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Political Science and Criminal Justice

Pi Sigma Alpha & Student Research

For the past three years, student leaders of Upsilon Delta chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha (PSA) and their faculty advisor, Professor Adam Irish, have increased support for undergraduate research efforts in political science. On a weekly basis, PSA hosts a Research Workshop at which pizza and snacks are served, funded in part by a grant from the College of Behavioral and Social Science. During this workshop, guest speakers (or Professor Irish) lead a short discussion of common research dilemmas followed by an hour filled with student writing, revision, and discussion of ongoing research projects. Recent guest speakers have included: Professor Doris Schartmueller, Professor Devin Fernandes, and Professor Loren Collingwood (UC Riverside).

PSA student Anton Holm noted, “The Pi Sigma Alpha research meetings give students a chance to really dig into whatever aspect of research they're working on. I've found that being able to work closely with peers and instructors enhances my own work by allowing us to share research methodologies and by simply bouncing ideas off one another. These meetings have helped me strengthen one of my papers which was recently accepted as part of an academic research conference. While my travel to LA was cancelled due to safety concerns, I was still able to present as a panelist online. This experience helped me prepare for more academically rigorous challenges that I know await me in grad school.”

  Grayson Boyer Presenting at the 2018 PSA National Student Research Conference

 Grayson Boyer Presenting at the 2018 PSA National Student Research Conference

After Grayson Boyer’s successful proposal and presentation in 2018 (pictured above) – the first student from Chico State to ever attend the PSA National Student Research Conference – Professor Irish traveled with the Chico State students selected to present in 2019. He had this to say about the 2019 conference:

“Seeing original student research from Chico State represented at a national level is incredible. Beyond being an impressive achievement for these students, it serves as direct evidence for all of our students that, with hard work, their ideas and investigations can contribute to broader ongoing research debates. Plus, the second day of the national conference offers panels and networking opportunities, covering everything from law school and working on the Hill to meeting renown journalists and chatting with think tank leaders.”

The focus on research has certainly paid off. Over the last three years, eight Chico State students have had papers accepted to national or regional PSA conferences. As the national honor society in Political Science, Pi Sigma Alpha currently has over 600 chapters nationwide. Like many other academic conferences, students are selected to participate in the conference based on the caliber of their paper proposals. The recent 100% success rate of Chico State’s proposals have fueled a three back-to-back “Best Chapter” awards, recognizing Chico State’s chapter as one of the top 16 chapters in the country.

In 2019, three Pi Sigma Alpha members attending the conference in Washington, D.C. William Walker presented his research on China’s  statecraft in Zimbabwe (conducted in collaboration with Professor Angela Gapa), Kelsey McCaffery presented her work on international institutions and the growing cyber-Cold War between the US and Russia, and Maria Barriga presented her analysis of the evolution of international prosecutors’ offices in the International Criminal Court and European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

 William Walker, Maria Barriga, Kelsey McCaffery and Professor Adam Irish at the Pi Sigma Alpha 2019 Conference

William Walker, Maria Barriga, Kelsey McCaffery and Professor Adam Irish at the Pi Sigma Alpha 2019 Conference

 

In 2020, research projects of four Chico State PSA members were selected for either the PSA national conference or Western regional conference. – Sage Hagan, Natalie Hanson, Natalia Villegas, and Anton Holm. Sage Hagan’s work on international law’s management of non-linear warfare was inspired by his work on terrorism in Professor Irish’s international law class. Natalie Hanson’s paper, "Immigration and the Promise of Democracy: How Democratic States Respond to Immigrants and Define Citizenship” was an extension of the original research she produced as part of the capstone course and with notable support from Professor Jennifer Wilking. Natalia Villegas’ research, “The Arbitration Clause: A New Form of Trial?” which examines the Supreme Court’s 2010 AT&T v. Concepcion case and its effects on class action law suits began in a legal research class with Professor Teddy DeLorenzo. Lastly, Anton Holm’s paper entitled “How International Law Manages Refugees” is the first Chico State student paper accepted to the Western Regional PSA Student Research Conference held at the University of the Redlands in Southern California.

“The Pi Sigma Alpha conference actually changed the way I was thinking about my current trajectory in academia and my career while providing an opportunity for both peer and educator review. I was grateful for the opportunities to not only participate in discussing and analyzing other students’ research, but hear from a variety of professionals with different backgrounds from their education and occupations. This experience brought me into contact with new perspectives on the use of academic values and research in different careers and gave me a broader perspective for continuing to research and write on current issues, whether related to my degrees or not.” – Natalie Hanson, participant in 2020 PSA National Conference

Following this year’s conference with 126 presenters from 58 institutions,  the Executive Director of PSA, Sean Twombly wrote of Chico State PSA members, “As always, they represented the department and the school in a fantastic manner.”

Few universities have sustained the sort of repeated attendance and high-quality research at the PSA national student research conference as Chico State’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha. Going forward the chapter is looking to expand workshop participation and to have PSA members take the next step: submitting their research for publication in undergraduate journals and law reviews!

Natalie Hanson and Natalia Villegas at the 2020 Pi Sigma Alpha National Conference

Natalie Hanson and Natalia Villegas at the 2020 Pi Sigma Alpha National Conference

Natalia Villegas presenting her research at the 2020 Pi Sigma Alpha National Conference

Natalia Villegas presenting her research at the 2020 Pi Sigma Alpha National Conference

Political Statements is the official newsletter of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at California State University, Chico.

With over 1,000 total majors, the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice is one of the largest departments at Chico State. Students choose courses from a rich curriculum, providing close student-faculty contact in each of the following majors of study: U.S. politics, legal studies, criminal justice, international relations, and public administration. The department also offers a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in Political Science.

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