By Norman Nelson
The BYU chapter of the political science national honor society Pi Sigma Alpha was recently recognized as Best Chapter for the 2002-2003 school year.
The award is given to four schools in each category every year. BYU”s chapter, Beta Mu, competes in the above 15,000 student enrollment category. The award is based on student activity within the university, creativity and contribution to the university community.
BYU was not only recognized as Best Chapter, but received higher honors for being one of the only schools to receive this award twice in less than five years. BYU last won the Best Chapter award in 1999.
“We were pretty excited,” said faculty adviser Darren Hawkins. “We”ve got the last one framed, and we”re going to frame this one and hang it from the rafters like a championship banner. That”s probably about how we feel, like a sports team that just took nationals. Except they get cool banners, and we just get this certificate.”
The student-run political science organization worked all year to increase political discussion among students and faculty, said Jenny Champoux, president of Beta Mu.
“PSA seeks to promote scholarship among undergraduate students in political science,” she said. “Our goal this year was to have lots of guest speakers to talk to the students and faculty and also to set up discussion panels with faculty to discuss current events and student research.”
BYU political science students ended up having discussions with a group of experts respected in their fields. Guest speakers this year included Judge Abner Mikva, former congressman, appellate judge and counsel to the President of the United States; Dr. Robert King, Minority Staff Director of the House International Relations Committee and Chief of Staff to Congressman Tom Lantos; Dr. Ralph Grunke, a German election expert; Dr. Jutta Joachim, a women”s rights experts, and also a panel of Israeli students.
Two other major contributing factors in BYU receiving the awards were the level of faculty involvement and the publication of Sigma magazine, a student magazine published by the political science and international studies national honor societies that highlights original student research and articles.
“One of the main things that earned the award was the faculty involvement,” Hawkins said. “The faculty really cares about the students. We have an amazing number of faculty get-togethers. Once a month, we”ll meet at faculty member”s home, and the faculty members will interact with the students in a small-group setting and talk about their research. I think that when a national office looks at that and sees a lot of faculty involvement, that really jumps out at them.”
The Sigma magazine was also a major contributing factor to winning the award because of the quality of the magazine, especially considering that it is published by student organizations, Hawkins said.
“It”s not so common for a university to have a magazine for undergraduates,” Hawkins said. “But this is a high-quality publication with good articles. Last year a student article that was published in Sigma won runner-up for Best Paper in the national honor society.”
“We”re especially proud of promoting political discussion among students,” Champoux said. “We want to get on-campus talking about what”s happening in the world.”
Champoux said that Beta Mu has 110 members, and the club sponsors activities throughout the year that bring together people interested in politics. Anyone is welcome to the activities.
“This is a club for anybody interested in politics,” Hawkins said. “You don”t have to be a political science major to come. You just have to be interested in politics and have taken a political science class if you want to be a member.”