New ATLAS Program Launched!

An open letter to all College of Liberal Arts and Sciences students from Matthew Kerbel, Ph.D., Chair of the Political Science Department.

Dear CLAS Students,

We are excited to announce a new Certificate in European Politics that we have launched in partnership with the European School of Social and Political Sciences at the Université Catholique de Lille, in Lille, France. This is an ATLAS spring semester program that is unique and exclusive to Villanova students. If you are thinking of majoring in Political Science, have an interest in European Politics, or are taking French as your language requirement, this is a great opportunity to integrate a Study Abroad activity into your curriculum.

More details are available at, but let me give you a few highlights.

  • The Certificate may be earned by taking the equivalent of 12 units of Political Science courses at ESPOL in addition to PSC 1200 (which is already a required course in the major).
  • You will also be taking a 6-unit combined culture and French language course called Intercultural Communication, which includes excursions in the region
  • If you are already taking French, this is a terrific way of accruing credits towards a double major in French and Political Science.
  • You will be housed in single rooms in dormitories within walking distance to ESPOL. These dorms are equipped with common kitchen, gym and social areas.
  • You will be assigned a sponsor family who will contribute to giving you a more thorough experience of French culture.
  • Political Science courses taken at ESPOL can only be applied to a certificate, minor or major. In other words you cannot, for example, use the same course to fulfill both a certificate and a major.
  • All Political Science courses taken at ESPOL will be approved automatically for PSC credit.

Note that the application deadline for this spring semester (2015) is October 15. This is because study visas will need to be processed.

I encourage everyone to consider this unique study abroad activity. It is part of our efforts to more closely link the courses taken abroad with our home curriculum in the department, and ease the process of vetting and approving courses on the basis of our confidence in their quality of instruction and experiences.

If you are looking for summer travel-study experiences in PSC, consider the Prague Program or the Washington Minimester. We will send out information on these programs over the course of the semester.

To get started, make an advising appointment with the program coordinator, Prof. Francois Massonnat, Department of Romance Languages and Literature. Email him at Afterwards, he will direct you to the (newly renamed) Office of Education Abroad to fill out an application and get the process started.

Matthew Kerbel
Chair, Political Science Department


Study Abroad in Prague this Summer!

The Department of Political Science offers a six-week summer study program in Prague, which is the capital of the Czech Republic and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

The program runs from June 22 – August 3, and involves two political science courses, for which students earn 6 Villanova credits. The courses are taught by full-time Villanova faculty, which means that they are taken for a letter grade (not a ‘T’ transfer grade), and they are directly applicable to the PSC major as an Area 1 distribution or elective. The two courses offered this summer are:

PSC 4875-001 Genocide and Mass Killing (Dixon, 3 credits)
PSC 6150-001/ENG 2790 Politics and Literature (Simmons, 3 credits)

Classes are held in an Augustinian monastery located in the center of Prague, and students live nearby in shared apartments with full kitchen facilities to prepare meals and close access to a range of local cafes and restaurants. Central Prague is a pedestrian-friendly city with excellent local transit, so it is easy to get around. Moreover, no Czech language skills are required. The cosmopolitan environment of Prague makes it possible to get by in English, which makes the Prague program a wonderful opportunity to study, travel, and learn in a foreign environment.

From Prague’s location in the heart of Europe, you can easily visit many of the great cities of Western and Eastern Europe in weekend trips or before or after the program. This year, there will be a scheduled weekend trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp memorial and to the nearby Polish city of Krakow. In addition, we will plan a couple of excursions within the verdant Czech Republic. Aside from these scheduled trips, in past years students have visited Warsaw, Linz, Dresden, Budapest, and Munich on their own during open weekends.

The cost of the 6-week-long program is $5,500, which includes tuition, housing, and excursions. On a per-credit basis, this is less expensive than credits taken on campus at Villanova. Moreover, through the generosity of Villanova alumnus and PSC major Michael C. Linn, full and partial scholarships are available on the basis of financial need (as determined by the Office of Financial Assistance).

