Our History

Campanille and Spencer Research Library and Archives

Political Science at the University of Kansas: A History

The formation of the American Political Science Association in 1908 gave impetus to the development of political science departments in many universities.  During 1918-19, Clarence Dykstra and a couple of other members of the History Department sought a separate department of political science at KU. Established in 1920, its first chair was Herman B. Chubb. Initially housed in Strong Hall, the department expanded to six faculty members by 1940 and was largely focused on undergraduate education.  Its curriculum emphasized political theory, American national politics, and state and local government, but some courses in European politics were also offered. 

In 1927, Frederick Guild became chair and initiated a departmental tradition of linking political science to public service.   Guild conceived the Kansas Legislative Research Bureau, which served as a model for many other states in providing state legislatures policy relevant information.  Between 1940 and 1963, Guild served as its director, setting a precedent for future generations of KU political scientists to become deeply involved in Kansas government.  During the late 60’s and 70’s, Jim Drury also served as Director of the Kansas Legislative Research Bureau.  During the mid-80s, Marvin Harder became Secretary of Administration under Governor John Carlin and Russell Getter joined him in Topeka as Director of Technology and Communication for the State.  In 2005, Burdett Loomis served as Director of Administrative Communication, under Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

During the early 40’s the College sought to develop its liberal arts curriculum.  Two political scientists, Walter Sandelius (who was then serving as acting chair of the department while Guild was on leave in Topeka) and Hilden Gibson, led the development of the Western Civilization Program, a two-course sequence required of all B.A. students from 1945 to 2013.  The idea behind that program was to ensure that undergraduates in the liberal arts at KU would become familiar with the great ideas in the history of Western Civilization.   Its original curriculum focused on the political and economic “worldly philosophers” who had articulated and defended the centrality of the values of freedom and equality and the roles of capitalism and democracy as alternatives to the totalitarian ideologies of fascism and communism that had emerged as threats to “the free world.”  While Western Civilization became increasingly interdisciplinary over the years, political scientists, including Eldon Fields, Francis Heller, Jaroslav (“Jarek”) Piekalkiewicz, Paul Schumaker, and Thomas Heilke continued to be highly involved in the program.

In 1945 Ethan Allen joined the department and became its chair a year later.  During his 22 years at its helm, Allen built on the department’s strength in serving state and local governments, while overseeing the growth of departmental programs and faculty.  Shortly after his appointment, he developed the Bureau of Governmental Research at K.U., and most faculty contributed publications informing leaders and citizens about their governments.  Allen and Ed Stene established a Masters of Public Administration (M.P.A.) program; Stene directed that program until his retirement in 1971. 

Also during the first few years of Allen’s leadership, a Ph.D. in political science was established that offered training in six subfields:  political theory, American politics, public law, public administration, foreign governments, and international relations.  To teach this curriculum, new faculty such as Eldon Fields, James Drury, and Francis Heller joined the department in the late 1940’s, making many teaching and administrative contributions to the University in the ensuing decades.

The late 50’s and early 60’s witnessed another period of growth for the department, much of it facilitated by the development of area studies programs.  When K.U. became a national center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, Roy Laird (a specialist on Russia’s collectivist farming), Jarek Piekelkiewicz, and Roger Kanet joined the department.  The formation of the Latin American Studies Program brought Robert Tomasek.  And East Asian studies resulted in the hiring of Carl Lande and Chae-Jin Lee during the 1960’s.  The expanding faculty could no longer be contained within the Quonset Huts to the north of Strong Hall, and so Allen was instrumental in getting old Blake Hall demolished and a new Blake Hall built.  In 1964, Political Science became its first and most prominent occupant, with departmental offices on the 5th floor.  Current office staff carry on the work of such legends as Virginia Conard, Gloria Jackson Vogel, Lisa Berry, Paula Martin, Gayle Vannicola, Georgiana Torres, Gwen Jansen, Connie Leonard, and Betty Jo Ross.

