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From the Chair

Submitted by Arts & Sciences Web Team on April 3, 2013 - 8:00am
Peter May
Peter May

With this newsletter, we reach out to our extensive alumni network and our many friends to tell just a part of the story about what makes our department exceptional. The vitality of what we do shines through each and every item that follows. This newsletter includes a cogent analysis of national politics, examples of our innovations in teaching, a retrospective about our State Legislative Intern Program, a description of a student research project, a tribute to some of our highly distinguished alumni, and a fond remembrance of some departed faculty colleagues.

It is easy to speak in both honest and glowing terms about our department.  We benefit from exceptionally talented faculty and graduate students, strong graduate and undergraduate programs, more than able staff, and a distinguished set of alumni.  These strengths led to a number of notable accomplishments that underscore the excellence of our department.

The high quality of the Political Science Department has been recognized in the past three years by the broader University community through numerous UW Awards of Excellence. These include a Distinguished Staff Award (Ann Buscherfeld), a Distinguished Teaching Award (Professor Jon Mercer), Teaching Excellence Award for TA (Deepa Bhandaru), Marsha Landolt Graduate Mentoring Award (Professor Peter May), the Faculty Lecturer for 2012 (Professor Lance Bennett), and the Samuel E. Kelley Lecture for 2011 (Professor Luis Fraga).  Other recent recognitions include UW’s Graduate and Professional Student Association Graduate Program Assistant of the Year Award (Susan Recordon).  In addition, our faculty have been recognized nationally and internationally for research and teaching accomplishments through numerous lifetime achievement awards, book and article awards, prestigious fellowships, and extensive research funding. 

Our graduate program continues to thrive, receiving a set of top-20 ratings in the most recent National Research Council evaluation of graduate programs.  From acceptance to graduation our graduate students impress. Admission to the department is highly competitive with some 250 applicants applying annually for admission as one of 12 to 14 entering students in our PhD program.  Graduate students have intensive research and teaching experiences, and they regularly publish with faculty. A number of our students have received national awards for their dissertations and books based on their dissertation projects.  These factors contribute to our strong placement record with a number of our graduates receiving placements at highly ranked research universities and liberal arts colleges.

To improve the experience of our undergraduate students, we undertake a range of activities that enhance their education and help to break down the barriers of a large university.  The Princeton Review gave us a top-20 rating in their 2010 list of “great schools to study political science.”  We have a model undergraduate honors program; a variety of opportunities that allow undergraduates to get involved in faculty research; internship opportunities in the local area, with the legislature in Olympia, and in Washington DC; study abroad options; service learning components within many courses; and an active chapter of the political science national honor society.

We now have over 12,000 alumni, many of whom have had diverse and rich careers.  As highlighted elsewhere in this newsletter, a number of our alumni have been recognized by the UW with “Timeless Awards” for their accomplishments and contributions to the university.  My meetings with alumni have been uniformly gratifying. I have always been struck by the appreciation they express for the quality of their education, the richness of their experiences at the UW, and the sense of wonderment about what one can do with an education in political science—albeit, something that few could foretell at the time of graduation.  Today, we seek to uphold these qualities despite the challenges posed by funding limitations and shifting educational models.  Our commitment is to provide an undergraduate experience that offers innovative approaches to high quality teaching and a rich set of opportunities that expand student horizons.

Our ability to maintain the vitality of our scholarly and educational activities rests now, more than ever, on the generosity of our alumni and friends.  We have been fortunate to have a number of very loyal alumni who regularly donate to the Friends of Political Science along with an extensive group of friends who contribute to endowments that support undergraduate and graduate students, faculty activities, and other efforts.  I sincerely thank those of you who have been generous in supporting the department. 
With appreciation,

Peter J. May
Professor and Chair

Peter J. May is the Donald R. Matthews Distinguished Professor of American Politics.  He has been at the UW since 1979 and has been department chair since July 2010.

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