Program Advisor: Michael Berry
Office: Student Commons, Room 3217
Telephone: 303-315-1749

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 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 the 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 nongovernmental organization sector, civic education/engagement, and human rights. Requirements The graduate certificate requires three program courses and the capstone seminar [12 total credits; all must be graduate-level (5000 or above) courses].

Fieldwork/experiential learning is encouraged and promoted throughout the graduate program, but it is not a certificate requirement. All courses for the certificate must be taken in residency at CU Denver and completed with a grade of B or higher. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for the graduate certificate. All students, whether working toward a degree or as a non-degree student, are eligible for the certificate. Choose one course from each of the subfields below: Courses listed below are examples of courses that can be selected for the certificate, but other graduate-level courses (5000-level or above) in political science may be applied with the consent of the program advisor.

Note: Some courses appear more than once in different subfields; students should choose four different subfield courses, not count one toward two subfields.

International Politics 

  • PSCI 5224 - Dictatorships in 21st Century
  • PSCI 5225 - Democracy and Democratization
  • PSCI 5265 - Social Justice And Globalization
  • PSCI 5808 - Strategies of Peacebuilding

Comparative Politics

  • PSCI 5145 - Indigenous Politics
  • PSCI 5224 - Dictatorships in 21st Century
  • PSCI 5225 - Democracy and Democratization
  • PSCI 5256 - Seminar: National Question and Self-Determination
  • PSCI 5555 - International Women's Resistance
  • PSCI 5808 - Strategies of Peacebuilding

American Politics 

  • PSCI 5094 - Seminar: Urban Politics

Political Theory 

  • PSCI 5265 - Social Justice And Globalization


  • PSCI 5206 - Social Movements, Democracy, and Global Politics

Total: 12 Hours