Course Overview

This course provides a basic college-level introduction to American government and politics, with particular emphasis on government and politics at the national level, although we will also examine the feature of mixed levels of government, known as a system of federalism.  We will consider the political thinking of the founding era, the changes over time in the relations between the national and state governments, and the relations among the principal institutions of government—executive, legislative, and judicial.  We will also consider the role of political parties, interest groups, lobbying, public engagement and participation, and the media (both corporate and social), as well as the continuing struggle to achieve full political inclusion.  In addition, important background conditions in our current political landscape will be considered, most notably economic inequality, political polarization, and trust in political actors and institutions.  What emerges from this examination is a portrait of a political system that is exceptionally fragmented and complex, and while facing deep current challenges, remains in many respects remarkably resilient.

The course will employ lectures, reading, class discussion, visits from guest speakers who are involved in politics in various capacities, and possibly field visits.

All students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Completion and have the opportunity to request a Syracuse University credit transcript.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the key features and concepts related to American government and politics.
  • Be conversant in the major debates over the proper role and purpose of government.
  • Have a basic understanding of the evolution of American government and its institutions over time.
  • Have better insight and motivation to productively engage and participate in the political process.

Course Information

Course Prefix and Number: PSC 121

Eligibility: Students must be of rising high school junior or senior status – or a 2024 high school graduate. 

Credit: 3 Credits

Grading: A-F


  • Residential: $4,695
  • Commuter: $3,766

Program rates are subject to change and will be approved by the board of trustees. Discounts and scholarships are also available.

Program Information

Summer College – On Campus: Experience what college is really like: take a college-level course, live in a residence hall, have meals with friends in a dining hall, and participate in activities and events on campus.

Course Dates and Details

ProgramCourse DatesSynchronous Class Time (Eastern Time)Credit/NoncreditStatus
Summer College –
On Campus
2-Week Session I:
Monday, July 8 – Friday, July 19, 2024
9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
3 CreditsClosed
Class times subject to change.

Required Materials

Required Supplies

As we prepare for our upcoming class, I strongly encourage you to read American Political History by Donald T. Critchlow. This book will provide valuable insights and foundational knowledge that will greatly enhance our discussions and your understanding of the course material.

Reading this book prior to class will not only help you actively participate in discussions but also enable you to fully grasp the concepts we will explore together.

Students should have some “business casual” clothes for field visits and perhaps some guest speakers.

Typical Day

Tentative Schedule

AM would most likely feature lecture and discussion, with perhaps some shared/paired in class assignments.  PM would be more oriented around guest speakers and field visits but could also include some preparatory or concluding lecture/discussion.

When class is over, and on weekends, students can look forward to various Summer College – On Campus activities to meet and connect with other students! Check out our On Campus Experience page for more information!

Faculty Bios

Grant Reeher

Grant Reeher is Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute and a professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.  His research and teaching interests are primarily in American politics and political theory, with an emphasis on legislative politics, democratic representation, and active citizenship.  Among other books, he is the author of First Person Political:  Legislative Life and the Meaning of Public Service (2006), Narratives of Justice: Legislators’ Beliefs about Distributive Fairness (1996), co-author of Click on Democracy: The Internet’s Power to Change Political Apathy into Civic Action (2002), and co-editor of The Trusted Leader:  Building the Relationships that Make Government Work (2008, 2nd ed. 2012).  His academic journal publications include pieces in Health Affairs; Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law; The Responsive Community; Polity; and PS:  Political Science and Politics.  He has also published many editorial essays on various political topics, including pieces in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Ottawa Citizen, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and pieces that have been distributed through Knight-Ridder.  At various points he has been a regular columnist for The Syracuse Post-Standard.  He has also been quoted in many newspaper and magazine stories, including pieces appearing in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, TIME, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News, Salon, Newsday, Roll Call, and Ouest France.    Recently, he has been a regular expert commentator for The Hill and the Washington Examiner, two prominent inside-the-beltway publications.  Reeher is a 1982 graduate of Dartmouth College, and earned his Ph.D. in 1992 from Yale University. In addition to his work at Syracuse University, Reeher is creator, host, and producer of “The Campbell Conversations” on WRVO Public Media, a weekly regional National Public Radio public affairs show featuring extended in-depth interviews with regional and national writers, politicians, activists, public officials, and business professionals.  He has also arranged and hosted candidate debates on the program.  The program has won awards from the New York State Broadcasters Association, the New York State Associated Press, and the Syracuse Press Club for best special program, best interview, and public service.  WRVO Public Media is the largest NPR affiliate in Central New York, with a listening area that includes 22 counties and southern Ontario.