Faculty Profile

David O'Connell

Assistant Professor of Political Science (2013)

Contact Information


Denny Hall Room 13


O'Connell's research interests include the presidency, religion and politics, and American political development. His research on presidential campaign decision-making has been published in Presidential Studies Quarterly. His first book, God Wills It: Presidents and the Political Use of Religion, is forthcoming in the fall of 2014.


  • B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 2005
  • M.A., Columbia University, 2007
  • M.Phil, 2009
  • Ph.D., 2012

2015-2016 Academic Year

Fall 2015

POSC 247 The American Presidency
An in-depth analysis of the nature and significance of "the Man" and "the Office," including constitutional development, presidential roles and customs, the recruitment process, the executive branch, and the politics of the presidency. Prerequisite: 120, or permission of the instructor.

POSC 290 Religion in American Politics
This class will provide an overview of the role of religion in American politics. The course will have four major units. In the first unit we will study the basics of religion and politics, including the Puritan legacy, the roles and functions of the First Amendment, and the various ways in which religion impacts political behavior. The second part of the course will review the distinctive politics of a series of important religious groups, including the Christian Right, the Christian Left, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. In the third unit, we will explore the intersections between religion and public policy in areas like education and healthcare. Finally, we will conclude by examining the most important recent developments in the relationship between religion and politics, i.e., the growth of politically influential mega-churches.

Spring 2016

POSC 120 American Government
A basic introductory course in American federal government which emphasizes its structure and operation. Special attention is given to the executive, legislative, and judicial processes.

POSC 290 The Politics of Am Pop Culture
This class will explore the important interactions between pop culture and American politics. Over the course of the semester, we will explore topics such as the impact of hip hop music on political behavior, the partisan and informational consequences that come from watching comedy programs like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, government censorship of entertainment products, the politics of sports and fashion, and the impact that pop culture has had on the criminal justice system. This class will also feature a number of in-depth case studies, ranging from the political career of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the use of social media by the Howard Dean presidential campaign.

POSC 390 American Political Development
Since the early 1980s, political science has witnessed an explosion of research on the subject of American political development (APD). APD is more than just political history. APD has common methodologies and a number of central topics, most prominently the state, liberalism, the trajectories of public policy, and analyses of the importance of timing and sequencing. This course will provide students with a critical introduction to the APD body of research. In order to do so the class will be organized around a guiding theme- the influence of ideas and emotions in American political history. The first half of the class will focus on the role of ideas in APD. Units will cover populism, conservatism and religion, among other topics. The second half of the class will concentrate on the role of emotions. Units will be structured around topics like disappointment, racism, fear and political passion. Not appropriate for first-year students.