Woodrow Wilson

Department of Politics

Distinguished Majors Program

The Department of Politics offers a Distinguished Majors Program (DMP) as an advanced program for students who major in Government or Foreign Affairs. The program provides qualified majors with the opportunity to pursue in-depth research on issues related to the major. Students in the DMP take one more upper-level course in the Department than other majors and write a thesis under close faculty supervision during the year in which they are graduating (typically their fourth year). Participants in the program meet regularly throughout that year to discuss progress on their theses.

The standards for admission, program requirements, and the procedure for evaluation are outlined below.

Informational Meeting

Potential applicants are invited but not required to attend an informational meeting about the program at 5 pm on Monday, March 22nd, 2021. The meeting will be held via Zoom. The link is: https://virginia.zoom.us/j/2141730745

Admission to the Program

Unless they intend to graduate early, students apply to the program in the spring of the third year. Students wishing to join the program should first declare a major in the Department, either in Government or Foreign Affairs. Students seeking admission to the DMP should be on track to graduate with Departmental and University grade point averages of 3.4 or above.

Students are encouraged to complete a Politics research methods course, such as PLAD 2222, PLAP 4300 or PLAD 4500 before the start of the DMP year. However, we are aware that space in these courses is often limited. Moreover, not every student’s thesis project is forwarded by these courses, and many students may find equally useful research methods courses in other departments.

DMP application materials should be emailed to John Echeverri-Gent johneg@virginia.edu no later than 5PM on Monday, April 5rd, 2021Application materials should include the following:

  1. An unofficial copy of your most recent transcript.
  2. A statement of up to three-pages (double-spaced) explaining your proposed research topic, as well any relevant abilities that you plan to utilize in conducting that research.  The strongest applications will meet the following criteria:
    1. Does the statement include a clear research question?
    2. Does the statement explain why that research question is of personal and broader scholarly?
    3. Does the statement show preliminary knowledge of relevant literature related to the research question?
    4. Does the statement discuss practicable research methods appropriate for addressing the research question?
  3. A one-page list of works relevant to your proposed research question or topic.
  4. Two confidential letters of recommendation by faculty members submitted directly to the DMP faculty director, John Echeverri-Gent johneg@virginia.edu.  At least one of these letters should be from among Politics faculty.  Try to familiarize your recommenders with your proposed research so that they might comment on its significance and on your competence to undertake it.


Declared Politics majors should submit complete application files to John Echeverri-Gent no later than Monday, April 5rd, 2021. Special arrangements may be made for outstanding transfer students on an ad hoc basis. The admissions committee will begin reviewing files immediately, with the hope of notifying students of decisions by April 12, 2021.

Academic Requirements

GPA Requirements

Students in the DMP must maintain grade point averages of 3.400 or better, both cumulatively and in the department.

Course Requirements

Students in the DMP are required to take 3 credits in the Department as a prerequisite plus 30 credits in the major. These 30 credits must include: (1) At least l5 credits at the 4000 and 5000 levels including six credits of PLAD 4960. (2) Courses to satisfy general departmental distribution rules for Government or Foreign Affairs majors.

The DMP Seminar

In the fall semester, members of the DMP will meet regularly to discuss issues related to conceptualizing, researching, and writing social-science theses. In the spring semester, members of the DMP will present their preliminary hypotheses and findings to the seminar.

The DMP Thesis

Students in the DMP are required to write a thesis of high quality, earning six credits, during the fourth year. The thesis seminar, PLAD 4960/PLAD 4961, is a year-long course, carrying six credit hours, with the option of taking the first three credits credit/no credit. Students are responsible for obtaining a faculty member to serve as their thesis advisor for both semesters of the course.

Limited funding is available to support thesis research. Please see the Funding page for more information about the funds and application process.

Complete first drafts of theses are typically due during the last week of March.  The final deadline for completed theses, reflecting all revisions, is typically in the third week of April, on a date set each year by the director.

Program Evaluations

Students who successfully complete the requirements of the DMP will be evaluated based on the following: (1) quality of the thesis, (2) overall work in major field of study, (3) overall College record.

Faculty thesis readers will forward evaluations to the Department’s DMP faculty director, who will review the evaluations and students’ records, and forward recommendations to the College Committee on Special Programs.

Superior theses will be nominated by faculty advisors for the Emmerich-Wright Prize, which is given annually to the outstanding thesis.

Where can I find the official academic requirements for the University?

The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php.


Please direct questions not answered above to Prof. John Echeverri-Gent at johneg@virginia.edu 

Recent DMP Theses

Emmerich Wright Prize Winners are in bold.

  • Arnold, Vincient – “Land of the Resurgent Sun: Japanese Security Policy in the Post-Cold War Era”
  • Baratta, Patrick – “From Investment to Consumption in Higher Income Economies: Implications for Economies in the Middle-Income Trap”
  • Castroparedes, Max – “A New More Hopeful Future: James A. Baker and American Foreign Policy in Nicaragua”
  • Dai, Arnold – “Healthcare Please: An Examination of the Effectiveness of the US Affordable Care Act’s Managed Competition Principles Post-mandate Repeal with Regards to Socioeconomic and Geographic Inequality”
  • Grotenhuis, Olivia – “The 2008 Beijing Olympics and North Korean Human Rights: Crackdowns on North Korean Refugees in China Between 2002-2008”
  • Libby, Jacob – “An Offer You Must Refuse? Understanding Foreign Exploitation of the US Political Finance System”
  • McLaughlin, Will – “A Long-Term Study of Small-Town and National Newspapers on Coverage of Presidential Scandal”
  • Merrin, Balthazar – “What does a Gift Buy? The Art of Gift Giving by China and the United States in Africa”
  • Petkosek, Logan – “The Latin American Conservative Wave: A Profile of the Southern Cone Voter”
  • Rose, Lettie – “Association Between Features of Emergency Mental Health Evaluations and Subsequent Civil Commitment Outcomes”
  • Williams, Taylor – “A Sealed Fate for Conflict Settlement? The Relationship Between Civil War Grievances and Settlement Type in the Post-Cold War Era”