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Political science students present at Pi Sigma Alpha national conference

Published on March 24, 2021

Political science students present at Pi Sigma Alpha national conference

May Greenwell

Eastern Connecticut State University political science students Mary Greenwell ’21 and Trevor Mays ’22 recently attended the Eighth Annual Pi Sigma Alpha National Student Research Conference. This was Eastern’s first time at the conference, which is usually held in Washington, D.C. Due to COVID-19, the event was held virtually on March 6-7. The conference included student presentations, as well as other guest speakers and networking opportunities for students. 

Presenting with other political science students, Greenwell and Mays shared their research titled “How Religiousness Impacts Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System: A Case Study of New England College Students.” 

The research, which the two students completed collaboratively, examined the impact of religious identity on one’s views of policing. “Our focus was primarily on religious vs. non-religious individuals and how their religion impacts their opinions about issues in the criminal justice system,” said Greenwell. “Our research allowed us to expand our understanding of the political system we live in and some of the issues in the modern political climate.”

Trevor Mays

Along with Greenwell and Mays, the panel included students from Wisconsin, Mississippi and Arkansas. “Hearing and seeing the work from some of the top political science students in the country was a motivating and humbling experience,” said Mays. “Presentations about relevant topics such as criminal justice reform, gender, and race are things I will bring with me throughout the rest of my academic and professional career.”

To attend the conference, Eastern students in Pi Sigma Alpha must be invited by the honor society. Professor Martin Mendoza- Botelho, chair of the Political Science Department, said to be inducted into the honor society students need an overall GPA of at least 3.4, with at least a 3.2 in the political science major. Students must also achieve junior standing at Eastern.

Although this was Eastern’s first time attending the conference, Mendoza expects participation for years to come. “Our program is very proud that the research activities of our students, like the work of Trevor and Mary, are getting national recognition,” he said. “This conference gathers students from around the country to present cross-cutting research in relevant topics for our society and beyond. Mary and Trevor did a fantastic work representing Eastern and our efforts to generate meaningful knowledge.” 

Although the event was virtual, host Sean Twombly, Pi Sigma Alpha director, and many others saw to it that students got the full experience. This included a virtual tour of Washington D.C., as well as receiving merchandise representing Pi Sigma Alpha.

“The atmosphere created by Sean’s video tour of the Washington monuments and the effort of the graduate student panel leaders to engage with everyone’s work made it feel like I was really at a large conference instead of just the computer room at my house,” said Mays.

Greenwell expanded on this, saying that because of the virtual setting, students were able to hear from speakers who otherwise would not be able to attend. “The virtual setting allowed us to have a lot more interaction with the other panelists. I was able to listen to a lot of interesting presentations and also connect with Pi Sigma Alpha members across the country.”

Written by Molly Boucher