The 6th floor of Blake originally housed the Bureau of Government Research.  In 1972, the BGR was transformed into ISES (the Institute for Social and Environmental Studies), and since then various institutes of applied policy research have occupied this space.  Since 2006, it has been called the Institute for Policy and Social Research.  Various political science faculty have been affiliated with these institutes over the years.

Another legacy of Allen was his creating a “club-like” atmosphere among the faculty.  Once a month the faculty would gather at 5:30, initially at various nightclubs around town but eventually settling down at the Castle Tea Room (on the corner of Massachusetts St. and 13th St.) for drinks, dinner, and departmental meetings.  These usually lasted until 10pm and sometimes were not concluded until midnight.  In those days, the department lacked any rule (cloture) or norms (common sense?) that prevented the more verbose faculty from filibustering even the most petty issues.  This tradition ended in the late 70’s. 

After Allen died in 1968, Herman Lujan became chair for three years, and Earl Nehring succeeded him for nine years.  Under their leadership, the department became more involved in the behavioral research that had become featured in the leading journals and presses of the discipline.  The 70’s witnessed the hiring of several young faculty having these orientations:  Allan Cigler, Russell Getter, Paul Schumaker, Ronald Francisco, Elaine Sharp, Claude (“Pete”) Rowland, and Burdett (“Bird”) Loomis.  These hires were followed by other American political behavior professors in the 1980’s and 90’s, including Paul Johnson, Donald Haider-Markel,  and Mark Joslyn.

During the latter 1970’s, the M.P.A. program, which had developed a national reputation for its training of city managers, expanded to meet opportunities to offer a professional masters degree to state employees in Topeka (at The Capitol Complex Center, under the direction of Marvin Harder) and in the Kansas City area (as one of the first programs at the Regents Center). By 1980, the Department had grown to over 30 faculty, including about a dozen who were involved in the various M.P.A. programs.  The College hired Robert Lineberry, an eminent political scientist whose interests extended to urban policy and administration, as its new Dean.  In 1984, Lineberry approved the creation of the Division of Government having two departments:  Political Science focused on academic research, the undergraduate major, and the Ph.D. Program; Public Administration focused on the professional training of public employees.  The Division lasted for 20 years, when Public Administration became a completely autonomous program in 2004.

The growth of the M.P.A. program, however, had a lasting effect on Political Science.  Some faculty – such as Dennis Palumbo, Elaine Sharp and Mel Dubnick - who were hired to contribute to the M.P.A. program were more interested in public policy than in public administration.  Some of these faculty remained in Political Science, with the department developing a new subfield in public policy during the 90’s. Don Haider-Markel and Alesha Doan, are some more recent professors who have added strength to this field.

For many years, courses in international politics were taught by faculty whose primary interests were U.S. and Soviet foreign policy or by faculty in the area studies programs who contributed courses on international conflict and cooperation within their regional areas of specialization or who taught courses in international relations, but did little disciplinary research in that field.  With the hiring of Philip Schrodt in 1988, this limitation was ameliorated, and this field was developed during the 1990’s. 

Faculty in comparative politics earlier emphasized the politics of particular nations and regions, but in recent decades, undergraduate and graduate courses and research in comparative politics have increasingly become cross-national. For example, courses on developing nations (Lande), protest and revolutions (Francisco), parties and elections (Herron), public opinion (Rohrschneider), and political economy (Yap) are now taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

During the 90’s, the university developed additional regional programs in European, African, and Middle Eastern studies – as well as an Indigenous Nations program focusing on native Americans – and a number of our faculty have been involved in them.   The university also developed an International Studies co-major for undergraduates and then an M.A. degree, with many political science professors being involved in the program.  Deborah Gerner and Gary Reich served as directors of that program.  In 2010, that program was transformed into Global Studies; Thomas Heilke was its first director, and – after he became Dean of the Graduate School - John Kennedy became director.

