Students outside the Knudson School of Law building.

Legal Studies

Explore the history and impact of the law and the forces that affect its development as you prepare for your career or law school.

Why Study Legal Studies?

As a legal studies major at USD, you will gain analytical, legal writing, research, advocacy and communication skills as you explore the relationship between law, society and individuals. Our program is interdisciplinary, meaning you will graduate with a well-rounded understanding of the law through lenses such as history, business, communications and social justice. If you are specifically interested in pursuing a law degree, you'll find numerous opportunities to engage in pre-law activities and law school preparation. If you are interested in another path, your education will set you up for success in a wide range of graduate programs and careers.

Gain valuable experiences, expand your skills and prepare for your future in the legal field as a legal studies major.

Degrees & Offerings

Legal Studies (B.A., B.S.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

Explore the history and impact of the law while expanding your analytical, writing, advocacy and communication skills. A degree in legal studies will prepare you to enter law school or pursue a variety of careers, including those in the legal field.

Legal Studies

  Vermillion Main Campus

A minor in legal studies will prepare you to enter law school or pursue a variety of careers, including those in the legal field.

Program Details






Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.

Student Opportunities

As a student at USD, the opportunities available to you extend beyond the classroom. Explore your interests, find your community and experience your education to the fullest extent through the following opportunities.

The real-world experiences you gain through an internship will equip you with valuable skills that will set you apart after graduation. 

In the USD Department of Political Science, you will benefit from a robust internship program that has placed students with the state and federal courts, law firms, U.S. Congress, state legislatures and the governor's office. Our Farber Fund can help you with the expenses of these opportunities; each year, we provide eligible students up to $6,000 each to support their professional and personal development outside the classroom. Plus, with our network of alumni around the world, you can access invaluable advice on how to achieve the career of your dreams.

Do you have your sights set on Washington, D.C.? Italy? Turkey? New Zealand? Russia? The USD Department of Political Science can help you get there. Our students have participated in conferences and faculty-led courses around the world, and our Farber Fund helps make those experiences affordable.

Learn More

USD is home to more than 170 student organizations, including several that are housed in the Department of Political Science. You may be interested in joining College Democrats, College Republicans, the Political Science League or the political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha to make friends, develop new skills and explore your interests.

Explore Student Organizations

As a political science student at USD, you can pursue unique research and creative scholarship opportunities that will enrich your college experience.

Undergraduate students who are interested in public service careers should consider working with the Government Research Bureau (GRB). The GRB is an academic research organization that combines intellectual risk-taking with current research methods to analyze issues affecting the the people, communities and government of South Dakota.

Additional opportunities are available through the Chiesman Center for Democracy, which supports research and civic education activities addressing the on-going challenges to American democracy.

Female Student Participating in Mock Trial
Mock Trial is a great way to get real a courtroom experience.

Through Mock Trial at USD, you will learn to play the roles of attorneys, witnesses, police officers, forensic investigators, probation officers and all other criminal justice officials who testify in our courts. You will learn by doing – one of the best ways to learn. Our mock trial teams compete in invitational regional and national tournaments.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in political science.
Tom Brokaw Robert Legvold Aalfs Auditorium speaking event

Political Science

Whether you are interested in a career in government and politics, law, the criminal justice system, international relations or a related field, the real-world experiences and connections you find in the Department of Political Science will help you get there.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know faculty and staff in the Department of Political Science. Our faculty are experts in their fields, contributing research and scholarship in American government, criminology, victimology, international human rights, gender politics, race/ethnicity in politics, comparative political economy, international law and more. They bring practical experience in government, law and the private sector to the classroom.
Bio Image for Faculty Member David Earnest

David Earnest

Chair, Political Science/Director of the Farber Center/Professor


International Political Economy
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jenna Borseth

Jenna Borseth

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Michael Card

Michael Card

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member April Carrillo

April Carrillo

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Ilmira Dulyanova

Ilmira Dulyanova

Director of Online Graduate Programs & Coordination
Bio Image for Faculty Member Matthew Fairholm

Matthew Fairholm

Coordinator-Graduate Programs, Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Edwin Gerrish

Edwin Gerrish

Coordinator-MPA, Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Julia Hellwege

Julia Hellwege

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Joshua Houy

Joshua Houy

Senior Lecturer
Bio Image for Faculty Member Eric Jepsen

Eric Jepsen

Coordinator-Undergraduate Studies, Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Sandy Mckeown

Sandy Mckeown

Coordinator-Criminal Justice
Bio Image for Faculty Member Thomas Mrozla

Thomas Mrozla

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Shane Nordyke

Shane Nordyke

Coordinator, Chieseman Center/Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Timothy Schorn

Timothy Schorn

Coordinator-International Studies, Associate Professor
Student standing at podium.

Gain Real-World Experience

Our graduates seek public service careers in fields such as law enforcement and court administration, as well as positions as legal assistants, legislative liaisons, probation or parole officers and more. We help them toward these careers through a robust internship program that has placed students with the state and federal courts, law firms, U.S. Congress, state legislatures and the governor’s office. Furthermore, our network of alumni around the world provide you with invaluable advice on how to achieve the career of your dreams. 
Students smiling while sitting.

The Place to Study Law

USD is home to South Dakota's only law school and the only undergraduate legal studies major and minor in the state. As the region's leader in legal education and a liberal arts institution, USD is uniquely positioned with the resources and opportunities that will launch your career in the legal field or your path to a professional or graduate degree program. 

Surprisingly Affordable

USD offers low tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, as well as scholarships, financial aid and employment opportunities to help make your education even more affordable.
SD Residents, SD Advantage* & Child of Alumni
Tuition (30 cr.)
Fees (30 cr.)
Books (estimate)
Food Service

Undergraduate Cost of Attendance

Learn more about tuition and fees for undergraduate students and see how your out-of-pocket costs at USD compare to those at other colleges and universities. Visit the Undergraduate Tuition & Costs Detailed page for program specific costs and fees. 

Financial Aid

Navigating options for how to pay for college can be challenging, but you are not alone. The Office of Financial Aid will work with you and your family to explore how you can make your college education even more affordable.


USD awards nearly $9.5 million in scholarships each year. View our scholarships to see which ones you may qualify for and how you can apply.


Student Success Story

Success story Ryleigh Christopherson smiling.
Legal Studies is a fairly new major, but it is exactly what I was looking for going into college. The Legal Studies and Criminal Justice programs provides so many opportunities to their students and I feel fully supported by the faculty in everything I do. Through USD Mock Trial and the Farber Fund, I have been able to travel to cities all around the Midwest to learn skills that I never could in the classroom.

RyLeigh Christopherson

B.A. Legal Studies, Criminal Justice  '24

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