“Congratulations! You've done it! Class of 2020 Political Science graduates, you have done so much, you have come so far, you have learned so much, and we've had a wonderful time working with you.”
— Nicole Watts, Professor and Department of Political Science Chair
SF State Political Science Department Awards and Scholarships
Every year the Department of PLSI gives a number of awards and scholarships. This year, our faculty honor the following students for their extraordinary work!
Political Science Department Faculty Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement
Awarded to: (Graduate) Jill Laufer and (Undergraduate) Anthony Paul Drobnick
This award is given to the graduate and undergraduate with the highest cumulative GPA among graduating students in the department. The PLSI Dept faculty congratulate these two students on their commitment to their studies and sustained record of academic excellence.
Chair’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Department of Political Science
Awarded to: Owen Nelson
Owen Nelson worked with the Moot Court Team for two years, including serving as president of the team. He mentored students in moot court and spent countless hours working with them to develop and refine their legal argumentation skills. He also served as an ambassador for PLSI by meeting with media and the external reviewers to promote the work of our department and moot court. He also spent a lot of time in our PLSI Lounge, sharing good cheer and being generally helpful to students, staff, and faculty.
TA of the Year Award
Awarded to: Alyscia Richards
Alyscia Richards demonstrated exemplary teaching prowess for her work in PLSI 200, Intro to American Politics, including singlehandedly convening and leading a team of four other teaching assistants for this 300-student class. Although the course began in Fall 2019, Alyscia wisely started six months prior to the beginning of the semester, knowing that the course required a significant amount of preparation to properly ensure a quality experience for students and TAs alike, along with the lead faculty member and the PLSI department at large. Her foresight and initiative, gleaned from TAing the same course for a different professor a semester earlier, also greatly aided the new lead faculty member. Not only did Alyscia deftly assist all stakeholders in getting up to speed, but she did so with an upbeat and delightful personality that made the course a joy from the beginning to its end. Her intelligence, ability, and grace is second to none.
Political Science Department Award for Distinguished Student Leadership
Awarded to: Alondra Esquivel Garcia and Joshua Ochoa
Alondra Esquivel Garcia has been deeply involved in SFSU student government since she was a sophomore. This past year she was a member of the Associated Students Board of Directors as VP of External Affairs. She is majoring both in political science and race and resistance studies while being a first generation college student. This semester she taught Running for Elected Office 101 through the Experimental College as part of her mission to empower youth.
Joshua Ochoa has been the LCA student representative on the AS Board this past year. He has spent countless hours meeting with faculty, administration and students to promote student concerns over food insecurity, affordable housing and transportation, tuition costs, and better student representation in the decision-making process at SFSU.
We commend both Alondra and Joshua for the energy, initiative, and leadership on behalf of others.
The Matthew F. Stolz Scholarship in Political Science
Awarded to: Zoe Clark
This fellowship covers a year's tuition at SF State minus $27.50 a semester (the amount of tuition it cost Professor Matt Stolz when he went to school). The scholarship is named after a former Political Science professor who dedicated decades of his life to our program and also pursued a life-long love of political theory.
Zoe possesses excellent ability to master challenging theoretical readings, and in her written work she evinces the outstanding ability to express her ideas clearly and cogently in defending her main claims. In classes, Zoe contributes provocative and insightful ideas that elevate the class discussion. She is a most deserving recipient of the Stolz award embodying the best of an undergraduate student interested in political theory.
The Gene Geisler Scholarship for Empirical Political Science (Graduate)
Awarded to: Alejandro Pulido
The purpose of this award is to support empirical political science and to promote empirical research among SF State Political Science students at the graduate level.
“The Class/Race Antagonism in Venezuela and the Resilience of Chavismo”
Alejandro Pulido uses historical and contemporary accounts to test his thesis – that the class/race antagonism found in Venezuela accounts for the enduring presence and prominence of Chavismo. He develops a secondary thesis, more general and critical, in which he argues that common conceptual treatments of “democracy” or what is “democratic” are West-centric and flawed.
The Gene Geisler Scholarship for Empirical Political Science (Undergraduate)
Awarded to: Michaela Byrd and Anthony Drobnick
The purpose of this award is to support empirical political science and to promote empirical research among SF State Political Science students at the undergraduate level.
“Urban v. Rural: How Landscape Affects a Person’s Attitudes toward Environmental Policy”
Michaela Byrd tests competing hypotheses of how one’s place of residence – urban v. rural – might affect their positions on environmental policy. After accounting for ideology and occupation she finds support for the differential-exposure theory: urban dwellers tend to hold more pro-environmental attitudes than do those living in rural areas.
“Elections for Sale: On the Salience of Small Campaign Contributions to Congressional Candidates”
Anthony Drobnick tests the expectation that congressional candidates relying more on small donations were more likely to win in the 2018 mid-term elections. Using a data set he constructed, he finds support for the opposite. In addition he finds that Democratic campaigns in districts with lower incomes, and Republican campaigns in districts with higher incomes, are more likely to rely on small donations.