Political Science interdisciplinary involvements expanded beyond the area studies and international studies programs in the 1990’s.  Several political scientists including Lorraine Bayard de Volo, Hannah Britton, and Alesha Doan have been or are members of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.  Other political scientists – Andy Whitford, Dorothy Daley, and Don Haider-Markel - have been involved in Environmental Studies.

After Robert Dole lost to Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election, Burdett Loomis was the first to realize the opportunity for KU to develop a library holding the papers that the long-time Kansas Senator had collected during his 40 years in Washington.  That initiative turned into the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics with Loomis serving as its first Interim Director.   Since the dedication of the Dole Institute building on West Campus in 2003, the Institute has developed and coordinated a host of activities dealing with politics, public policy, and public service, often with the involvement of faculty from Political Science.

With all these changes, Political Science has viewed the undergraduate major as its central mission.  Over the past half century Political Science has consistently been one of the largest majors in the College; each year approximately 100-200 men and women have earned B.A. and B.G.S. degrees with majors in Political Science.  In addition to a broad coursework in the various fields of political science, many of our majors have done fieldwork and internships under the direction of political science faculty.  During the 60’s, Earl Nehring administered a Ford Foundation sponsored legislative internship program in Topeka.  Burdett Loomis developed a Washington Internship program in 1984, and revived the Topeka Internship program shortly thereafter; he was folled by Patrick Miller, then alum Tom Ringenberg.

The Ph.D. program has hooded close to 200 doctoral students since its inception.  Over the years, it has admitted 10-25 M.A. and Ph.D. students each year, and about three to four students earn the Ph.D. each year.  Most of these graduates have (or had) teaching and research positions at various colleges and universities throughout the country, though some have gone on to successful careers teaching in their native lands, in university administration, and in various governmental agencies.

Distinguished Professors

  • Francis Heller, Roy Roberts Professor of Law
  • Charles Levine, Edwin Stene Professor of Public Administration
  • Eldon Fields, Chancellor’s Club Distinguished Teaching Professor
  • Allan Cigler, Chancellor’s Club Distinguished Teaching Professor
  • Robert Rohrschneider, Sir Robert Worcester Distinguished Professor in Public Opinion and Survey Research

Departmental Chairs

  • Herman Chubb, 1923-1927
  • Frederick Guild, 1927-1940
  • Walter Sandelius, 1940-46
  • Ethan Allen, 1946-1968
  • Eldon Fields, 1968-1969
  • Herman Lujan, 1969-1972
  • Earl Nehring, 1972-1981
  • Paul Schumaker, 1981-1985
  • Burdett Loomis, 1986-1990
  • Elaine Sharp, 1990-1994
  • Ronald Francisco, 1994-1998
  • Paul Schumaker, 1998-2003
  • Burdett Loomis, 2003-2004
  • Elaine Sharp, 2005-2011
  • Donald Haider-Markel, 2011-2021
  • John Kennedy 2021- present

The Quarter Century Club (Faculty who have been in the Department for more than 25 years)

