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Faculty Profile

David O'Connell

Associate Professor of Political Science (2013)

Contact Information

Denny Hall Room 13


O'Connell studies American politics, with his primary interests including the presidency and the role of religion in American politics. He is the author of God Wills It: Presidents and the Political Use of Religion, and his research and writing has been published in, or is forthcoming in, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Politics and Religion, Political Science Quarterly, and White House Studies. O’Connell is the 2018 recipient of Dickinson’s Constance & Rose Ganoe Memorial Award for Inspirational Teaching.


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


  • Ganoe Award for Inspirational Teaching, 2017-18

2023-2024 Academic Year

Fall 2023

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 247 The American Presidency
This class will be structured around the problem of presidential power. The first part of the course will introduce a framework for analyzing presidential action. Topics will include the president’s role as a public leader, the president’s place in the legislative process, the president’s military responsibilities, and the president’s position within the executive branch. In the second part of the course, we will work to apply this framework in order to understand presidential greatness, as well as individual presidential successes and failures. The goal of these discussions will be to leverage what we have learned in order to explain why a president achieved their goals- or not. Prerequisite: 120, or permission of the instructor.

POSC 500 Campaign Spending

Spring 2024

POSC 246 The Legislative Process
An analysis of the legislative branch of government, especially Congress. Emphasis is placed upon the legislature as a social system, the decision-making process, the interrelationships with the political parties and interest groups, the executive and the judiciary. Prerequisite: 120, or permission of the instructor.

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 Michael Jordan's lack of political activism.

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.