Farida Jalalzai hasn’t officially been the head of Oklahoma State University’s political science department for a full year, but she is already making big changes.
Jalalzai became the interim head of the Department of Political Science in July 2017 after the previous department head, Jeanette Mendez, accepted the position of interim dean for the College of Arts and Sciences. Last spring, she began the process of creating a five-year strategic plan, which she has continued since officially becoming the department head in July.
“At this time last year... I think it was just clear that we were at a turning point, a crossroads,” Jalalzai said. “As the incoming head at that time, I thought it was a really good time to really think about the direction of the department and the identity of the department.”
Jalalzai said the department plans to create options for the master’s and undergraduate programs.
Faculty submitted proposals for programs, and Jalalzai has worked with the rest of department to determine which ones the department would have the most success implementing in the coming years.
Members of the political science department met on March 11 to decide which programs they would like to adopt. Jalalzai said they decided to work on creating a master’s degree in peace, conflict, and security studies and undergraduate options in global politics and capitol affairs, campaigns and public policy.
The process to get where they are has been difficult, and it has required a lot of communication between faculty members, Jalalzai said.
“We had different faculty just visit each other’s offices and talk about different things, like our strengths, what they thought our strengths were when it came to things like research and teaching and how that could maybe lead to program development,” Jalalzai said. “Then we brought in external reviewers.”
In September, Jalalzai brought in faculty members from the political science departments at the University of North Texas, the University of Nebraska and Kansas State University as external reviewers. These reviewers gave OSU’s political science department advice in regards to the economic and student demand for the programs the department is looking to create as well as advice in regards to what the competition from other schools will be.
The department considered student feedback as well.
Lexi Compean, a political science pre-law junior, said she hopes to get into politics one day and would take more classes for campaigning and lobbying if she could.
“We have some classes, like public policy, that would help you if you wanted to do campaigning or writing legislation in the future,” Compean said. “I think it’s good and I like that there’ll be new classes because sometimes it can be hard to make your schedule with the classes that are available right now... I think it’ll definitely open up a lot of opportunities for a lot of people.”
Now that the department has decided which programs it would like to start developing, the next step is to find the best way to gradually start implementing them.
The department won’t be able to implement them all at the same time, and some programs will take longer to develop than others. Jalalzai said she hopes to be able to start offering some of the new programs in either Fall 2020 or Fall 2021.
“It depends on how little the program is going to require in terms of resources,” Jalalzai said. “It takes a long time, that whole curriculum process... but I think one of the things that the faculty were mindful of was how we want to use what we already have to pull together these ideas.”
In addition to creating programs within the department, Jalalzai said another goal of the five-year plan is to strengthen the department’s current programs by finding ways to link political theory to the real world.
“One of our strengths is we have a lot of faculty who are interested in the hands-on applications of things and ... want to communicate to students how they can impact the real world,” Jalalzai said. “I think we all were in agreement that we want to make those connections between the theoretical and the practical more apparent.”
Jalalzai said the plan is to encourage professors to vary the type of assignments they give and to emphasize the importance of internships.
The Department of Political Science set a lot of goals for itself with its five-year plan, and Jalalzai said she is aware they might not meet all of those goals within the next five years, especially when it come to the creation of the programs. She said the important thing is to set it up so that those goals can be met in a timely manner.
“It was larger than programs and more about what we view as our identity, what we view as our mission, what we view as our value set, what we view as our vision for the next several years,” Jalalzai said. “Strategic planning is more of this deliberate attempt to put us on this clear path... [to] what we really want to accomplish in the next several years.”