How Political Science fits in a Liberal Arts School


Seth Maile

Zaiger Hall houses the political science department.

Jernigan Neighbors, [email protected], News Writer

UNC Asheville, the only liberal arts institution within the UNC system, overlaps many topics within one major creating open minds and open opportunities. The Political Science major is just one of UNCA’s majors that provides a wide range of overlapping topics to study. 

“By asking our students to think critically about political processes, institutions, biases and behavior, I think that political science fits into this idea of the liberal arts,” said Ashley Moraguez, the associate professor and co-chair of the UNC Asheville Political Science department. 

Moraguez said this is their eighth year teaching at UNCA. The associate professor said before UNCA they gained teaching experience as a Ph.D. student at Emory University. 

“I hope students are able to acquire skills, gain real world experience and learn important lessons about the political world from our degree,” Moraguez said. 

Moraguez said their Political Science professors fundamentally altered how they thought about the political and social world. 

“I hope I have at least a small fraction of the impact on my students that my undergraduate professors had on me,” the UNCA professor said. 

Moraguez said working with students is personally the best part of the job. 

“I am constantly in awe of how involved and committed our students are,” Moraguez said. “So many of the students are enrolled in full course loads and have demanding jobs outside of school, but they still find time to get involved.” 

The co-chair said the department tries to offer lots of opportunities for students to get involved outside of the classroom through internships, service learning classes and research assistant positions.

“In my mind, the goal of a liberal arts education is to cultivate critical thinkers who are active members of their communities and who engage with the big issues, questions and ideas in society,” Moraguez said. 

Moraguez said the liberal arts education often spotlights the importance of being active citizens. 

“I hope that a liberal arts education helps to develop the next generation of leaders who will create a more fair and inclusive society,” the co-chair said.

UNCA offers jobs and leadership opportunities not only to the campus’ students, but alumni and other members in the Asheville community. 

“I have the opportunity to feel like I am making an impact and using my knowledge in mass communications to bring something different to the table,” said the Political Science department’s student assistant, Alexis Douglas. 

Douglas said their job consists of helping with long term projects and goals, as well as pitching in with the sociology and anthropology departments as well. 

“There are going to be a couple of voting related events, some of which occurred last year as well,” Douglas said. 

The political science major holds tabling throughout the semesters promoting voting, getting involved with the university and the surrounding community as well as providing voting and registration information. 

“There’s a lot of respect between the faculty and students,” Douglas said. “The environment is welcoming, and it seems like everyone has a mutual gain.” 

The UNCA students studying political science require 34 major credit hours alongside other general required classes like humanities, arts and ideas, second language, social science and more. UNCA requirements provide students with a variety of world perspectives and topics of immersion. 

“I think my worldview has broadened since studying political science, and I have learned a lot of history and background on topics that I was not taught about before,” said UNCA student, Ona Elkins. 

Elkins said since studying political science, they immersed themselves in new information regarding the Rwandan Genocide, examples of systemic racism, the impacts of US census and other international organizations. Alongside this, Elkins said they learned new tools such as coding, using Excel and programming language R. 

“I think I understand a lot more about the political processes in our world today and in the past, and more of the repercussions of these policies around the world,” Elkins said. 

Elkins said since studying political science they enriched their historical knowledge and consumption of current local and international news. 

“I think the most fun part of studying political science has been learning such a variety of skills within the major,” Elkins said. 

The UNCA student said they immersed themselves in political science because they love history, government and want to make a change in the world. 

“The people in office make decisions on our behalf, and those decisions impact everything from our rights to the enforcement and passing of laws to funding for important things like education, infrastructure and health care,” Elkins said. “I plan to encourage people to vote, participate in the census and become more active in their communities.”

Elkins said the political science major possesses many differing topics to study. The political science student said they focus more on international politics and human rights, and less on American politics. 

“I think it’s a great way to engage in your community and learn about the policies that impact our day to day lives,” Elkins said.