If you would like to learn more about the program, please contact Dr. Dixon ( or Prof. Simmons ( The application deadline is March 31st, and the application form is available here:

PSC 6150-001/ENG 2790: Politics and Literature (3 credits), Professor Mary Beth Simmons “From Kafka to Kundera: How the Politics of Prague Shaped Czech Writers”

Is literature born from political rebellion or oppression considered art? This is simply one of the many questions we will discuss in a course that covers the challenges and limitations of something we most likely take for granted: freedom of speech and expression. We will read poets, politicians, playwrights, novelists, and essayists who have all been transformed by the politics of the Czech Republic. How does the legacy of communism inspire a writer? How did the student-fueled rebellion of the Prague Spring in 1968 or the Velvet Revolution in 1989 change the course of history for the country—and the world? Visits to important sites in Prague (the Kafka museum, the locations of the student protests) will energize and enhance our in-class discussions and understandings of the texts. Students will write a number of short, one-page reaction papers to our readings; two longer, critical papers responding to the texts and class discussions; and one cumulative paper reflecting on the overall coursework and life in Prague.


Chatwin: Utz
Hampl: A Romantic Education
Hrabal: Too Loud a Solitude
Kafka: Metamorphosis, The Trial, and selected short stories
Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Neruda: Prague Tales
Rilke: Letters to a Young Poet
Stoppard: Rock ‘n’ Roll

PSC 4875-001: Genocide and Mass Killing (3 credits), Dr. Jennifer M. Dixon

What are the causes of genocide and mass killing? Do certain contexts make genocide or mass killing more likely to occur? Why do leaders decide to commit genocide or mass killing? Why do individuals participate in genocidal violence? What happens in the aftermath of genocide and mass killing? This seminar is designed to introduce students to the central debates and questions in the study of genocide and mass killing, focusing on the questions posed above. In our discussions, we will consider the domestic and international contexts within which genocide and mass killing occur, the motivations and rationales of leaders and individual perpetrators, and the ways in which the international community responds to such violence. Throughout the course, we will consider the identities of victim groups, and the processes through which perpetrators construct victims as ‘enemies’ and ‘threats’ to the nation, to the state, or to the achievement of a highly-valued goal. Given our location in central Europe, the course will focus on three European cases: the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the ethnic cleansing and genocidal violence during the collapse of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. In addition to our readings and in-depth discussions, the course will include an afternoon trip to the Theresienstadt concentration camp memorial outside of Prague, and a weekend trip to visit the Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camp memorial and the nearby city of Krakow, Poland.

Study Abroad in Athens [Guest Post: Ryan Kosyla]

Below is a guest post by Ryan Kosyla LAS ’13, Philosophy Major, Business and Political Science Minor.

I didn’t plan on studying abroad. In fact, I thought it was something I had to give up   since transferring to Villanova in the spring of 2011. The end of junior year was coming and I knew it would be next to impossible to fit into my schedule. But at the recommendation of Dr. Smith, head of Villanova’s Honors Program, I decided to look into it. When I did, I found something interesting: the excitement and adoration of those who had previously studied abroad and how they looked back on their experience. Most had a hard time finding the words to describe why, exactly, I should study in another country for a semester. “Just do it” was a phrase I heard on more than one occasion. After a semester in Greece, I can definitely say that this is the best advice I can give to students looking to study abroad.

There are many different aspects to studying abroad. It is not just a chance to try different food or go somewhere you haven’t been before. It is a very personal experience that forces you to reconsider the things you take for granted, things you have grown used to without even realizing it. I think two short stories will best illustrate my point

There was a small store next to my apartment in Greece where I used to get coffee. It was run by a woman and her husband, neither of whom spoke any amount of English. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know a word of Greek. And somehow, I still managed to get coffee the very first time I walked in the store – complete with the exact amount of sugar and cream I wanted. As my Greek improved, I began to have lengthier, more detailed conversations with this couple.

