Salil D. Benegal‎ > ‎


I have taught at DePauw University since Fall 2016 as an Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in the Department of Political Science. I previously taught at the University of Connecticut as a graduate assistant. Below is a short description of courses that I teach. Please contact me for full syllabi.

POLS 150: Introduction to Comparative Government
How do we compare apples and oranges? There are countless ways in which countries differ: electoral systems, political parties, economic institutions, and commitments to democracy are just a few of the factors that vary from one country to another. 

Scholars of comparative politics use a variety of methods to compare such political phenomena across different countries, regions, and time periods to better understand their causes and effects. For instance, to understand the result of an election in the UK, it is valuable to study other elections in similar contexts around Western Europe to better identify the different factors that led to that particular outcome. Comparative politics is an immensely broad and diffuse field that encompasses (but is not limited to) topics of democratic accountability, electoral systems, political economy, and (under)development in different contexts. Over this course, we will explore many of these issues, for example exploring why the US only has two major political parties whereas many Western European democracies have several, or why revolutions in different countries have either succeeded or failed.

POLS 265: Introduction to Environmental Policy
This course is an introduction to the actors, institutions, and policies that aim to protect or regulate the environment. Over the semester, we will examine how environmental policy has evolved over time to deal with changing environmental threats or needs, ranging from domestic pollution issues to the longer-term threat of climate change. We will cover different institutions and regulatory frameworks that govern the environment, the behavior of different actors and interest groups in the policy process, and several recent cases of domestic and global environmental policymaking. 

The course will largely focus on environmental policymaking within the US to develop an understanding of key actors, laws, or policy outcomes that have affected environmental outcomes such as climate change, air pollution, and access to clean water. Throughout the class, we will also examine the societal implications of environmental threats and policymaking in order to better understand how environmental outcomes and policies affect issues such as inequality, health, and global conflict. 

POLS 290: Special Topics: Introduction to Human Rights
This course introduces students to the major theoretical concepts of human rights, how they are secured and enforced in international law, and some of the emerging contemporary debates in human rights such as the role of economic and social human rights in development, and rights-based approaches to the environment.

POLS 365: Political Psychology
This course examines the psychology behind political attitudes, preferences, and outcomes. Concepts in psychology such as personality, group identity theory, or other cognitive heuristics can offer new ways to think about contemporary issues in political science. After all, many important political decisions such as vote choice or policy preferences are guided by social preferences or biases, rather than more objective or “rational” approaches to make choices.

Throughout this course, we will understand how such internal preferences or biases guide and influence political outcomes. For example, how do our partisan, ideological, or ethnic group identities affect the political information we select, or the policies we support? How might appeals to fear, resentment, or prejudices impact electoral outcomes? Or why do misinformation, and conspiracy theories linger in the public’s mind for so long?

The goals of this course are threefold. First, I expect that by the end of the semester, you will be able to understand and articulate several important concepts from psychology, and be aware of the different ways in which our biases, emotions, or other heuristics affect decision making on many issues (not just the political). Second, you should be able to apply these tools to political issues such as partisan polarization, race relations, and electoral campaigns. Third, you should be able to think critically and appreciatively about different approaches to study behavior in the social sciences. 

POLS 390: Special Topics: Politics of Climate Change
Climate change has become a highly politicized issue over the past two decades. Some of the greatest challenges facing environmental policy today emerge from extreme polarization among partisans, and challenges of global governance and policy enforcement. This course will look at the challenges posed by climate change and society’s abilities to respond to it through various political lenses. Over the course, we will examine climate change as a political issue in terms of posing public health and security risks, explore how different countries have tried to respond to climate change with domestic policy, and understand the challenges in addressing climate change through global governance and international regulatory frameworks.