Department History

Faculty, 1933

Faculty, 1933

Haven Hall before 1950

Haven Hall before 1950

Fire in Haven Hall, 1950

Fire in Haven Hall, 1950

Faculty, 1950

Faculty, 1950

Faculty, 1966

Faculty, 1966

Faculty, 1973

Faculty, 1973

President Ford teaching class 1977

President Ford teaching class 1977

Professor Bob Axelrod, @1980

Professor Bob Axelrod, @1980

Faculty, 1987

Faculty, 1987

Faculty, 1992

Faculty, 1992

Faculty, 2000

Faculty, 2000

Faculty, 2009

Faculty, 2009

Methods class for doctoral students, 2005

Methods class for doctoral students, 2005

Honors Graduation Ceremony, Spring 2013, Rackham Amphitheater

Honors Graduation Ceremony, Spring 2013, Rackham Amphitheater


  • 1860

First political science class was taught by Thomas McIntyre Cooley on the Constitution within the law department

  • 1865

Classes on government were taught by Charles Kendall Adams on the growth of liberty in England and the Consitution of the U.S. within the history department.  

  • 1872

University President James B. Angell began to teach classes on Public International Law and the History of Treaties, which were offered to students in the Department of Law, and Department of Literature, Science and the Arts.  

  • 1881

University President James B. Angell served as United States Minister to China.  He was asked to negotiate a treaty regarding the influx of Chinese immigrants along the American west coast.  At that time, their arrival had been stimulated by the need for inexpensive labor in the building of America's railways.  

  • 1881

The School of Political Science was initiated within the Department of Literature, Science and the Arts.  Charles Kendall Adams was made dean of the new school.  

  • 1899-1908

During the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in China, eight countries including the U.S. demanded compensation of $333 million from the Chinese government.  U of M President Angell and other educators encouraged the U.S. government to return the Boxer indemnity to China for the establishment of a scholarship program that would permit Chinese students to study in the U.S. and receive an education.  In 1908, the U.S. government decided to remit a portion of the Boxer Indemnity funds for the establishment of the China foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture.  


1910 - 1949

  • 1910

The Department of Political Science was officially established to relieve the history department "from the burden of instruction in government." Jesse Sidall Reeves was appointed the first Chair and also taught classes in American government, international law and diplomacy, political theory and municipal government.  The new department was given a mandate to expand as rapidly as possible.  

  • 1912

Joseph Hayden was appointed the instructor for courses in American government and politics.  In 1915 he became the first recipient of a Ph.D. from the department, and in 1933 he left the University for a three-year appointment as Vice-Governor for the Phillipines, then an American protectorate.  

  • 1913

Dr. Robert Trent Crane was hired to teach courses in public administration.  He created a master's program that trained many local administrators and created one of the first research institutes, a bureau of research and reference in government (later called the Bureau of Government).  

  • 1917-1918

Drs. Reeves and Hayden served in the armed forces while Professor Crane taught all of the courses.  Returning to the University at the end of World War I, Dr. Hayden was promoted to assistant professor.  

  • 1918 - 1920

Veterans returning from the war increased the number of students enrolled in American government and politics courses.  Classes of a thousand students were scheduled in Hill Auditorium.  In 1924 Angell Hall was built, increasing the space available for classes.  

  • 1929

The department had eight professors and new courses on the curriculum, adding classes in bibliography and methods of research (1925), political parties and electoral problems (1926), law of municipal corporations and international organizations and integration (1929).  

  • 1935

A student athlete named Gerald R. Ford graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in political science and economics.  Forty one years later he became the 38th President of the United States.  

  • 1937

The Institute of Public Administration was formally created from the Bureau of Government as a separate unit for teaching, research and service in public administration.  

  • 1938

Professor Pollock responded to events in Europe by offering new courses in Propaganda and Public Opinion and pro-seminars on Germany and the Soviet Union.  

