Political Science Symposium

Every year, the Social Sciences Department presents a Political Science Symposium on campus.

Past Symposiums


Symposium on the Bill of Rights

Judge Tod Kaufman spoke on the Bill of Rights for the 2018 Political Science Symposium. 

Judge Kaufman is a Circuit Court Judge in West Virginia’s largest and busiest trial circuit, the Kanawha County Circuit Court in Charleston, which includes the seat of government in the state of West Virginia, and oversees all state government agency appeal proceedings.  He has held this position since 1988, and has presided over 250 jury trials during his tenure. 
Born and raised in Charleston, Judge Kaufman went to school in Pennsylvania before returning to West Virginia to earn his JD at the West Virginia University College of Law.  He has also studied law, economic history, and international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  He clerked for a judge, worked in a private practice law firm, and in 1982 was appointed to the West Virginia State Senate, winning election in his own right in 1984.  In 1988 he was elected a circuit court judge, and has been reelected to that post four more times, the latest being in 2016.  In 35 years of continuous public service, Judge Kaufman has never lost an election. Judge Kaufman is also an accomplished tennis player and marathon runner, and has lectured all over the world


Friday, October 27, 2017

100 Years of Russian-US Relations


  • Dan Kovalik
  • Katja Wezel
  • Daniel Kempton
  • Soren Fanning (moderator)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


  • 12:15 Refreshments and hors d'oeuvres
  • 12:30 “Why Educators Have to be Political Animals," Mary Esther Van Shura
  • 2:00 Panel Discussion: School Funding, Accountability, and Outcomes
    • Moderator: Mary Ann Rafoth, Dean of the School of Education and Social Sciences, Robert Morris University
    • Bob Dick, Senior Policy Analyst, Commonwealth Foundation  
    • Lindsey Burke, Will Skillman Fellow in Education, Heritage Foundation  
    • Jeff Garis, Outreach and Engagement Director, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center 
    • Ronald Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center 


  • Mary Esther Van Shura is a former teacher and an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She has coordinated presidential, U.S. Senate, state legislative, and municipal campaign activities.
  • Lindsey Burke is the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation. There she researches and writes on federal and state education issues.  She has spoken on education reform issues across the country and internationally, on national and local television, and her work and commentary have been cited or appeared in national magazines such as The Atlantic, Time, and Newsweek. 
  • Ron Cowell is the president of The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC), an independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit organization based in Harrisburg.  He served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for twenty-four years until 1998, which included service as the majority or minority chair of the House Committee on Education for twelve years.  He has also served for twelve years as a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, for twenty years as a board member of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), and has also held leadership positions with the Education Commission of the States, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National Association of State Boards of Education.  
  • Bob Dick is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation, working on a number of issues, including liquor privatization and education reform.  He is also a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute. He has been published in a number of papers across Pennsylvania, including The Intelligencer, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Harrisburg Patriot News, and the Delaware County Times.  
  • Jeff Garis is the Outreach and Engagement Director for the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC).  He is a graduate of Messiah College, and has more than a decade and a half of experience working with advocacy organizations in Pennsylvania, including working for several years as the field director for Pennsylvania Voice, the state political director for America Votes, and the executive director of Penn Action.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The 2016 Presidential Election

  • 10:00-10:45 “The Electoral College” 
    • Heather Rice, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Slippery Rock University
  • 10:45-11:30 Keynote Address
    • Salena Zito, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter and columnist
  • 11:30-12:45 Lunch and Discussion on the 2016 Race --RSVP Required
    • Mike Coulter, Professor of Political Science, Grove City College 
    • Jay Cost, Writer for The Weekly Standard 
    • Jennie Sweet-Cushman, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Chatham University
    • Justin DePlato, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Robert Morris University

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Symposium on Executive Power


  • 11:00-12:15 “Presidential Signing Statements” Sharece Thrower, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh
  • 12:15-1:30 Lunch & Keynote David Shribman, Executive Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pulitzer Prize-Winner  
  • 1:30-2:00 "Presidential Power and Emergencies” Justin DePlato, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Robert Morris University
  • 2:00-2:30 “The Democratic Presidency and Corruption” Jay Cost, Writer for The Weekly Standard
  • 2:30-3:00 “Executive Power and the War on Terror” Jules Lobel, Bessie McKee Wathour Endowed Chair at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Program Title Degree Availability
Academic Program - Undergraduate
Criminal Justice B.S. B.S. Available - On Campus
Economics B.A. B.A. Available - On Campus
History B.A. B.A. Available - On Campus
Political Science B.A. B.A. Available - On Campus
Academic Program - Graduate
Cyber Investigations and Intelligence M.S. M.S. Available - On Campus

Department Head

Dennick-Brecht, Kathryn
Kathryn Dennick-Brecht, Ed.D.

Professor of Sociology
Specialties: Social problems, deviant behavior