Graduate Program Overview

Faculty

The department is medium-sized with 16 full-time faculty. Of those, seven focus on American politics, seven study comparative politics (of which two are in international development), and two are political theorists. See more information about each of our faculty and view their curriculum vitae.

Theoretical and methodological orientation

We pride ourselves on theoretical and methodological eclecticism. Frequently, theses and dissertation committees include faculty from a spectrum of theoretical perspectives, and recent graduate student research incorporates a wide range of approaches, from highly qualitative to quantitative to mixed methods.

Ph.D. students take two quantitative methods courses and frequently take a qualitative methods course as well. Our department frequently provides financial support for students to attend specialized ICPSR and IQMR methods training workshops.

Careers for doctoral students

Hear from two recent Ph.D. grads about how the program helped prepare them for their careers:

We have an excellent placement record. Of Ph.D. students over the last two decades, 70 percent have found tenure or tenure track jobs (or their equivalents overseas). Only four are in contingent positions. The balance work in government, university administration, as contract researchers in research institutes, or in the private sector.

Careers for MA and MIDA students

MA students have found employment in government or politics (24%), the private sector (24%), high school or college teaching (19%), or the non-profit sector (10%). The balance (24%) have matriculated into PhD programs or law school. Almost all MIDA graduates have gone to non-profits (many overseas) or donor organizations. See examples of MA and MIDA placements.

DEPARTMENT FUNDING

The department offers graduate assistantships for a limited number of students on a competitive basis. Assistantships start in the fall semester only. Doctoral students can normally expect four or five years of funding (depending on whether they come in with a Masters degree); MA and MIDA students can expect two years. The deadline to apply is February 1. Applicants are notified no later than mid-March, usually sooner. Teaching assistants become members of the Teaching Assistants' Union (TAU). You can review the current contract between TAU and WMU. View our application for funding here.

Admission Deadlines

  • For fall admission: for citizens and permanent residents: June 15; for international applicants: April 1
  • For spring admission: for citizens and permanent residents: November 1; for international applicants: August 1
  • Note: for applicants seeking funding (assistantships), the deadline is February 1 for fall admission. No funding is available to start in spring.

GRE/Toefl Requirements for applicants

The GRE exam is required for MA and PhD admission, but not for the MIDA. We donot rely on published minima; instead, we consider scores as a part of the overall application portfolio. If parts of the portfolio are weaker, GRE scores matter more. Our GRE school code is 1902.

The TOEFL is required unless applicants have already completed a degree in an English-language university. For the PhD and MA programs, we seek a score of 86 or higher. For the MIDA program, we seek at least an 80 on the TOEFL. Other exams are admissible; see international admissions for details.

graduate transfer credits

For the MA and MIDA programs, students may transfer graduate credits from another institution on a limited basis only. The university requires that at least 24 credits be completed at WMU. For the doctoral program, we can incorporate up to 30 credits from a masters program (MA and MPA are the most common, but others are possible).

Program Enrollment and Class Sizes

The Ph.D. program typically enrolls between 20 and 30 students. The M.A. program is smaller with less than ten students. Approximately 25 students are in the MIDA program.  Graduate classes are almost exclusively seminars ranging from five to fifteen students. Seven to 12 is most common range. Faculty and students work closely together. 

DEPARTMENT DEMOGRAPHICS

We enjoy wide diversity among our graduate students. Over the last decade, sixty percent have been from the US; of those, ten percent were Hispanic, seven percent were African-American and five percent were Asian-American or of Pacific Islander origin. The remaining 40% were international students from many countries of origin. Most have come from Sub-Saharan Africa; Asia (all parts); or Central and Eastern Europe.In the Americas, the Dominican Republic has been the best-represented country. Needless to say, such diversity makes for wide-ranging discussion in our seminars.

Graduate STUDENT Research

Other than being limited to the fields we offer, the range of research performed by graduate students is extensive, as evidenced by the wide variety of dissertation and theses topics. Many dissertations and theses can be downloaded directly from the WMU ScholarWorks site.

field specializations

We focus on four fields: American politics, comparative politics, political theory and international development. We do not offer international relations at the graduate level. It was decided in the 1990s that a department our size cannot offer everything, so we focus on what we do well.  Public administration is not offered at the graduate level either, as it is offered through another department.

Information about Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo

WMU is a large public university with roughly 24,000 students, about 5,000 of which are graduate students. We're located in Kalamazoo, MI. Kalamazoo is a medium-size city of 75,000 residents. Neighboring Portage, MI (the two cities are separated by only a street) has roughly 46,000 residents. Kalamazoo County's population is about a quarter million. It's located in Southwest Michigan about halfway between Chicago and Detroit. In 2015, Kalamazoo was ranked as one of the top college towns in the US.