  • 1941-1945

Many faculty members served in the armed forces.  Professor Hayden served as one of General McArthur's staff officers in the Pacific.  Arthur Bromage was a Lt. Colonel in Europe.  Professor Preuss worked with the Department of State.  Professor Pollock was the special advisor to General Lucius Clay for the American zone of Germany.  Samuel Eldersveld served as a lieutenant in the navy.  Those left behind not only taught their colleagues' courses, but were also called upon to teach in civil affairs training school, language training schools, a naval V-12 program, and a special program at the law school for training judge advocates.  

  • 1945

The interests of returning veterans led to interdepartmental offerings, the first being a course in Latin American studies.  

  • 1946

The Survey Research center was established as part of the institute for Social Research.  Projects on political behavior and Detroit were created.  In 1948 the first election study was conducted in the servey research center.  


1950 - 1969


  • 1950

A fire destroyed the first Haven Hall.  

  • 1952

Professor Lionel Laing established the junior and senior honors program.  This consisted of two years of supervised study within a political science concentration.  

  • 1955

The Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations was created and administered jointly by the University and Wayne State.  

  • 1955-1958

Professor James K. Pollock served as president of the International Political Science Association, playing an integral part in the formation of the organization.  

  • 1957-1959

Samuel Eldersveld served as the Mayor of Ann Arbor.  

  • 1960s

During the 1960s the department, under the leadership of Samuel Eldersveld, became known for its empirical research.  The political studies center at the Institute of Social Research provided research facilities and opportunities for the training of graduate students.  

  • 1960

John F. Kennedy encouraged students to contribute their talents to building developing countries at a speech on the steps of the Michigan Union.  About 10,000 students watched the Presidential candidate give his speech at 2:00 am.  Within weeks of the speech, students started a petition and hundreds pledged to serve.  Their response encourage Kennedy to found the Peace Corps after he was elected President.  

  • 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson was the graduation commencement speaker for the Class of 1964.  He gave a riveting speech in front of 80,000 guests.  The university had originally invited President Kennedy and he accepted prior to his assassination.  President Johnson's closing remarks were, "Those who came to this land sought to build more than just a new country.  They sought a new world.  So I have come here today to your campus to say that you can make their vision our reality.  So let us from this moment begin our work so that in the future men will look back and say:  It was then, after a long and weary way, that man turned the exploits of his genius to the full enrichment of his life."  

  • 1965

The first teach-in against the Vietnam war was held at the University of Michigan.  Soon hundreds more, all over the country, were held. The demonstration in Washington, DC attracted about 25,000 anti-war protesters and SDS became the leading student group against the war on most U.S. campuses.


1970 - 1999

  • 1974

Vice President Gerald R. Ford received an honorary degree from the university and delivered the graduation commencement speech for the Class of 1974.  Three months later on August 9th, he became President of the United States after the resignation of President Richard Nixon.  

  • 1977

Professor of Political Science Michel Oksenberg was appointed Special Assistant to President Jimmy Carter and Senior Staff for East Asia and China at the National Security Council.  Due to his efforts, formal diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. were finally established in January, 1979.  

  • 1977

After serving as President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford became an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan.  During his lectures to various undergraduate and graduate political science students, he discussed the energy crisis and U.S. Soviet relations.  He donated papers and materials from his administration to a presidential library to be constructed in 1981.  

  • 1982

The first U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China Leonard Woodcock joined the Political Science faculty.  

  • 1983

Former U.S. Presidents Ford and Carter co-hosted the All-Democracies Conference at the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, michigan on February 9, 1983 where they discussed U.S. Soviet relations and new weapons technology.  

  • 1987

Political scholar Condolezza Rice was selected to be a Visiting Professor with the University of Michigan Martin Luther King, J.r/Cesar Chavez/Rosa Parks Visiting Professors Program.  She was a guest lecturer in various political science courses.  She was appointed U.S. Secrtary of State by President George W. Bush in 2005.  

  • 1988

Dozens of students blocked the entrance to Mason, Angell, and Haven Halls to protest classes held on Martin Luther King's birthday.  The following year, the University set aside MLK day for symposiums and special presentations.  