Communication is far more than words. When you have two people who are trying to talk to one another, but speak completely different languages, there is still some part of what you’re trying to say that gets across. Pointing, the inflexion of your voice and facial features all play a huge part, even more so than the actual words you’re trying to speak. I had known the importance of body language, but never thought seriously about it before; I guess I had grown used to talking to people without really thinking at all. Without being forced to think about how we talk, we sort of just… talk. Everything from how close we stand to someone, to body language and eye contact, are all influenced by our culture. It’s just the way we get used to things, the way we grow used to and connect with one another on a common level.

246525_155545147920172_716805501_nOne of my best experiences while abroad was taking part in an internship at the Institute for International Economic Relations. I was able to conduct graduate-level research, write opinion papers on contentious economic issues, and listen to presentations from professors and other invited guests. But I learned the most from my fellow interns

I was one of many students there, but I was the only American. Everyone else was Greek. They all spoke English, which was great. But what was really great was some of the conversations we had. We discussed philosophy and politics, culture and society, relationships and family. Greek students – no matter their major – are much more politically aware, informed, and active than American students. Each has an opinion on pretty much anything you can think of and their opinions are interesting and well thought out.

Greek youths are also much more focused on interpersonal relationships and learning about one another than in doing activities when with friends. In the United States, we typically need an excuse to hang out with someone: going to see a movie, playing sports, and the like. Greeks are different; they simply want to spend time with one another. This usually takes the form of sitting down over coffee, long stretches of window shopping, or simply standing around and talking – even if it’s in the middle of the sidewalk (and no passerby’s seem to mind!).

During one of those times when we went out for coffee, we had a particularly memorable conversation about ideas of nationalism. “You’re not a country,” a girl told me. “I mean, you are… I don’t mean that in an offensive way. But we Greeks don’t really see you like that. You’re young. You’ve been around a little over 200 years. We have thousands of years of history.”

532237_3925807220622_2029845948_nShe’s right. The U.S. is young. And yet, in the international arena, many U.S. citizens get so used to the idea that the United States is supposedly #1 that we tend to forget that we haven’t even existed as a country for very long. It isn’t until we, as individuals, take a step back and are challenged by different ideas that we begin to get a fuller understanding of ourselves and the world. When we see how other people live, and begin to understand how other people think, we are forced to consider what it must be like to live that way. Without exploring different cultures, you take your own for granted, and believe that everyone, everywhere, must live that way. I was guilty of that to a large extent

But it is important to mention that there are more commonalities than differences between different countries and different cultures. The importance of family and friends, stresses and worries of being young adults and a focus on your “significant other” are as paramount in Greece as they are in the United States. Being abroad reinforced my belief that there are some things that cross cultural, geographical, and communicative barriers and connect us as human beings.

These stories may not seem spectacular or ground-breaking, but the small, personal interactions I had with the people I met are what made my experience. They forced me to think differently, reconsider the things I had taken for granted, and imagine new possibilities.

Don’t get me wrong – the Greek islands are gorgeous, the other American students I met were awesome, and I loved learning about Greek culture. The food was fantastic, the city has some amazing historical monuments, and I learned a ton from my classes. But the most important part of my study abroad experience, and what I believe most people will find to be the most significant part of studying abroad, is the people. It is they who underlie all aspects of your experience; if it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t even be possible to study abroad there in the first place. They challenge you, inspire you, and connect with you in a way that goes  far beyond words.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine how other people think, feel, or live. Our conceptions are distorted by our own beliefs, and everyone, no matter their experience, is always ignorant in some sense. But when we study abroad, we begin to recognize that which co183402_4833153471552_413660713_nuld not be known otherwise. It is not found in a textbook or taught in a classroom. It is given to you, each and every day, by the people you meet and the interactions you have.

You carry it with you, every day, for the rest of your life. And you will always be a better person because of it.