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Democracy and Social Movements Certificate Program

Democracy and Social Movements Certificate Program

​The “Democracy and Social Movements” (DSM) certificate program in Political Science introduces students to current research and practice concerning the complex interplay between social movements and the processes for initiating and consolidating democracies.  While contentious political activities have historically contributed to democratization, they have also led to repression, ethnic conflict, and substantive human rights violations.  Among the several DSM issues requiring scholarly investigation are:

  • Viable ways to contest authoritarian regimes;
  • The means for constituting a cohesive civil society after a civil war or revolution;
  • The relationships between social equality, distributive justice, and democracy;
  • The relative efficacy of violence and of nonviolent strategies to institute and sustain regime change;
  • The challenges of peacebuilding, transitional justice, and democratization in societies torn by internal conflict;
  • The growth of transnational social movements in response to globalization
  • The contextual factors determining the specific character of any social movement and of democratic regimes
  • The means by which democratic regimes are consolidated and deepened;
  • The ways in which democratization processes and social movements influence law and public policy, public discourse and culture, the use and design of public/private spaces, and the socio-economic outcomes. 

Students in the DSM program examine relevant theoretical and methodological literature in these aforementioned areas and apply it to current circumstances by taking specified courses in each of the four major subfields of political science: American, comparative, international politics, and political theory. 


The DSM certificate program is designed to appeal to persons who want to focus their studies on the recent state of democratization processes around world, including explorations of the ways in which social movements can catalyze or even threaten those democratization processes.  Students in the program will explore how globalization is simultaneously fragmenting and uniting the globe, enhancing wealth and impoverishing people, consolidating human rights regimes and transgressing them, and provoking questions about the boundaries of our ethical commitments and the means whereby communities strive for democracy and justice.


By permitting students to devise a curriculum that integrates academic and experiential, the DSM program should enhance students’ scholarship, civil engagement, and prospects for further study and employment in rapidly growing fields like international/community development, the non-governmental organization sector, civic education/engagement and human rights. 


Upon completion of the program, graduate and undergraduate participants will receive a certificate confirming their successful completion of the program, and a notation upon their formal transcript. 

Undergraduate: the undergraduate certificate requires five program courses (15 credits; at least 6 credits must be upper division), one in each of the four Political Science subfields and the capstone seminar, as well as completion of an appropriate experiential learning requirement.  Like the existing Departmental experiential learning requirement for majors, this requirement can be fulfilled without taking course credits, for example, by documenting the inclusion of significant experiential learning/field work in regular course work, or by documenting significant relevant field work in one’s professional life.

Graduate: the graduate certificate requires three program courses and the capstone seminar (12 total credits; all must be graduate-level courses).  Field Work/Experiential Learning is encouraged and promoted throughout the graduate program, but it is not a certificate requirement.

  • Minimum hours in residency: all DSM courses must be taken in residency at UC Denver.
  • Minimum GPA and Allowable grades:
    -- 2.0 minimum GPA with no DSM course below a C for an undergrad certificate
    -- 3.0 minimum GPA with no DSM course below a B for a graduate certificate
  • Admissions requirements: None. All students are eligible for the DSM certificate program.

International Politics:

PSCI 4225/5225 Democracy and Democratization

PSCI 4216 International Politics: Human Rights      

PSCI 4265/5265 Social Justice and Globalization

Transnational Social Movements  (new course proposal being prepared)     

Comparative Politics:

PSCI 4225/5225 Democracy and Democratization

PSCI 4217/5217  Human Rights In Theory and Practice

PSCI 5256 The National Question and the Right to Self-Determination

PSCI 4555/5555International Women’s Resistance

PSCI 4807/5807 Revolution and Political Violence

PSCI 5145 Indigenous Politics

Democratization and Authoritarian Regimes (course to be created):

Urban Social Movements (course to be created):

American Politics:

PSCI 3035 Political Movements: Race and Gender

PSCI 4074/5094  Urban Politics

PSCI 3914 Urban Citizen

Political Theory:

PSCI 4207  Theories of Social and Political Change


PSCI 4206/5206 Social Movements, Democracy, and Global Politics