Schar Learning Communities FAQs

Who can join a learning community?

  • The Schar School First-Year Learning Community “The Democracy Lab” is open to all first-year students living on campus, but preference will be given to Schar School students. Participating students must enroll in two sections of GOVT 319, one in the fall and one in the spring, reserved for FY Democracy Lab students only.  

  • The Schar School Pillars of Research Learning Community is open to all students—from Freshmans to Seniors-- enrolled at George Mason University. Participating students must enroll in one section of GOVT 399 (1-credit) in the fall (note that this experience will not be offered in the spring). 

  • The Schar School Upper-Level Learning Community “The Democracy Lab” is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Mason, but preference will be given to Schar School students. Participating students must enroll in one section of GOVT 319 in the fall and one section of GOVT 399 in the spring, reserved for UL Democracy Lab students only. 

  • Jurisprudence Learning Community – open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors with an interest in law

  • International Relations Policy Task Force – open to sophomores, juniors and seniors with an interest in addressing global challenges through policy

Can I earn credit for being a part of a learning community?

Yes, each of the learning communities provides opportunities to earn course credit. The amount of credits earned varies according to the learning community. 

  • The Schar School First-Year Learning Community “The Democracy Lab” - all FY Democracy Lab members will register in two sections of GOVT 319 (1-credit), one in the fall and one in the spring.

  • The Schar School Upper-Level Learning Community “The Democracy Lab” - all UL Democracy Lab members will register for a section of GOVT 319 (1-credit) in the fall and students have the option of up to 3 credits of GOVT 399 (1-3 credits) in the spring.

  • Pillars of Research – The PRLC is a semester-long course. Participating students will earn 1 credit of Govt 399

    • PRLC students who choose to complete an Undergraduate Research Assistant Program (URAP) project will also earn an additional 1-3 credits for their URAP project. 

  • Jurisprudence – The JPLC is a year-long course. Participating students will earn 3 credits of Govt 301 in the fall, and 1 credit of Govt 399 in the spring. 

  • IR Task Force – The IR Task Force is a year-long course. Participating students will earn 3 credits of 399 in the fall, and 3 credits of 444 in the spring. Those who participate in the optional spring break trip will earn 1 credit of Govt 398

How do GOVT 399 credits count?

  • GOVT 319 and 399 counts as an upper division credit.  

  • You can take up to 9 credits of GOVT 399 and 319.

  • GOVT 399 and 319 can be used for your Major Field Courses Requirement.

Are there prerequisites?

There are no class prerequisites to join any of the communities.

Does it cost extra to participate in a learning community?

Learning Community courses are no different in terms of tuition than other classes. There is no additional cost to participate, except for the optional spring break trip associated with the IR Task Force LC.

Is Pillars of Research connected to URAP?

Not directly. You do not need to be in URAP to participate in Pillars of Research, and you do not need to be in Pillars of Research to participate in URAP. For Pillars of Research students who do want to participate in URAP, this learning community will serve as a ‘support group’ for you as you complete your research project. 

For those interested in also participating in URAP, it is now available for both Fall and Spring semesters

Can I select my own topic for the second component of the International Relations Policy Task Force?

Students organize themselves around particular broad topics and have the flexibility to focus on a specific interest within those broad topic areas. Visit the IR Task Force website for more information about this year’s themes for the course.

How do I sign up?

Can I be in more than one learning community at a time?

Yes. Make sure to talk to your advisor about how the LCs can fit into your schedule.

Do I have to be a Schar School student to participate?

Our learning communities are open to students outside of the Schar School.

Can I join a Learning Community if I'm in the Honors College?

Students may be a member of the Honors College and participate in Democracy Lab. Students who participate in both may discover occasional scheduling conflicts which should be addressed by students initiating conversations with the Dem Lab Director, Schar Academic Advisor, and Honors College Advisor.

How do I sign up?

The Schar School Upper-Level Learning Community “The Democracy Lab” - Students interested in joining the UL Democracy Lab sign up through their housing application with Mason’s Office of Housing and Residence Life

What if I have other questions?

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