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Keith Smith

Associate Professor of Political Science


Phone: 209.946.7712


WPC 120


PhD, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 2005

MA, University of California, Berkeley, 2000

MPM, University of Maryland, 1999

BA, Pepperdine University, 1997

Curriculum Vitae 

Teaching Philosophy

My approach to teaching has three major components:
First, I use empirical evidence from current political science research to help students examine the conventional wisdom and their own assumptions about government and politics. I take the "science" part of political science seriously. My students and I are part of a collective enterprise to understand the world of politics. In order to contribute to that effort, it is necessary to focus our effort on those claims and relationships that can be empirically proven.
Second, I rely on active-teaching techniques. I firmly believe that we learn more by doing and teaching others than by hearing. I structure my upper-division courses as seminars, and make students partly responsible for teaching the material. Even in my larger introductory courses I try not to lecture, and when I do I rarely use slides and make frequent use of formative assessment opportunities.
Third, I believe that frequent, if not continuous, change is good for my courses. Almost no two of my syllabi for a course are the same.
Each time I offer a course it evolves as I look for ways to make it better for the students in light of current knowledge, what I learn about pedagogy, and to respond to what we learn from our assessment of the objectives in the department's capstone course. 
What I hope students learn from my courses is how to apply the concepts and theories that we discuss in class to what they see happening in the political world around them. I am more interested in students learning how to use the ideas than I am in students learning important names and dates. Change in the political world takes time and is hard fought. Having a solid foundation makes it easier.

Scholarly Interest

I have spent my career studying the intersection of public policy, political institutions, and public administration. My dissertation, which was nominated for the APSA Leonard D. White Award for best dissertation in public administration, and early work examined how the U.S. Congress seeks to monitor and influence the behavior of federal administrative agencies. More recently, I have worked on questions of elections administration, studying the impact of different electoral reforms at the state and local level. I am currently working on a book assessing the impact of the top-two system of elections used by California and Washington.


POLS 041 U.S. Government & Politics
POLS 106 California Politics
POLS 112 Congress & the Presidency
POLS 116 Campaigns & Elections
POLS 128 Introduction to Public Administration
POLS 133 Political Science Research
POLS 189 Political Science Capstone
PACS 1 What Is a Good Society?
PACS 2 Public Problems, Public Policies
PACS 2 Picking the President
PACS 2 Making Elections Better
PACS 3 What Is an Ethical Life?
PUB 231 Public Policy Statistics (beginning Fall 2016)
PUB 232 Public Policy Research Tools (beginning Fall 2017)