Toronto Course - North American Politics


Toronto Course - PL SC 299/499 - North American Politics


Applications are now available from Dr. Speel, from the H&SS School Office in Kochel 170, or from the Learning Resource Center on the second floor of Lilley Library for next summer's PL SC 299/499 North American Politics course to take place in downtown Toronto between May 18 - June 14, 2014.

PL SC 299/499

The class is an official Penn State Education Abroad course that can be used to fulfill requirements for the political science major or minor at any PSU campus, the international politics major at University Park (PL SC 499 only), and requirements in some majors for an Education Abroad component, including the international business major at Penn State Behrend. The course may also meet requirements in other majors and minors. The course is open to students at all Penn State campuses. 

The course will be co-taught by Dr. Robert Speel, associate professor of political science at Penn State Behrend, and by Ryerson University Professor Greg Inwood. The class will take place on the Ryerson campus in downtown Toronto and will include students from Penn State and Ryerson in the classroom together. American students from Penn State and Canadian students from Ryerson will participate together in class discussions and on class excursions and will take the same exams. Penn State students will be graded by Dr. Speel. 

The course focuses on the comparative politics of the United States and Canada and on international relations between the two countries. Among the topics to be discussed will be a comparison of the development of separate political cultures in the two countries, comparisons of government institutions, election systems, federalism, and regionalism, and comparisons of each country's policy approaches toward the economy, health care, gun control, same-sex marriage, language, free speech, abortion, and the role of religion in education. Issues important in international relations between the two countries will also be discussed - this includes trade, border security, and control of the Arctic. Class excursions will visit the Ontario Parliament Buildings and Fort York, site of an important battle in the War of 1812. 

The grade for PL SC 299 will be determined by exams and class participation. An additional research paper will be assigned for students who enroll in PL SC 499; the paper will be due at the end of June. 

The class will meet four days a week, three hours a day, Mondays-Thursdays, for fourteen days over four weeks, with a final exam on Friday, June 13. Students will have the option of staying in the Ryerson University residence an additional few days until June 17. Weekends will be free for students to explore Toronto on their own. 

The Ryerson University Residence and Location 

Students will live during the month in the International Living Learning Centre (ILLC) student residence on the Ryerson campus. Students will each have their own motel-style single rooms with television, air conditioning, internet access, and private bathrooms. Each floor of the residence also has a kitchenette, laundry machines, and a television lounge area. The residence is located next door to a 24-hour supermarket and to a 24-hour grocery store. 

The ILLC residence is located just two blocks from Yonge Street, the Eaton Centre, and Dundas Square. Yonge Street contains miles of restaurants and retail shops. The Eaton Centre is a large downtown mall on several floors that contains many stores and a fast food court.  Dundas Square, patterned after New York City's Times Square, offers frequent free live performances by musicians and buskers and is surrounded by restaurants, stores, food courts, a new movie theater, and many large electronic billboards. The ILLC is also a short walk from subway lines and streetcar lines to take you to other parts of Toronto. Toronto contains the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere (the CN Tower), the second largest zoo in North America, a large variety of ethnic neighborhoods, Canada's largest museum of world cultures and natural history (Royal Ontario Museum), several prominent art museums, the hockey hall of fame, and the Harbourfront Centre, which is located on Lake Ontario and contains cultural attractions, shopping, boat cruises, and pedestrian walkways. Penn State students will visit several of these locations as a group while in Toronto outside of class time. 

Over half of all residents of Toronto were born outside of Canada, and over half of the residents of Toronto's largest suburbs were also born outside of Canada. Because immigrants to Toronto have come in large numbers from every part of the globe (East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, Africa), Toronto is considered by many to be the most international city in the world. 

Applications, Costs, and Financial Aid 

To take the course and participate in the Education Abroad program, students will need to fill out some application forms and pay Penn State tuition for 3 credits next summer. The exact amount of tuition depends on your class year, college of enrollment, and major. However, there is widespread financial aid available to assist with the costs of tuition. Behrend and Penn State offer many tuition scholarships and grants for Education Abroad students. Most students have received financial assistance with tuition in past years. Information about the scholarships and grants are included in application packets. You may contact Ruth Pflueger of the Learning Resource Center (located on the second floor of Lilley Library at Penn State Behrend) to obtain more information about financial assistance with tuition. 

The cost of a room at the Ryerson ILLC residence for the month in downtown Toronto will be $1050.  However, due to grants from the Black School of Business (intended for international business majors), the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and a donation from Penn State Behrend political science alumna Barbara Welton, $500 of the cost of the residence will be covered for about the first ten students who turn in their application forms. Those students will pay $550 for one month's residence in downtown Toronto. 

Students will need a minimum 2.5 GPA to be accepted into the course, though exceptions can be made. Contact Dr. Speel for details. The deadline for submission of applications and deposits to register for the course is March 1, 2014, although interested students should sign up as early as possible to guarantee a place in the course and financial assistance.

All adult Americans now need a passport to travel to Canada and return to the USA, so students will need to get one if they don't have one already. And students will be responsible for their own food costs and personal items. Since each floor of the residence has a kitchenette and supermarkets are next door, students will be able to eat inexpensively while in Toronto. Students will also need to find their own form of transportation to get to Toronto, though we can offer suggestions to help with that. Toronto is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from the city of Erie.

Application forms and housing deposits should be turned in to Jackie May in the H&SS School Office, 170 Kochel.

If you have any questions about the course or residence, please contact Dr. Robert Speel at

Photos from Summer 2012

CN Tower

Penn State students relax on the glass floor at the CN Tower 1,100 feet
above ground level.


Dinner at Wayne Gretzky's Restaurant.


Group Photo
Penn State and Ryerson students guard a cannon at Fort York, site of a
War of 1812 battle.


Mackenzie House
Penn State students in front of Mackenzie House, home of the first mayor
of Toronto.


Penn State and Ryerson students at Queen's Park, site of the Ontario


Prime Minister
Penn State students meet Candian Prime Minister Stephen Harper while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Real Sports Bar in downtown Toronto.