  • 1988

Third-party candidate John Anderson was the featured speaker at the Undergraduate Political Science Association's conference on political affairs.  The theme of the conference was the role of the media in candidate selection.  

  • 1989

Professor of Political Science Edie Goldenberg became the first female dean of the college of Literature, Science and the Arts.  After stepping down as Dean in 1998, she continued teaching courses in public policy and political science.  She went on to become faculty director for the Michigan in Washington Program, which she helped establish in 2002.  

  • 1990

Professor Arlene W. Saxonhouse became the first woman to serve as Chair of the Political Science Department.  

  • 1990

Professor Samuel Eldersveld prominently voiced his support for a Michigan bill that allwed tenured professors at the age of 70 to retain their position at a Michigan University for the next four years.  The bill was implemented that year, and remained in effect until the 1994 federal law that banned age discrimination in the workplace.  

  • 1990

The department suffered the trafic loss of Jack Walker, the chair and highly regarded professor of public policy.  While on a one-year leave, he died in a car crash in California.  He was to have returned to the University in May.  The Undergraduate Affairs Conference was renamed the Walker Conference that year in his honor.  

  • 1991

The Undergraduate Political Science Association hosted a form on the Gulf War at the Michigan Union Ballroom.  Hundreds gathered to hear presentations from College Republicans, College Democrats and Friends of the Revolutionary Workers League, along with many minority groups.  

  • 1991

President H.W. Bush was the graduation commencement speaker for the Class of 1991.  More than 78,000 guests filled the stadium to hear him speak.  

  • 1993

The University established the Washington Research Seminar through the department of political science.  The seminar gave students the opportunity to gain valuable internship experience in Washington, D.C., while offering college credit based on reading and writing assignments and class participation in a required course.  

  • 1993

As First Lady, Hillary Clinton gave the graduation commencement speec for the Class of 1993.  In her speech, she promoted her national health care plan.  She went on to become a Presidential candidate and U.S. Secretary of State.  

  • 1997

US News and World Report rated Michigan's doctoral program as first in the field of American government and politics and second for its overall program.  

  • 1998

Professor of Political Science Kenneth Lieberthal was appointed Special Assistant to President Clinton and Senior Director for Asia at the National Security Council.  

  • 1999

The Undergraduate Political Science Association joined in a coalition with other groups to bring political activists, includeing Jesse Jackson, to the University for presentations on issues such as social activism, affirmative action and voter turnout.  


2000 - Present

  • 2000

The number of courses offered by the department had grown from five in 1910 to almost 200.  The department received a donation to fund the Lowenstein Professorship in Democracy, Democratization and Human Rights. 

  • 2001

The department established a Political Science Advisory Committee comprising prominent alumni and friends of the department committed to continued excellence.  

  • 2002

Professor Edie Goldenberg became the first faculty director of Michigan in Washington and successfully proposed a program of courses using adjunct faculty from the Washington area to complement internship placements in government, media, research and the Organization of American States.  The first cohort was selected and sent to Washington DC during Fall Term, 2005.  

  • 2003

Rennovation of Haven Hall was completed, providing adequate space for faculty, staff and students in the Political Science department.  The number of concentrators had doubled between 2000 and 2004.  

  • 2005

Professor Nancy Burns became the first female director of the Center for Political Studies.  Lawyer and lecturer Richard Bernstein was named a Michiganian of the Year by The Detroit News.  

  • 2006

PRofessors Axelrod, Bednar and Page become part of a new program in Complex Systems.  

  • 2007

Former President Clinton was the graduation commencement speaker for the Class of 2007.  About 60,000 guests attended the ceremony at Michigan Stadium where he discussed the importance of healthcare and education.  

  • 2009

Professor Andy Markowits was named a Thurneau Professor, one of the University's highest teaching awards.  

  • 2010

President Obama became the third sitting U.S. President to address a graduating class.  He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the ceremony which was attended by 85,000 guests.  


The First Hundred Years: Establishment of the Political Science Department (PDF)

Political Science Department Chairs