Fall 2018 update

August 28, 2018

Hello Sigma Zeta friends and welcome to the 2018-19 academic year!

The Sigma Zeta National Office is once again open for business after the summer break, and we look forward to working with you.  Hopefully your chapters are beginning to meet and make plans for a productive year.  All the national officers want to thank the chapter advisors, student officers and members for the hard work you put into making Sigma Zeta a meaningful and successful organization.

As many of you know, Sigma Zeta has 9 national officers who help to make decisions and keep the organization running at the national level, with input from all the chapters and members.  Five of those officers hold “semi-permanent” positions and agree to stay in their positions for multiple years to gain expertise in the position to add stability to the organization – Executive Director, Webmaster, Treasurer, Publicist, and Historian.  The other 4 positions change each year, with a new Student Representative elected each year, and a three-year term which is filled each year with the election of a new President-elect, who then transitions through the positions of President and then Past-President.  The March 2018 convention marked a major milestone for our organization – Bob Kistler, the only Webmaster that Sigma Zeta has ever had, retired after almost twenty years of truly outstanding service.  Many of you have heard me say that I believe the major reason for the tremendous growth and many of the other successes of our organization during that time was due to our fantastic website.  Many schools that have joined Sigma Zeta (we’ve added 30 new chapters in the time that Bob served as Webmaster) have told me that internet searches for science/math honor societies clearly showed that Sigma Zeta is the cream of the crop of multi-disciplinary science/math honor societies. I’ve heard comments like “every time I checked the website, something new was posted, as opposed to other honor societies websites where nothing changed for an entire year”.  We thanked Bob for his service at the 2017 Convention, when he hoped to retire from the Webmaster position, then again at the 2018 Convention when we were extremely fortunate to have the very capable - and slightly younger :) -Belarmino Gonzalez of the Gamma Rho chapter step up to take on this important position.  But for those who didn’t attend either of those conventions, all the National Officers hope you join us to thank Bob once again for his friendship, comradery and immeasurable contributions to Sigma Zeta.  He will be missed but will hopefully occasionally join us at future conventions.

That brings up another major change in Sigma Zeta leadership that is in the near future.  In April 2018 I gave notice that I would continue to serve as Executive Director of Sigma Zeta through summer 2019, which will be the end of my 12th year of service in this position.  I have taken on another major role of responsibility in my faculty position at Our Lady of the Lake University, and I cannot continue to do both jobs.  The additional job is as our university’s Program Director of an NIH-funded postdoctoral research and teaching training program (through a program called IRACDA).  Like Sigma Zeta, it is a very rewarding but extremely time-consuming commitment, and we’re entering our fourth year of the program, and putting in for a renewal this September 19 for five more years of funding.  This summer I sent out on the Sigma Zeta email list the duties that go with the Director position, and MANY advisors and national officers discussed how best to fill the position.  This will be a major topic at the November 3 officer’s meeting in New Orleans.  I believe we are coming to a consensus that I feel is reasonable in terms of expense and for making the position attractive to the next and future Directors.  This is NOT official, but the officers have discussed raising the Sigma Zeta dues slightly, from $35 one time membership fee to $40, and using the extra funds generated (we set another record for membership last year with over 900 new members) to buy out a two course release from teaching per semester for future Executive Directors.  OLLU has generously given me a one course per semester release from teaching these past 11 years, but I feel that as our organization has grown, that does not free up enough time for Sigma Zeta duties.  Ideally an experienced advisor who has attended some national conventions (and with some national officer experience) will find a two-course release from teaching and the reward and challenges of running a national organization tempting.  Please contact me if you have any desire to take on this position and would like more information.  Last November, Belarmino Gonzalez came to the officer’s meeting, participated in the meeting and met Bob and the other officers, and then he worked closely with Bob so he didn’t have to step into the Webmaster position with zero experience.  This would be the ideal way to transition to a new Executive Director, so please contact me soon if you are seriously considering making this commitment.    

There were many highlights in the 2017-2018 academic year, and I want to make special note of the following three:

     -- Paige Swan of the Gamma Eta chapter served as our first ever Student Representative to the Executive Council of national officers, and she did a great job working with the other national officers on all matters of business, while providing input from a student member’s point of view.

