Advising Information for Students in PS/IR

Your goals for yourself are the same goals we have for you!

  • You want to do well in your classes, and we want you to do well in your classes.
  • You want to graduate on time, and we want you to graduate on time.
  • You want your college experience to lead to a meaningful and productive career, and we want you to go on to a meaningful and productive career.

Good advising, which happens when you seek advice and we provide advice, is crucial to achieving these goals. If you work with your advisors and the advice given, you will do better in your classes, stay on track to graduate, and put yourself into a solid position for the type of career you want.

Advising Q&A for students in PS/IR: 

  1. How do you get an advisor?
  2. When should you talk to your advisor?
  3. Who else can help you?
  4. Where can you get information on your major and courses?
  5. What should you pick for a minor?
  6. Are there basic tips for doing well in PS and IR classes?
  7. What can you do now to help build a post-MTSU career in the field?

1. How do you get an advisor?

All students are assigned a college advisor and a faculty advisor. Your college advisor is a staff member of the University who will assist you with understanding degree requirements, registration, using the DegreeWorks tracking/audit system, completing required forms, and related matters. Your faculty advisor is a professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations who will assist you with information and guidance about political science or international relations, careers, research and internship opportunities, and matters related to the profession. Because they have different strengths and help you with different things, it is  important to maintain contact with both of your advisors as you move through your program of study.

  • Your college advisor is located in the CLA Advising Center, Peck Hall 134. You can find your college advisor's contact information by visiting the page, "Who Is My [College] Advisor?"
  • You will be assigned a faculty advisor. A tab in Pipeline shows who your faculty advisor is. If you do not already have a faculty advisor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, please email us at and we will be sure to assign one to you! 

2. When should you talk to your advisor?

Seriously, the correct answer is often. Don't allow questions and problems to fester and get worse; as issues arise, see your advisor. Even if there are no unique problems, it is wise to see your advisor at least once a semester when you are selecting courses prior to registration.

This may seem trite, but it is true: no student has ever had a problem because she/he talked to their advisor too often, but many students have faced entirely avoidable problems because they didn't talk to their advisor often enough.

How to contact Your Advisors

College advisors are available during regular business hours, year-round. Call, make an appointment, or just drop by the CLA Advising Center in Peck Hall 134. 

Make an appointment with your college advisor!

Faculty advisors keep regular office hours each week. Barring meetings, professional trips, or emergencies, they will be available in their offices at these times. Their office hours are posted on their doors each semester, and may be posted in their online faculty profiles, too, and in the Department office. Beyond official office hours, you can make an appointment when you are both free, or, depending on the type of issue and the faculty advisor's preferences, phone calls, emails, or video conferencing may be sensible alternatives. Some people use email much more than others, so simply ask your advisor how she/he prefers to be contacted.

Like you, faculty members have classes and meetings. For example, so they may not be available between your classes in Peck Hall on MWF, but if you make an appointment they will be happy to meet with you.

How to Keep Track of Your Progress

No matter your major with us — General Political Science, Political Science with a Pre-Law Concentration, Political Science with a Public Policy and Management Concentration, Political Science for Teacher Licensure, or International Relations — you should use DegreeWorks to track your progress toward degree completion. DegreeWorks provides an up-to-the minute audit that can be accessed online.

Track your progress with DegreeWorks!

Before 2021, we used Upper-Division Forms to track progress in the majors. The College of Liberal Arts no longer uses these forms. Students who started taking courses prior to 2021 may have used the form to see all of the program requirements listed on a single sheet of paper, but all students are now encouraged to use DegreeWorks, which helps keep all users—including you as the student, your college advisor and your faculty advisor—up to date on your degree progress, and aware of requirements that still need to be completed.

3. Who else can help you?

If you have a question or concern about your program—what you are supposed to take, course availability, course substitutions, concerns about your GPA, and so on—your advisor is your first point of contact. But, if it something that is time sensitive or an emergency, there are other people you can talk to and who will help you. In no particular order, you can talk to:

  • any of the Political Science professors with whom you have a class
  • Dr. Atchison, Department Chair, or the Department's Executive Aide, both in Peck Hall 209
  • faculty members with an open door; or
  • one of the advisors in the College of Liberal Arts Advising Center

Between your advisor and all of theses other people, even time-sensitive issues can be addressed in a timely fashion. Just ask—people want to help you stay on track and succeed, and will be happy to help!

4. Where can you get information on your major, courses, and so on?

The best way to stay on track in your major and for graduation is to be informed. Anything you will ever want or need to know about your program is available online 24/7. Much of it is also available in hard copy on the racks outside our department office in Peck Hall.

For information on University rules and General Education requirements, you can go to the MTSU Undergraduate Catalog.

For information on your major—program requirements, course descriptions, student organizations, internship opportunities, study abroad opportunities, faculty contact information, and much more—you can browse the contents of this website.

For up to date notifications of speakers, films, Departments events and workshops, and internship and job opportunities—follow the Department's social media pages (especially Facebook and Instagram).

Student Handbooks

We have two student handbooks available, one for IR majors and one for PS majors (whether General Focus or Pre-Law, Public Policy and Management, or Teacher Licensure).

