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Hillsdale College Graduate School of Government Brochure

A program unlike any other in Washington, D.C.

Hillsdale’s unique approach integrates first principles with prudential thinking by means of a rigorous core curriculum and careful study of primary sources. Our Master of Arts in Government focuses on three areas of knowledge: Political Thought and Literature, American Politics, and Statecraft.

A Core Curriculum

Hillsdale College prides itself on its commitment to a core curriculum, reflecting the College’s belief that a true education consists of a defined set of knowledge that any educated human ought to know and live by, rather than merely a fixed number of hours spent in a classroom studying scattered topics. The School of Government operates with that common belief.  Rather than following the typical academic model of having tracks with a large variety of courses, the School of Government focuses on a deliberate course of study designed to ensure that all students learn what is essential to understand the principles and practice of the governing arts.

The M.A. program requires study in three areas of knowledge: Political Thought and Literature, American Politics, and Statecraft

Political Thought and Literature

Study the writings of political philosophers, poets, and orators from ancient, medieval, and modern eras, focusing on their understandings of human nature and the purpose of government. Learn how each has influenced the American political tradition.

This category requires three courses and offers various one-credit electives:

  • GOV 501: Political Thought and Literature I (3 credits): This course examines central texts of antiquity that excellently articulate and profoundly shape culture, citizens, cities, and republics, including America’s own.
    • Required Texts: Sophocles, Antigone; Aristotle, Ethics and Politics; Cicero’s On Duties.

  • GOV 502: Political Thought and Literature II (3 credits): This course examines disparate strains of Modern political thought and literature as they apply to the great questions of governance. It examines various texts and thinkers and their relations to and rejections of ancient and Christian accounts of the best way of life and the governor’s role in securing it.
    • Key texts: Augustine’s City of God, Aquinas’ Treatise on Law, Machiavelli’s Prince, Locke’s Second Treatise, and Marx’s Communist Manifesto; as well as More’s Utopia, Bacon’s New Atlantis, Shakespeare’s Hamlet; and selections from Seneca, St. Paul, Rousseau, Hegel, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Foucault, et cetera.

  • GOV 503: The Art of Rhetoric (1 credit): This course examines both the technical art of persuasion to the truth through speech as well as the ethical incorporation of rhetoric into the full life of a republic and its leading citizens.
    • Key Texts: Cicero, On the Orator; selections from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Plato’s Gorgias and Phaedrus, as well as speeches from Cicero, Demosthenes, Isocrates, and Lincoln. 

Elective Courses

  • GOV 701: Special Topics in Political Thought (1 credit):
    Roman Republicanism; Alexis de Tocqueville; Post-modernity; Plato’s Republic; Wisdom Literature; Augustine’s Political Thought; Plutarch’s Lives and Moralia; Thucydides; Machiavelli, etc.

  • GOV 702: Special Topics in Liberal Arts (1 credit):
    Topics: Shakespeare’s Histories; Political Tragedies; Seneca’s Epistles. Homer’s Odyssey; Virgil’s Aeneid; The American Character in Literature; Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment; Hawthorne’s America; Augustine’s Confessions; Ancient Satire; American Political Poetry and Polemic.

American Politics

Explore the meaning and history of American constitutionalism from the Founding through the Civil War, the rise of progressivism, and the growth of the modern administrative state. Analyze the profound and crucial debate over the meaning of liberty and the proper role of American government.

This category requires three courses and offers various one-credit electives:

  • GOV 511: American Founding and Constitution (3 credits): A thorough study of the political thought and practice of the American founding, focusing on the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the purpose and structure of the U.S. Constitution.
    • Key Documents: Declaration of Independence; U.S. Constitution; Federalist Papers 10, 51, etc.; essays, speeches, and letters of leading founders, and other public documents.

  • GOV 512: American Constitutional Development (3 credits): This course examines the disputes in American politics from the era of Whig and Jacksonian politics through the fundamental divisions concerning Union, liberty, equality, and slavery leading to the crisis of Civil War.
    • Key Documents: Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural; selections from Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, Webster-Hayne; proslavery and abolitionist writings; Lincoln-Douglas debates; reconstruction era writings.

  • GOV 513: American Progressivism and Liberalism (3 credits): This course covers the rise of the progressive and liberal political traditions in American politics, criticisms of those traditions, and their influence in the twentieth century. 
    • Selections from: Woodrow Wilson; John Dewey; FDR and the New Deal; LBJ and the Great Society; Herbert Marcuse and the New Left; John Rawls.

Elective Courses

  • GOV 711: Special Topics in American Politics (1 credit):
    Topics: The Federalist Papers; Constitutional Convention; Lincoln-Douglas Debates; Liberalism; American Conservative Thought.


Learn how to apply the principles of free government and advance the cause of constitutionalism and liberty in the context of ever-changing circumstances in American society and around the world.

This category requires students take the one-credit cornerstone course, The Art of Governing, and a total of four other 3-credit Statecraft elective courses, for a required thirteen credits of course work in Statecraft. As in the other categories, the Statecraft category also offers various one-credit electives.

  • GOV 520: The Art of Governing (1 credit): The course will serve to introduce students to the fundamental elements of statesmanship and statecraft and will include both philosophical and practical treatments of the nature of politics and political prudence generally.

Choose three from 3-credit elective courses in Statecraft such as:

  • GOV 521: Constitutional Jurisprudence (3 credits): This course examines the jurisprudence of the significant actors and cases in the development of constitutional law in the United States, taught topically or historically. 

  • GOV 522: Grand Strategy (3 credits): This course examines how regimes act and think in the world in light of their own principles and those of other actors and nation-states in order to develop an understanding of foreign policy and grand strategy.

  • GOV 523: Politicking (3 credits): Considers the role of elections in a constitutional republic, and traces the development of American political parties from the founding period to the present day through major elections and electoral periods. Examines the role played by elections and political parties in shaping our constitutional order, and addresses the manner in which elections and the operation of parties affect the character of American politics.

  • GOV 524: Constitutional Law (3 credits):  prerequisite: GOV 521

  • GOV 525: American Presidency (3 credits):

  • GOV 526: U.S. Congress (3 credits):

Elective one-credit courses:

  • GOV 721: Special Topics in Statesmanship (1 credit):
    Topics: George Washington; James Madison; Frederick Douglass; Abraham Lincoln; Winston Churchill; Thomas More; Ronald Reagan.

  • GOV 722: Special Topics in Statecraft (1 credit):
    Topics: Political Economy; Citizenship and Identity; Social Welfare and the Common Good; Administrative Law; US Civil War.

General Notes on the Degree:

Note on Elective Courses

The above elective courses are a sampling of what is offered in the School of Government MA program. Such courses will become available to students enrolled in the program.

Summer Semester

The School of Government offers a condensed summer semester designed in light of professional work schedules. During most of the month of August, school is not in session.

Special Topics Courses

These courses will be offered during the Fall and Spring semesters, as well as during the summer session, and will meet on two Friday evening-Saturday day sessions with reduced reading and work requirements consistent with a one-credit course.

Comprehensive Exam

Students will be required to pass a comprehensive examination in order to receive the M.A. degree. The comprehensive examination will consist of both a written and oral portion. There will be no option to write a thesis.

Independent Study

Upon request, courses for independent study may be available at the discretion of the Dean.