American government intro, refresher for incoming master’s students

August 28, 2014

This August, the Ford School offered its first ever American government module, a free non-credit course to acquaint incoming masters students—international students, and domestic ones in need of a refresher—with the U.S. political system. Around 30 students took the class, which met four times between August 18 and August 22.
The American government module covers the basics of the American political system—Congress, the presidency, the judiciary, elections, lobbyists, interest groups, and the federal bureaucracy. The goal? To get all incoming master’s students on an equal footing, especially students who come from outside the United States.

"Many of the Ford School's international students come from parliamentary systems, so their understanding of how the policymaking process works is shaped by that experience," says Molly Reynolds, who taught the inaugural class. Introducing students to American political idiosyncrasies, like the two-party system, is important to generating a body of informed masters' students.
Mark Kroening, an incoming master’s student from Timaru, New Zealand, says that the class was a good introduction to the complex and often counterintuitive political system of the United States. Is that only relevant for international students? No, says Kroening. "Everyone should take this class."

The school also welcomes domestic students with an interest in the course. "Lots of MPP students enter the program after having been away from the classroom for a while," Reynolds says, "so they might not remember all the details of their introductory American politics course from their first year of college."

In fact, domestic students might benefit uniquely from an experience in the course. Aliza Kazmi, an incoming masters' student from the San Francisco East Bay area, believes Americans should take the class because it can be enlightening to listen to questions about American government from students who grew up outside the country, especially for Ford School students who are interested in foreign policy. "It's a globalized society," Kazmi says. America’s governance system is only one of many.