John Randolph and Dora Haynes Fellowship Award in California Governance
Awarded to: Jill Laufer
This $1,000 merit award is given to a graduate student in the Department of Political Science who is committed to improving governance and polity in California politics.
Jill Laufer demonstrates strength and dedication to community and civic duty. She is a tireless advocate for students, colleagues, and her community. Her service to local organizations help support at risk youth in the city, while her efforts on campus promote the civic and political engagement of our students. She is an advocate for the agency and power of people and a representation of the best our department has to offer our community. She embodies the spirit off the Haynes award and illustrates through her countless efforts how we can better the world around us.
The David Jenkins Award
Awarded to: Işık Berfin Özsoy
The $200 David Jenkins Award is awarded to a student who has shown the greatest commitment to improving society through political activism.
The committee was happy to honor Berfin with this award for her extensive work promoting Kurdish cultural and political rights around the world. Berfin has been very active with local Kurdish organizations and has also worked hard to preserve and promote Kurdish culture and community with her extraordinary music and many beautiful performances.
The Matt Stolz Prize for Political Theory
Awarded to: Yeon Jin Lim
This $200 prize is awarded to a student who demonstrates excellence in the field of political theory. The Matt Stolz Prize is named after a former Political Science professor who dedicated decades of his life to this program and also pursued a life-long love of political theory. The prize is intended to honor his commitment as well as to celebrate his life and his service to this department.
“Two Bare Hands: Taking Off the Mask of Violent Authority”
Yeon Jin Lim wrote an excellent paper in which she considers the work of Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida as paralleling (but also reversing) the way that authority works in political theory such as that of Thomas Hobbes. Jin shows that – as distinct from Hobbes -- Benjamin and Derrida’s conceptions of authority systems derive from sources rooted in collective and local decisions and, she argues, for that reason are far more resilient than those authority systems typically considered much stronger.
The Wasserman Prize for the Best Undergraduate Paper
Awarded to: Hannah Galindo
Named in honor of former PLSI Dept Professor Louis Wasserman, this $100 prize is awarded for the best undergraduate paper in any subfield of the discipline of political science. Papers are evaluated on the basis of originality, writing, research, organization and contributions to the discipline.
"Economic Inequality and Relative-Deprivation: Does State of Residence Influence How We Vote?”
The committee was impressed by Hannah Galindo’s compelling quantitative analysis of the impact of exposure to economic inequality on voting behavior in the United States. This high-quality piece of original research is very much deserving of the Louis Wasserman Award.
The Wasserman Prize for the Best Graduate Paper
Awarded to: Alejandro Pulido
Named in honor of former PLSI Dept Professor Louis Wasserman, this $100 prize is awarded for the best graduate paper in any subfield of the discipline of political science. Papers are evaluated on the basis of originality, writing, research, organization and contributions to the discipline.
“Notes on Dussel, Quinano, Mignolo, Rivera Cusicanqui and Decolonial Thought and Practice.”
Alejandro’s paper makes a significant and nuanced intervention into the politics of Decolonial Thought, showing how it surpasses European critiques of Modernity by showing its colonial complicity but also can itself be appropriated by North American academic institutions. To remedy this, Alejandro proposes an emphasis on South/South Dialogue, whereby concepts emerging from the specifics of Latin America help to break the impasse. Specifically, he draws a parallel between Mignolo’s concept of “diversality” (multiple universalities) and Cusicanqui’s use of the Aymara concept of ch-ixi denoting an “always contentious and antagonistic unity of Indigenous and European worldviews [which] creates the conditions of something new” without extinguishing its elements.
Instructor of the Year
Awarded to: Francis Neely
The Political Science Student Association (PSSA) would like to acknowledge the heroic and dedicated work of ALL the Political Science department faculty as they faced the pedagogical challenges brought to bear by Covid-19. Faculty more than rose to the occasion in helping students meet the academic and life challenges they faced. The PSSA would like to express our deepest gratitude to all Political Science Department faculty for their efforts and support. Your patience, tenacity, compassion, and commitment to student success and well-being are inspiring and are what makes this department so special.
The PSSA is proud to award Instructor of the Year to Dr. Francis Neely as he exemplifies these qualities. Dr. Neely helps guide many students through the Scientific Inquiry in Political Science course all majors are required to take often demystifying quantitative research and methodology with patience, humor, and warmth. Dr. Neely is an excellent advisor and mentor, assisting many students as they navigate major requirements and beyond. Finally, Dr. Neely is a tireless advocate for student research in the social sciences. He demonstrates this commitment by organizing conferences which celebrate student research and by mentoring students and facilitating their participation in professional conferences within the discipline. The PSSA commends Dr. Neely for his service to the department and dedication to students.
For details on SF State’s plans to celebrate the class of 2020, please visit the Commencement website.