Government degree launches in January
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
By January, online students will begin taking courses in Grand Canyon University’s new government program, which aims to tailor traditional undergraduate political science curriculum to meet real-world needs.
The program provides a bachelor’s degree in government with emphases in legal studies or state and local government. The legal studies tract provides a springboard for students interested in law school or working in the legal arena, and the state and local government option is expected to attract students with a passion for working in public policy.
The government programs will be open to ground campus students for fall 2015.
Dr. Sherman Elliott, acting dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said he organized the new programs with the goal of equipping students to go directly to work for state or local government. Others will be prepared to leap into graduate school. But Elliott said the hope was to keep GCU graduates focused on working in Arizona to address state, county or city public-policy issues.
Courses in Constitutional, civil and criminal law are useful for students to prepare for entry-level work as paralegals and other roles in law offices or nongovernmental organizations. Others might find their calling to serve the community as attorneys or activists.
“You’re basically going to take a taste of the foundation of law school,” said Elliott, who also oversees Humanities and Social Sciences programs in communications, counseling, English literature, history, justice studies, psychology and sociology.
The programs stress the importance of learning how to access public records, accurately navigate legal databases and compile research to bolster an argument.
As part of the curriculum development, Elliott spoke with employees of government and law organizations to gauge workforce needs.
“When I researched these programs, I wanted to develop something that could get students jobs in local government,” Elliott said.
Elliott added that political science as he studied it in his bachelor of arts program at the University of San Francisco is less applicable to the real world today. He recalled studying more about international political issues than practical solutions to local political affairs, such as the impact of budget cuts on local public programs, or public education challenges with introducing policy to mass audiences.
GCU students in the past have interned with local political offices and worked on political campaigns. But Elliott said he hoped the advent of the new government programs might inspire students from all academic backgrounds to get interested in how state and local authorities serve the people.
In time, more students will find that exposure to government and discover how laws are enacted, enforced and contested in America.
“We want our students to be open and active participants in government,” he said.
Contact Michael Ferraresi at [email protected] or 602-639-7030.