie, this is the class for you. We studied the judicial branch down to the minutae. This class gave me valuable knowledge on how our state and federal courts operate as well as the process behind the selection of the judges that end up often in the news. The professor did challenge people’s thought process, and she did push you to form articulate arguments. The toughest part of the class were the tests. While it was tragic, as the content transitioned into judicial appointments and selection, I was in this class when Antonin Scalia passed.
The Philosophy of Law: If you combined this class and Law and Society into one, you could get essentially the same course material. I won’t say this class was easy, but it wasn’t all that difficult, either. I spent more time correcting factual arguments from other students than I did learning much about philosophy. Much like International and Political Thought, this one featured lots of reading, but this one required us to write papers versus taking tests. It turns out that classes that have me write papers instead of take tests wind up with me achieving far better grades.
Constitutional Law – Government Powers and Federalism: The partner course for Civil Liberties. Given the format of the two classes and how similar they are, you could make a summer seminar out of combining these classes and just call it “Constitutional Law seminar”. Instead of discussing rulings and topics behind the Bill of Rights, you discuss rulings and topics from the point of view of what powers the state and federal government have, several doctrines in constitutional law, and some discussion of equal protection.
The Supreme Court: This was the replacement for the Capstone Course, a research-oriented class required of all students in the major. We took the institution of the Supreme Court and broke it down to the minutiae. Additionally, we studied live appeals to the supreme court, and simulating each point of the appeals process, starting from the Court of Appeals, culminating into a final argument before a mock supreme court consisting of our peers. We were also tasked with drafting up the legal documents that would be used in arguments before the court – each of which are in my writing portfolio today.
GPA upon completion: 3.35
Years taken to complete: 1.5