This weekend represented the culmination of undergraduate studies for approximately 490 Political Science majors and 52 minors. Ceremonies began on Friday at 3PM with the Political Science Honors event for 17 students who completed the honors seminar and wrote a thesis. Professor Andrei Markovits presided over the event and introduced each student (along with their thesis advisor) and briefly described each research paper. He explained that the honors seminar has no syllabus, exams or required reading; each student charts their own course. The program requires initiative, rigor and a sense of intellectual adventure and perseverance. While the seminar is often a struggle, completing it results in deep satisfaction and a well-deserved sense of joy; students produce a book-length manuscript as a requirement of the program. This particular group of honors students was unique as a collective body of students who worked together, grew together and took care of each other.
The general ceremony for all Political Science graduates took place on Saturday afternoon, for the first time at the Michigan Theater (a welcome respite from the blustery weather at the morning event in the Stadium). Professor and Department Chair Charles Shipan welcomed the audience and graduating seniors. He provided an overview of the department's undergraduate course of studies and emphasized the significance of students receiving a degree in Political Science, noting that U of M is one of the top two or three schools in the world. Professor Shipan also acknowledged faculty accomplishments in teaching as well as research and the extensive history of faculty awards in both areas.
Professor Markovits then spoke to the audience about icons and the role of icons in inspiring students as they move on in their lives. He mentioned the Michigan Theater as an architectural icon for the town, and went on to discuss University icons: the Institute for Social Research (the first of its kind in the world), the Peace Corps (launched by President Kennedy on the steps of the Michigan Union), Raoul Wallenburg (a UM graduate who helped rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis), and of course, football and athletics.
Michael Ambler, a junior in Political Science and editor of the Michigan Journal of Political Science presented the Frank Grace Award for an outstanding paper to Anthony Chase, who wrote a thesis on unexpected growth in Islamic banking in Britain and France. Anthony will be moving to Paris soon to begin work with the French NGO, Libraries Without Borders.
Scott Page, Professor of Complex Systems, presented the William Jennings Bryan Prize for future potential in Political Science to Kristen Marotta, Erika Mayer, and Seth Soderborg. Kristen and Erika are attending law school this fall, and Seth received a Fullbright to teach in Indonesia. The William Jennings Bryan Leadership Award was given to Michael Powers. This award is for a student who demonstrates exceptional promise and is also active in departmental and university organizations. Michael interned at the Washtenaw County Public Devender’s Office and is active in several groups including 826michigan (a non-profit to help public school students develop reading and writing skills), Students Against Hunger and Homelessness, the LSA Academic Judiciary Committee, and more. Michael will be attending law school in the fall.
After the processional, students and their families convened in the lobby for refreshments and headed toward their evening activities.