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Experiential learning

Students at conference

Political Science students participate in Women in International Security Conference

What is experiential learning?

The Association of Experiential Education defines experiential learning as a “philosophy that informs many methodologies in which educators purposefully engage with learners in direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop people's capacity to contribute to their communities.”

The goal of the undergraduate program in Political Science is to equip students with the knowledge, skills and values they need to engage in critical thinking and analysis of the social and political world, as well as to be good citizens. While this means ensuring students understand the key concepts, theories, and methods of political science, it also means preparing students to connect what they learn in the classroom to the world around them.

Through the study of power, politics, and government, Political Science students at the University of Waterloo gain these skills as well as the values of personal responsibility, civic engagement, integrity, open-mindedness and continuous learning that the department views to be essential for good citizenship as well as career success.

PSCI 299 Political Science beyond the Classroom (pdf) is a core, full-credit course that has been designed keeping two objectives in mind. First, this course will help you align your values, interests, personality and skills to your future goals. It will show students how to leverage your PSCI degree to achieve your goals and ambitions beyond the classroom. Second, this course will make students more intentional about learning. Students will be familiarized with how to achieve success as political science majors specifically by honing skills in reading, writing and presentation. PSCI 299 will also prepare students for the unique experiential learning pathways offered by the Political Science department.

We offer three unique pathways of experiential learning:

  1. The Research Pathway is designed to focus on developing practical research skills. Students will work with an instructor and a faculty advisor to develop a research project, complete the research, and present their findings. This will take the form of a traditional Honours thesis.
  2. The Co-op Pathway: Take advantage of Waterloo’s world renowned co-op program! Earn real life experience and money while completing your degree. The average Political Science co-op program takes 5 years to complete, with work placements beginning in your second year. Students go on co-op in 4 month rotations and will finish each placement (4 in total) with a written work report.
  3. The Engagement Pathway offers four different ways through which students can get practical, real world experiences while earning their degree:
  • Study Abroad: Participate in an international exchange at any of the 90 universities partnered with University of Waterloo around the globe. A great way to learn and travel!

  • Current Issues in Political Science: Examine a current issue in political science by attending talks, monitoring the media and doing independent research

  • Research Assistantship: Be a research assistant with a political science professor to hone your research and writing skills.

  • Civic Engagement Experience: Learn how politics is integrated in our daily lives by engaging with our community through a 40 hour placement.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. When should I select an experiential pathway?

We recommend that students should plan to complete their experiential pathway requirement when they are in their third or fourth year. By this point in their undergraduate career students have taken several political science courses and developed the skills that will make their experiential learning more worthwhile. Be mindful that if you plan to pursue the co-op pathway you will need to apply in your 2A term. If you plan to pursue the study abroad option in the engagement pathway you will need to apply on Waterloo Passport. The application process takes on average between 5-6 months. So it is best to plan in advance.

2. How do I enroll in an experiential pathway?

To enroll in an experiential pathway you need to initiate the relevant enrollment form, which can be found on the political science website, from Dr. Mufti’s office in Hagey Hall 349 or directly from the experiential learning board opposite Hagey Hall 313. After filling out the form, make sure that your form is signed by the experiential learning coordinator (Dr. Mufti). Your form is then submitted to Karen Walo, who will register you in your chosen experiential pathway.

3. If I am already enrolled in co-op can I pursue another experiential pathway?

No, you cannot pursue another experiential pathway and count it towards your political science degree. However, you may pursue a number of opportunities available through other departments on campus such as the the Global Experience Certificate or the Student Leadership Program.

4. Can I pursue more than one experiential pathway?

The 4-year political science degree requires you to complete only one experiential pathway. If you are a regular student you could potentially also pursue the EDGE certificate, in addition to the Global Experience Certificate or the Student Leadership Program for more experiential learning opportunities on campus.

5. How do I showcase my experiential pathway on my resume?

Depending on your experiences we would encourage you to seek advice on how to showcase your skills, values and interests on your resume by booking appointments (drop-ins also available) and attending workshops at the Centre for Career Action (Tatham Center). Additionally, you can also explore CareerHub.