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ASU offers new certificate program in political thought and leadership

Political Thought and Leadership certificate program
September 05, 2014

Thomas Jefferson wrote, "By far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness."

Jefferson believed that a healthy democracy requires well-informed citizens, who are engaged and empowered to self-govern and lead.

A new undergraduate certificate program at Arizona State University, Political Thought and Leadership, takes up Jefferson's vision of education and civic action by combining classroom learning in the foundations of democracy and political thought and leadership with real-life experiences delivered through distinguished guest speakers, social events and internships in business, public affairs organizations and non-profit organizations. The purpose of the program is to develop students into leaders in the state and the nation – leaders who not only understand the principles and traditions of democracy, but who will act on these principles in their subsequent careers.

Students in the program answer fundamental questions: What makes for good government? Why do republics fail? Are free markets necessary for democracy? What is the importance of the rule of law? Is virtue essential for leadership and a citizenry? What is virtue?

The certificate in Political Thought and Leadership is awarded with completion of two required classes, offered by faculty affiliated with the new ASU Center for Political Thought and Leadership – “Foundations of Democracy,” an introductory course; and “Political Thought and Leadership,” a senior research seminar – together with three upper-division electives for a total of fifteen credit hours. All credits for the certificate must be earned in residence at ASU.

“Foundations of Democracy” introduces students to the history of thinking about democracy, from ancient Greece down to the present. Texts by both democracy’s advocates and its critics are considered in historical context, and students participate in a series of debates focused on the fundamental issues posed by democracy, as both philosophical ideal and historical reality.

“Political Thought and Leadership” is a senior seminar, which invites students to pursue an individual research project, working closely with a faculty mentor in a pertinent discipline – history, political science, philosophy, classics, etc. At the same time, the class provides opportunities for students to engage with real world leaders, from the wider academic, political, business and legal communities of the Phoenix area and Arizona as a whole.

The Center for Political Thought and Leadership was approved by the Board of Regents this year to provide a forum for national and international scholarship and research in political thought at Arizona State University.

"The center ... will provide research and training for the next generation of local and national leaders on the foundational principles of good government, civic involvement, free markets and political liberty, " says founding director Donald Critchlow.

The center will hold an information session about the certificate program from noon to 1:30 p.m., Sept. 10, in Coor Hall, third floor. Co-directors of the program and academic advisers will be on hand at this event to answer questions and assist students with enrollment. A free-of-cost, first-come-first-served lunch will be available beginning at noon.

The certificate program in Political Thought and Leadership is open to ASU undergraduate students in any major.