Pi Sigma Alpha President’s Note – Fall 2014

By: Stephen J. Farnsworth

A political film series, with each film followed by faculty-led student discussions over pizza.
A community forum on immigration policy alternatives.
A statewide undergraduate political science research conference.
A semester-long tutoring program involving honor society members and students from a nearby middle school where many immigrant children are struggling to learn English.
A community program on the politics of water in California.
A political science book club examining Washington, D.C., through a reading and discussion of "This Town."

These are some of the particularly noteworthy programming ideas that emerged from the 2014 Pi Sigma Alpha chapter grants competition. Reviewing these grant applications each fall is one of my favorite tasks at Pi Sigma Alpha. Each year I read of fascinating plans for students and advisors to increase the visibility of their political science departments on campus through ideas like these and many others.

The grants range from a few hundred dollars to a maximum of $2,000 [though very few grants are awarded for the maximum amount], and many chapter advisors have found that the program, paid for by member dues, can be a great boost to our cash-strapped colleges and universities. All told, we funded 113 of 120 submissions, with a total of $88,000 in grants awarded.

Over the past several years, Professor Jim Lengle, Professor Diana Owen, Pi Sigma Alpha Administrator Sean Twombly (and Nancy McManus before Sean) and I have seen repeatedly the innovation found in many of our chapters.

One key thing that I hope we can do more of during my term as president of Pi Sigma Alpha is to have chapters learn from each other -- when we hear about fascinating chapter activities around the country we can try these ideas on our own campuses. We really have to make scarce funding go further than ever before in our programs, and we can all help each other do that by sharing what has worked best for our chapters.

I encourage all chapter advisers and officers, particularly those representing chapters who did not submit a chapter grant request for 2014-2015, to do so next fall. Advisors and officers can look for ideas online among the full list of chapter projects that have been funded in the past. This newsletter often contains reports on some of the "greatest hits" of chapter activities, many of them financed by the chapter activity grants program.

For those thinking about a first-time submission, be advised that the grants committee often looks with particular favor on programs that ask Pi Sigma Alpha to contribute to programs that the department or the university will contribute to as well: matching funds always enhance the appeal of a project.

Projects can be as substantial as some of those cited above, or as modest as paying for a visiting speaker to address an honor society induction dinner or a general campus talk on an issue in the news. After all, we all know that reasonably sized projects are more likely to be completed projects.

Information on how to apply for this program next fall will be found in a future issue of this newsletter and on the Pi Sigma Alpha website. Come next fall, I will be looking for your application and for the next round of great ideas to promote political science!

Thank you once again for all you do for Pi Sigma Alpha, and for your students.