These are short, user-friendly handbooks on your programs, how and when to file various forms, how to register for courses, tips for success, and career tips. The emphasis here is on user-friendly, so please print off a copy (or pick up a copy in the main office) of the Handbook that applies to you. Please note that for the most up-to-date information on courses, course requirements, and Department faculty, you should use the Undergraduate catalog and University web sites, since these handbooks may contain some dated information. 

5. What should you pick for a minor?

Depending on your major in the Department, you will need to choose either one or two minors. The near universal question students ask their advisors at some point is "What should I minor in?" There is no one answer that applies to every student, but:

  • College is about more than building a career; it is also about a full and good life. So, if you have a passion—"I want to work in 'X' field, but I've always been fascinated by... learning Spanish... or painting... or history... or something"— use a minor to pursue your passion.

  • If you know exactly the career you want and there is a minor that would obviously help you achieve it—say you want to be a political writer, and so a minor in journalism makes sense with your PS major—you should follow this course.

  • If, like many students, you do not fall into either of the two previous groups, you are strongly encouraged to minor in Political and Civic Engagement. The Political and Civic Engagement minor is the same number of credit hours as other minors, but allows you to combine internships, study abroad, independent research, and experiential courses (e.g., Mock Trial, Model U.N., Mock Mediation, and Model State Legislature) for a minor that offers you practical experience using what you have learned in your PS and IR courses.

    Students always understand the value of internship, study abroad, research, and practicum courses to exploring career options and landing jobs, but often have hard time fitting them into a program with Gen Ed, major, and minor requirements. By minoring in Political and Civic Engagement space for these types of experiences are built into your 120 credit hour program.

    For example, a Pre-Law major might intern in a prosecutor's office one semester and a public defender's office the next semester. Or, an IR major might study abroad one Summer and intern another semester with a local group working with political refugees from around the world. These are extremely valuable experiences, and a minor in Political and Civic Engagement provides the space to gain these experiences. So, if you're not sure what to minor in, you should strongly consider this option.

6. Are there basic tips for doing well in PS and IR classes?

The basic tips for doing well in PS and IR classes are the same for classes in almost all fields. The tips are very basic indeed, but when students struggle, issues with one or more of these basics is a part of the problem.

  1. Go to all of your classes, all of the time. Being there matters.
  2. Be prepared for class—if there was assigned reading or other assignment, get it done before class.
  3. Be engaged in the class—don't just sit, but listen actively, take good notes, and participate when appropriate/asked.
  4. Get assistance if you need assistance—taking good notes, studying effectively, writing timed essays, and so on, are skills. If you are struggling in some of these areas, even if just a little, get the help you need. See our Academic Help Resources page, or ask.
  5. Talk to your professors, early and often. They want you to succeed and want to help, but you need to talk to them and let them know when there is an issue. So, as soon as there is an issue (i.e., when you get one low grade, not after several have piled up), go and talk to your professor about what the issue is and what you can do to clear it up.
  6. Be the tortoise, not the hare—very few students can learn well and score well studying and writing in mad dashes right before an assignment is due. Some can, but not many (and, thus, probably not you). So, be the tortoise, plan ahead and spread your work out and work on it in a slow and steady fashion, and you will win with higher grades.

7. What can you do now to help build a post-MTSU career in the field?

You all want to leave MTSU and achieve your next goal in life—get a job you really want, get into a law school you really want, get into a graduate school you really want. What can you do now to help you achieve what you want to achieve?

For many, the answer is to graduate with as high a GPA as possible. And, this is important; you should work diligently to graduate and do so with as high a GPA as possible. But, there is more to do.

When you graduate, you will apply for professional jobs or law school admission or graduate school admission. The degree and the GPA get you into the pool of seriously considered applicants, which is a good thing. The challenge, of course, is to be one of the people selected from this pool and actually hired or admitted. There may be dozens of qualified applicants for a given job, and hundreds of qualified applicants for admission to law school and graduate programs—just like you, they have recently earned a Bachelor's degree with a solid gpa, but only three will be offered an interview and a few dozen offered admission to the law or graduate program. You want to be one of these people, and you can do things now to help ensure you are one of those applicants who actually gets hired or gets admitted.

You need to stand out—at least a little bit—from all the other people who have earned a degree with a similar gpa. You do not need to win a Nobel Prize while an undergraduate (though that would be okay too), but you want to do some things while here to help you stand out from all the other applicants later. Do some things that make you more interesting to people reviewing applications.

Both the Department and the University offer all sorts of opportunities for you do things that will make you better prepared to achieve your post-MTSU goals. For more information on these opportunities, look through the pages on this site on Grad School, Law School, Research Opportunities, Getting Involved on Campus, and Getting Involved in the Community. You can:

    • intern with in a government agency
    • go abroad for either courses or service learning
    • lead campus organizations
    • participate in Mock Trial
    • intern with a political campaign
    • conduct independent research
    • work with non-profits in the community
    • intern with an international organization
    • participate in the Legal Studies Society
    • pursue an EXL designation on your degree
    • participate in Mock Mediation
    • present your work at a professional conference
    • intern at a legislative office
    • present work at Scholar's Week
    • participate in Model U.N.
    • submit your work to an undergraduate journal
    • participate in TISL
    • intern with a legal office

No student can do all of these things, but every student can do one or two or three things in their four years here. The more you do and do well beyond just graduate with a good GPA, the more likely you will achieve your post-MTSU goals.

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