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Inductees of the Pi Sigma Alpha hold their certificates during the induction at the Belmont Country Club on April 26, 2018. (Ramuel Reyes/The Collegian)

Political science gets their honors society back

After overcoming inactivity and previous budget cuts, the political science honor society, Pi Sigma Alpha, is now back at Fresno State.

Assistant professor of political science Dr. Ali Masood serves as the adviser of Fresno State’s Alpha Delta Beta chapter.

“[The honor society is] to recognize some of the better students or more high-achieving students that have taken upper-level political science courses,” he said.

Masood said the rocky history of the group and its recent reintroduction of the Alpha Delta Beta chapter to campus came as a result of financial strain.

“[Fresno State] had Pi Sigma Alpha about 15 years ago, but even then it was not very active,” Masood said.

Due to furloughs and budget cuts, faculty members had to do what was “practical” and give up some extracurricular and honor societies, Masood said.

“They didn’t want to furlough time and take time away from teaching, so [Pi Sigma Alpha] was one of the casualties,” he said.

But with student interest and new plans of implementation, Pi Sigma Alpha is back to recruit and induct new students.

Masood said that undergraduate students of all majors as well as graduate students are able to join the honor society as long as they satisfy the requirements decided among political science faculty – maintaining a 3.2 GPA and the completion of four political science courses, one of which must be an upper-division course.

“As we go into the full academic year, as our numbers grow, we’ll toughen up that criteria, but I really would like the members to have a say in whether they want to be more inclusive or exclusive,” Masood said.

The society currently has 13 members who were inducted last Thursday at a ceremony held at the Belmont Country Club in Sanger, where they received a Pi Sigma Alpha pin, medallion and an induction certificate from the national office.

The ceremony included remarks by Dr. Michelle DenBeste, dean of the College of Social Science; Dr. Melanie Ram, chair of the political science department; and Dr. Kenneth Hansen, political science professor.

The event also included a keynote address by Dr. Thomas Holyoke, chair of the Fresno State Academic Senate.

Pi Sigma Alpha president Travis Childress said that the faculty and staff of the political science department have been supportive in welcoming the society back to campus.

“As far as starting it up, talking to nationals, [the national office] responded within the same day,” Childress said. “Honestly, we haven’t really run into any snags.”

Childress said each chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha usually tries to find a particular focus of activity, be it philanthropy, alumni connections or as a social club.

“We’re just trying to figure out how best Fresno State is going to fit into the national group with what we want to focus on,” Childress said.

Masood said that the members are interested in being a group that socializes and practices professionalism.

“Because it’s made up primarily of political science students, [Pi Sigma Alpha members] have this sense of more civic engagement,” Masood said.

He said he envisions the society will take on a service project each year, such as volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, working at a community center or holding a voter registration drive.

Members will also help with functions of the college, such as working booths or helping with recruitment.

“They’re receiving a benefit in terms of support for the department, so they pay back by helping out at departmental events,” Masood said.

For society member and secretary Marvin Mendoza, a big goal is making sure the society isn’t deactivated again.

“I think our overall goal as founders is to make sure it stays for many years to come,” Mendoza said.

Vice President David Paredes said that despite getting started late in the semester, he is looking forward to new members joining Pi Sigma Alpha in the fall.

“I’m sure we’ll be coordinating with some of the alumni [and] future alumni to help us make this chapter even greater,” Paredes said.

Masood noted an extensive alumni network as one of the benefits of the society as well as professional experiences that can be added to students’ CVs (curriculum vitae). A CV is similar to a resume, but with more in-depth information of a person’s work experience for an employment opportunity.

Members will have the opportunity to attend the Pi Sigma Alpha annual research conference and present their projects or papers.

“It’s more experience presenting your work, getting feedback that you wouldn’t have otherwise received from people outside of the university, another line on your CV,” Masood said. “Not a lot of people can say that they’ve presented at a professional conference.”

Members will also be able to submit their work to a peer-reviewed undergraduate journal, the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics.

“[Members] have an opportunity to take papers and projects from their classes and potentially publish them, or just do brand new projects, submit it to this journal and get it published,” Masood said.

The students have also planned future meetings to discuss different aspects of professionalism with faculty or student talks, Masood said. Potential topics include how to apply for jobs, how to give an effective presentation and preparing for the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) or Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

“The idea is not to just tick off boxes [or] agenda items,” Masood said. “There’s a substinent purpose to each meeting.”