Carnegie Mellon University

CMIST Unveils New Minor in American Politics and Law

February 01, 2024

Demystifying Democracy: CMIST Unveils a New Minor in American Politics and Law

By Lindsay Marcellus

Do you want to learn more about what’s happening in the US Supreme Court, Congress, the Presidency or in the upcoming American elections? Do you understand the nuances of how US  institutions operate–or are meant to operate? Do you fully understand the US Constitution–both what it says and how it is interpreted?

Or perhaps you are considering going to law school or just want to understand this time of dramatic change in law.  Do you know how technology is reshaping the legal landscape, in areas like speech, privacy, copyright, or patent law? Are you building or using new technologies, wondering how evolving laws could affect them? If you are indeed thinking of becoming a lawyer, do you feel ready to tackle the first year of law school?

The new Minor in American Politics and Law, open to undergraduates across Carnegie Mellon University, blends theoretical knowledge with practical skills in American government, policy development, and legal principles. 

Drawing on her twenty-four years of advising experience, CMIST Deputy Director for Academic Affairs Emily Half notes a growing interest in law careers among CMU students from diverse majors. The new minor stands out, as it seamlessly integrates topics from across university disciplines, creating a synthesized approach to understanding law and how the U.S. government functions.

Also, according to a 2023 surveyone in three American adults cannot name all three branches of government, and most adults (66%) could not name more than two of the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. "This new minor is our contribution to that civic education that is so needed in this country today,” said Half. 

Featuring new courses in constitutional law, contemporary U.S. political polarization, data analytics in U.S. elections, and American foreign policy through film, among others, the American politics and law minor offers students the chance to explore and debate perspectives beyond their own. The curriculum challenges them to analyze major policy issues facing the nation, from free choice/abortion rights, to immigration, election law and redistricting, social media privacy, and beyond, fostering their ability to develop, draft, and articulate informed positions and recommendations on complex matters.

While this program is particularly useful for students considering a legal career, it is also tailored to those whose primary interest is in science or engineering topics but want to anticipate how changes in the law could affect them. “Moving past the simple idea that law teaches people ‘how to argue,’ this minor will also build key critical thinking, logical reasoning, and analytical skills that are important to our students who are ambitious, aim to distinguish themselves from competitors, and pursue positions of leadership,” said Lee Wang, who serves as the President of the Pre-Law Society at CMU.

The program brings the number of minors offered by CMIST up to six, joining programs in public policy, international relations, cybersecurity, military strategy, and the newly-launched Minor in Political Science, Security, and Technology

Students interested in discussing or declaring this new minor should contact Emily Half, CMIST Deputy Director for Academic Affairs. 

More information about the two new minors, and the new Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Security, and Technology, is available on CMIST’s academic programs webpage.