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The American Political Science Association (APSA) is a professional association of scholars from all over the world dedicated to the study of politics in all of its dimensions. The association was established in 1903 at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and celebrated its one hundredth anniversary in Philadelphia in 2003. The one hundredth anniversary of the association’s annual convention was held in Chicago in 2004. Originally, the association was formed to distinguish a “science of politics” from the study of history and economics. In the early years, however, close cooperation with the American Historical and American Economic Associations was encouraged. The primary purpose of a separate association for political science was to “encourage” the “scientific study of politics, public law, administration and diplomacy” (Willoughby 1904, p. 109). In 2007, the association consisted of more than 15,000 members from more than eighty countries. The objectives of the association are to promote research in the discipline of political science, to nurture quality teaching regarding the principles of good government and citizenship, to encourage diversification within the discipline, to provide challenging opportunities to members, to recognize outstanding contributions to the study of politics through awards programs, to develop and maintain high professional standards among scholars in the discipline, and to serve the public through the widespread dissemination of research findings.
The association is governed by a twenty-six-person council headed by a president. All members of the council and the president are elected by ballot by members of the association. A number of distinguished scholars have served as president of the APSA, including Woodrow Wilson, Charles E. Merriam, Charles A. Beard, Harold D. Lasswell, V. O. Key Jr., Carl J. Friedrich, Gabriel A. Almond, Robert Dahl, David Easton, Heinz Eulau, Samuel P. Huntington, Theodore J. Lowi, and Judith N. Shklar, the APSA’s first woman president. Ralph J.
Bunche, in addition to winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950, became the first African American president of the APSA in 1953. With few exceptions, the addresses of presidents, a highlight at the national convention each year, are available at the APSA Web site. These addresses examine major issues and trends in the discipline and allow students of politics at all levels to gauge the perspectives and concerns of scholars, as opposed to state officials, on changing global political dynamics.
The APSA sponsors a number of programs to further its objectives. Among these is the Congressional Fellowship Program, which since 1953 has been dedicated to expanding an understanding of Congress and its operations. Participants in this program serve on Congressional staffs and include journalists and federal executives as well as political scientists. Another program provides grants of various types, such as those to assist graduate students to attend and present papers at the annual conference, and, through the Minority Fellows Program, those to assist minority students with tuition grants. Other programs provide services both to departments of political science and to individual members, such as the ejobs Placement Service. The latter service is designed to assist recent graduates of master’s and doctoral programs and current faculty on the job market to find faculty or other full-time positions.
Other major activities of the association are the publication of three journals, the American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, and PS: Political Science and Politics, and the presentation of awards for outstanding scholarship in political science or outstanding public service. Among the awards are the Ralph J. Bunche Award for the best work in the previous year in the area of American ethnic studies or cultural pluralism, the James Madison Award for an American scholar who has made a particularly outstanding contribution to the study of politics, the Victoria Schuck Award for the best work in the previous year on women and politics, and the Benjamin E. Lippincott Award for a work of exceptional merit in political theory that is still considered meritorious after at least fifteen years. Awards are also given each year for the outstanding doctoral dissertations within subfields of the discipline. A highlight of the association’s activities is the annual convention, which in recent years has brought together more than 7,000 scholars participating in more than 700 panels in 47 divisions of the discipline. There are also numerous affiliated societies that regularly hold their annual conferences in conjunction with the APSA annual convention.
- The American Political Science Association. Networking a World of Scholars. http://www.apsanet.org/.
- Crick, Bernard R. 1959. The American Science of Politics: Its Origins and Conditions. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Willoughby, W. W. 1904. The American Political Science Association. Political Science Quarterly 19 (1): 107–111.
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