     -- A new chapters was added to our Sigma Zeta family, in Denver, the site of our November 2017 officers meeting/chapter recruiting trip – Colorado Christian University joined us a the Gamma Sigma Chapter in April.  Please join me in welcoming them to their first year as a Sigma Zeta chapter!

     -- 16 Student Research Awards were funded, and many of the resulting projects were presented at the 2018 Convention, with others submitting progress reports with plans to present at the 2019 Convention.

A major item of business at the November meetings is to discuss the applications for the Student Research Awards and to decide which to fund and for what amounts.  Let’s all work to encourage students to apply for the 2018 awards – deadline to apply is October 21, 2018.  The process is relatively short and painless, as can be seen when looking at the guidelines for applying.  With a little help from the faculty research mentor and closely following the guidelines, putting together a good application should not take too much time.  See our website for details and forms for application.

As mentioned earlier, Sigma Zeta broke the previous record for new members, adding 897 new student members and 33 faculty members in 2017-2018, for a total of 930.  Five dollars from each new student membership is used to fund the Student Research Awards mentioned above.  We continue to be a growing and thriving organization.

At the spring 2018 National Convention, the theme of "Shedding light on possibilities of science by inspiring underprivileged and underserved children through science education as an avenue out of poverty” was selected, and it should be rewarding to put this theme to work on your campus in whatever creative ways fit best with your chapter, school and community.  Please share your activities and projects through the website (sigmazeta.org), through Sigma Zeta on Facebook, and at the spring 2019 convention. 

The National Convention in Springfield, MO, March 1-3 was hosted by the Gamma Eta chapter of Evangel University and led by Dr. Natasha DeVore and a great group of students.  A record 20 chapters attended and students gave 12 oral and 28 poster presentations.  Field trips included hiking, choices of more than one local museum and the Dickerson Park Zoo.  A highlight of the convention, along with the student presentations, was our keynote speaker, Dr. Alexander Wait, who gave an enlightening talk on Desert Island Communities.  For more Convention highlights, see sigmazeta.org.

Please see the attachments to this message for details of the National Officers/Chapter advisors meeting which will be held on November 3, 2018 in New Orleans.  Louisiana was chosen because there are currently no chapters in that state, and several schools in the New Orleans area have been identified for recruiting trips by officers.  An invitation to this meeting and a registration form are attached to this letter.  As mentioned earlier, it is at this meeting that national officers with some advisors will make decisions on student research application funding, possible changes to membership fee and strategies for filling national officer positions.  I will send out soon a draft of the agenda for this meeting.

With the paper and electronic mailings of this letter you will find enclosed/attached information about the Student Research Awards, November Officer/Advisor meeting, the annual forms for reporting new officers and updating advisor information, national office supplies and a printed copy of the instructions to accompany the spreadsheet form for reporting new members (all of these are also available in electronic form at the website).  I’ve circled on the enclosed paper copy the instructions to spell out the day of the month (ex. Sixteenth versus 16th) to improve the appearance of the certificates.  ALSO PLEASE DOUBLE CHECK THE SPELLING OF NAMES OF NEW MEMBERS, because the certificates are prepared directly from this spread sheet.  Please return your new officers list electronically through the website as soon as possible.  This information is needed to keep communications current.  New chapter officers are encouraged to submit their names to the Sigma Zeta email list using the link on the website.  I also encourage all of you receiving the paper mailing of this letter who have not yet gone to the website to add yourself to the Sigma Zeta email list to do this now.  It’s quick and easy and ensures that you get regular updates and communications from other members.   

The Alpha Gamma chapter at Malone University in Canton, OH will help to celebrate their 50th year as a chapter in Sigma Zetaby serving as the host for the spring 2019 National Convention.  The meeting will be held March 21-23, so plan early to attend.  I know we can count on an exciting convention because our hosts are regular attendees at the National Conventions, usually with several of their students presenting their research.  Alpha Gamma has also hosted the convention multiple times during their 50 years as a chapter.  Information regarding the specific details of the meeting will be coming to you from the Alpha Gamma chapter advisors, Drs. David Hahn (National Treasurer) and Jim Glasgow (a past National President), from the national office, and via the website and e-mail list as the year progresses. 

The national office here at Our Lady of the Lake University is anxious to help you have a good year.  I can be reached by phone at 210-528-7091 or by e-mail at [email protected]I look forward to working with you again this year! 



Jim Hall

National Executive Director