  • Herman Chubb (Columbia), 1918-1957 (American and comparative politics)
  • Walter Sandelius (Oxford), 1922-1967  (political theory)
  • Frederick Guild (Illinois), 1924-1963 (American politics – state legislatures)
  • Ed Stene (Minnesota), 1934-1971 (public administration)
  • Eldon Fields (Stanford), 1946-1983 (political theory)
  • James Drury (Princeton), 1947-1989 (Kansas government, personnel administration)
  • Francis Heller (Virginia), 1948-1988 (American politics – constitutional law)
  • Cliff Ketzel (California – Berkeley), 1954-1987 (international relations – American foreign policy)
  • Roy Laird (Washington - Seattle), 1957–1990 (comparative politics – Soviet agriculture)
  • James Titus (Wisconsin - Madison), 1957–1989 (political theory)
  • Robert Tomasek (Michigan), 1957-1992 (comparative politics – Latin America)
  • Earl Nehring (UCLA), 1958-1986 (American politics)
  • Carl Lande (Harvard), 1960-1, 1966-2000 (comparative politics – The Philippines)
  • Jaroslav Piekalkiewicz (Indiana), 1962-1990 (comparative politics – Eastern Europe)
  • Ann Ruth Willner (Chicago), 1970-1998 (comparative politics – Indonesia)
  • Allan Cigler (Indiana) 1970-2015  (American politics – parties and interest groups)
  • Russell Getter (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), 1971-97 (American politics – state and local)
  • Paul Schumaker (Wisconsin-Madison), 1972-2017 (political theory, American politics)
  • Ronald Francisco (Illinois), 1974-2015  (comparative politics - Europe)
  • Elaine Sharp (North Carolina), 1978-2016 (urban politics – public policy)
  • Burdett Loomis (Wisconsin-Madison), 1979-2017 (American politics – legislatures and interest groups)
  • Paul Johnson (Washington University in St. Louis), 1987-present (methodology, American politics)

Other professors tenured in Political Science at KU (deceased, retired, or now in other departments or universities)

  • Hilden Gibson (Stanford), 1938-55 (political theory, American politics)
  • Smith (California - Berkeley)  1947-57 (American politics)
  • Kenneth Beasley (Kansas), 1954-64 (public administration)
  • John Grumm (California – Berkeley), 1956-70 (American politics)
  • William Cape (Kansas), 1957-58, 1961-73 (public administration)
  • Herman Lujan (Idaho), 1964-79 (American politics)
  • Roger Kanet (Princeton), 1966-72 (international relations – Soviet Union)
  • Chae-Jin Lee (UCLA), 1966-87 (comparative politics, East Asia)
  • David Welborn (Texas), 1968-73 (public administration)
  • Gary Wamsley (Pittsburgh), 1972–78 (public administration)
  • Ray Davis (California-Davis), 1972-84 (public administration – health policy)
  • Cheryl Swanson (Oklahoma), 1975-82 (urban politics, criminal justice)
  • Marvin (“Mike”) Harder (Columbia), 1975-91 (American – state government)
  • Robert Denhardt (Kentucky) 1976-81 (public administration)
  • John Nalbandian (Southern California), 1976-84 (public administration)
  • Dennis Palumbo (Chicago), 1977-83 (American, public policy)
  • Claude (“Pete”) Rowland (Houston), 1979-2003 (American, judicial processes)
  • Melvin Dubnick (Colorado), 1979-84 (public administration, public policy)
  • Charles Levine (Indiana), 1981-84 (public administration, urban)
  • Robert Lineberry (North Carolina), 1981-87, (American politics, urban)
  • Philip Schrodt (Indiana), 1988-2009 (International politics, methodology)
  • Deborah (“Misty”) Gerner (Northwestern), 1988-2006 (comparative politics – Middle East)
  • Leo Villalon (Texas), 1991-2002 (comparative politics – Africa)
  • Paul D’Anieri  (Cornell), 1991-2004 (international politics – Russia)
  • Jeffrey Cohen  (Michigan), 1992-98 (American politics, the presidency)
  • Juliet Kaarbo (Ohio State), 1993-2011 (international politics – Europe)
  • Lorraine Bayard de Volo (Michigan), 1998-2006 (comparative politics - Latin America, women’s studies)
  • Sharon O’Brien (Oregon), 1998-2012 (international law, Indigenous nations)
  • Andy Whitford (Washington University in St. Louis), 2001-2003 (American politics, public policy)
  • Fiona Yap (Rochester), 1998-2012 (comparative politics – East Asia)
  • Erik Herron (Michigan State) 2003-2014 (Comparative Politics - Eastern Europe)
  • Brent Steele (Iowa), 2005-2013 (International Politics)
  • Thomas Heilke (Duke), 1991-2013 (Political Theory)
  • Patrick Miller (North Carolina) 2013-2023 (American Politics)