New Degree Focuses on Digital Democracy and Bio-Politics

Program offered through political science department; launches fall 2010

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A. Sue Weisler

Paul Ferber

New media, computer technology, health care and biotechnology are all becoming central issues facing political theorists, activists and policy makers both in the United States and around the world. In response, many experts argue that academic programs in political science need to more directly address these questions and provide expert instruction in these fields to better prepare our next generation of elected officials and theorists for the challenges they will face.

Rochester Institute of Technology is seeking to meet these needs through a new bachelor’s degree in political science. The program includes tracks in digital democracy and bio-politics, with a focus on Internet political action, social networking, health care policy, genetics and bio-ethics. The degree has been approved by New York state and will be offered this fall.

Students will take courses in new media communication, networking security and biotechnology, among others, allowing them to learn from experts in these fields and then apply this knowledge to traditional political, theoretical and public policy questions.

“RIT has significant academic and research experience in numerous high tech and bio-medical fields that can be used to augment traditional political science instruction,” notes Paul Ferber, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at RIT. “We will look to utilize these assets to better prepare our graduates for the increasingly technical and complex questions they will face in their professional careers.”

The program will also offer internships and cooperative educational opportunities both in government and in more technical environments, such as working for a government relations office at a pharmaceutical company. In addition, Ferber hopes to develop undergraduate research opportunities that will include collaborations with computer scientists and biomedical researchers working on campus.

“By incorporating new methods of political science instruction, experiential learning and student research, we hope to enhance the ultimate transformation of the discipline and advance its real world impact.” says Ferber.