Pi Sigma Alpha
Pi Sigma Alpha is the national honor society in political science. Its purpose is to encourage, recognize, and reward academic and professional achievement in the study of politics and government. It pursues its objectives through awards, grants, scholarships, subsidies, meetings, and publications.
The honor society operates through a system of local chapters based in political science departments on the campuses of colleges and universities across the United States. Each chapter establishes and administers its own programs and activities to stimulate interest in politics and reward academic excellence. New chapters of the honor society are chartered by the national office. To qualify for a chapter, a political science department must meet a set of strict academic standards established by the rules of the honor society. These standards include official accreditation, autonomy over curriculum and faculty hiring, academic qualifications of faculty, number of majors, and size of the student body.
As a national honor society, Pi Sigma Alpha's primary responsibility is to oversee the annual induction into membership of students who have excelled both in their general academic course work and more specifically in their political science classes. Students are inducted into membership by local chapters based exclusively on academic performance. The national constitution establishes minimum academic standards for admission. These qualifications include a minimum grade point average, minimum number of semester hours completed in political science, and minimum class rank. Individual chapters may raise the eligibility standards, but they may not lower them. The honor society inducts approximately 6,000 new undergraduate and graduate student members each year. Since 1920 the society has inducted more than 160,000 members, and includes among its membership some of the nation's most distinguished and prominent politicians, civil servants, political consultants, journalists, and political scientists.
Pi Sigma Alpha promotes its objectives through a variety of programs. Some programs are directed toward student members and local chapters directly; others are directed more generally toward the broader community of political science scholars. Programs targeted directly at chapters and members include grants to local chapters to support noteworthy and worthwhile campus activities and programs, awards for best undergraduate student papers and theses and best graduate student papers, scholarships for first-and second-year graduate study in political science, awards for best chapters and chapter advisers, a biannual newsletter, and subsidies for student memberships in professional political science associations.
For the political science profession, the national society awards prizes for the best papers written and submitted by political scientists at national and regional political science association conventions; hosts lectures by prominent national politicians, policymakers, and journalists at national, regional, and state political science association conventions; and supports teaching awards for political scientists who distinguish themselves in the classroom.
Pi Sigma Alpha is governed by its biennial national convention. Each chapter may send one faculty delegate and one student to the convention. Representatives at the convention elect the officers and discuss and determine the policies of the society. Each chapter is entitled to one vote at the convention. Between conventions, the affairs of the society are directed by an executive council consisting of the president, president-elect, executive director, newsletter editor, the three most recent past presidents, and twelve council members elected by the membership. Council members serve four-year terms, with half of the council elected every two years.
The national office and the society's programs are funded by a national initiation fee paid by each new member inducted into the society. Individual chapters and their programs are supported by such additional local fees or dues as each chapter may determine.
Pi Sigma Alpha was founded in 1920 at the University of Texas. In 2001 there were more than 560 chapters of Pi Sigma Alpha throughout the United States. Pi Sigma Alpha has been a member of the Association of College Honor Societies since 1949.
THE NATIONAL POLITICAL SCIENCE HONOR SOCIETY. 2002. <www.pisigmaalpha.org>.
JAMES I. LENGLE
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