The Alabama Political Science Association (AlaPSA) is a nonprofit organization of political scientists and other persons interested in the study of government and politics. Currently, the association has 70 enrolled, or dues-paying, members; about 100 persons attend the association's annual conference. Most are political science faculty from Alabama colleges and universities, with other participants including retired educators, students, interested citizens, and institutional members. It is governed by a nine-person executive council elected by members of the association and led by a president and other officers. AlaPSA has, at various times in the past, published a newsletter, maintained a directory, presented awards to student participants, and helped subsidize a regional journal.
The origins of AlaPSA date to 1972, when several state political scientists conducted informal conversations about forming an organization. James D. Thomas of the University of Alabama (UA) in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, subsequently proposed that potential members form a political science association in the state, as had a number of political scientists in other states. The organization's first formal meeting, "Conference on Political Science," was convened at the UA campus on Saturday, April 14, 1973. Robert B. Highsaw, chair of the UA Political Science Department, welcomed everyone to the meeting; and Thomas and David Horton, then chair of the University of South Alabama Political Science Department in Mobile, Mobile County, led the discussion about forming an association. The group, consisting of about 50 attendees, voted in favor of organizing as the Alabama Political Science Association, endorsed a constitution, and elected Highsaw as president. The second meeting was held at Auburn University (AU) in Auburn, Lee County, on Saturday, on April 20, 1974, and consisted of more than 60 active members. Charles N. Fortenberry, chair of Auburn's Political Science Department, delivered a luncheon address on "Southern Style Politicians" and then-Alabama chief justice and future senator Howell T. Heflin participated in a panel on "Alabama Contemporary Political Currents." Gerald W. Johnson of AU was elected president at the business meeting.
Many individuals contributed to AlaPSA during its formative years. The organization increased its membership and activities and the annual conference was expanded to a two-day event with a specific focus for each year. Topics of focus have included The State of Women and Politics in Alabama and "Race, Politics, and Economics in Society." Attendees present papers and participate in panel discussions about local, state, regional, national, and international government and politics. Typically, a special panel provides an overview of contemporary Alabama politics and elections and a featured guest delivers a keynote speech at an evening dinner. A business session concludes the conference. By design, the association aims to merge political science and contemporary political issues into its program. Most of the presentations are scholarly, but since the conference's beginnings, the agenda has included appearances by civic leaders, journalists, public officials, and political party leaders. By informal practice, the group makes an effort to meet at the University of Alabama or Auburn University every few years and also attempts to maintain geographical balance in its meeting sites.
As stated in AlaPSA's constitution, the association aims to encourage scientific investigation and research in the field of government, politics, and administration, with special focus on state and local issues in Alabama and to promote understanding of and improve instruction in political science and public administration. It also aims to develop collegial relations and cooperation among political scientists in Alabama and reach out to other political scientists in the region. Furthermore, AlaPSA works to establish and improve relations between political scientists and public officials, facilitate a greater understanding of government and politics at all educational levels, and uphold ethical standards and foster competence. The association does not take official stands on public policy issues, nor does it assume a partisan view regarding any question of practical politics or commit its members to any partisan political opinion.
Jacksonville State University
Published August 15, 2014
Last updated August 15, 2014