Skip to main content
SPIA Home Page

My Pi Sigma Alpha Journey: Turning membership into experience

The NC State belltower framed by the arches of Holladay Hall. Photo by Marc Hall

I was invited to join Pi Sigma Alpha during my sophomore year. A quick Google search led me to a wealth of information about the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society and all the different ways I could be involved to enhance my studies.

The pandemic limited many of the ways we are normally involved in college and I saw Pi Sigma Alpha as a way to do more. The very first thing that caught my attention was the opportunity to have a paper from your undergraduate career published in Pi Sigma Alpha’s annual journal and to present at a national conference. I chose to submit my honors thesis, but it could have been any paper completed during my undergraduate studies.

I am a political science and criminology double major and have been working towards my honors certificate in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The honors certificate requires the completion of an honors thesis during your senior year. As a double major with law school plans, my thesis, titled “Race, Gender and Class: Historical Organizational Institutionalization of Exploitation and Oppression,” allowed me to focus on the intersectionality of law and politics. My research analyzed formal government, including social political processes, and law, with informal structures of social class and elite theory.

After I submitted my abstract, I was invited to be a part of an in-person panel at the February Pi Sigma Alpha National Student Research Conference which was held at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.. My panel, called Conceptualizing Race and Power, consisted of myself, a student from Long Island University and a student from Columbia University. I had no idea what to expect going into it. Fortunately, prior to the event, Pi Sigma Alpha held an orientation for us to answer questions and get us ready.

Mrs. Champaign, my political science advisor and the advisor for Pi Sigma Alpha, played a large part in my decision to participate in this event. She offered continued support and was willing to answer any questions I had. She was not only monumental in my involvement with Pi Sigma Alpha, but her contributions as my advisor for political science major have also been extremely impactful. I also met with Professor Jim Yocom to discuss my research and how best to present it. This was a professor I had during a fully online class during the pandemic, and yet when I reached out I was met with eagerness to meet and help. Even if you do not see yourself as having a strong connection with a faculty member, more than likely there are faculty around you who want to build that connection.

The entire experience of finalizing my paper, creating a presentation, and attending the conference was incredible. I was able to collaborate with peers from around the country. As participants, we attended other student panels which addressed many interesting political science topics. The three-day conference also had structured networking events, a career and graduate school fair, and access to the contact information for everyone participating and sponsoring the event.

Looking back, the biggest challenge was gaining the confidence to submit my abstract in the first place. I encourage you to move forward and take advantage of what Pi Sigma Alpha has to offer. With the demands of day to day work during your college career, it can feel overwhelming and like you don’t have time for the extras. However, it is worth it to find the time to further involve yourself in the other educational opportunities. I am extremely grateful to have been able to not only participate in the Pi Sigma Alpha research conference, but to those around me who provided the support that enabled me to do more. I only wish that I could have started earlier so I could have had the opportunity to participate in the conference more than once. The years go by so fast it is hard to find the time, but I urge you to look for it. The opportunities will come and go so don’t wait for the next one—jump on the ones that are here now and more will continue to open up for you.