. . . and Astronomy

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SPS Announcements

. . . and Astronomy


the SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Governance Committee: Julia Bauer, Shannon Clardy, Brad Conrad, Van Haslett, Larry Isenhower, Taylor Knapp, and Emma Rasmussen

SPS isn’t just for physicists! From the very beginning, the society was created to support all those interested in physics and astronomy. Now, we are very excited to be making that official.

Last September the SPS National Council convened in Washington, DC. As part of that meeting, we discussed the importance of making our astronomy and astrophysics members feel welcome and supported in the SPS community. That has always been the intention, but at times astronomy has unintentionally been left in the shadow of physics.

After discussions with students and the SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Executive Committee, the National Council proposed changing SPS’s bylaws to reflect our mission of supporting physicists, astronomers, and those in related fields. Additionally, we proposed modifying the constitution to declare Sigma Pi Sigma as the honor society of physics and astronomy.

The SPS Council’s Governance Committee then sent the following explanation to SPS chapters with the proposed changes.

While Sigma Pi Sigma has strived for almost 100 years to support those who study physics and astronomy, the society should be explicit in its support of the students within Physics and Astronomy so that everyone knows they belong within SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma. It has come to the attention of the Society of Physics Students that those with an interest or focus in Astronomy may not feel included within our society. Going back to our founding documents, the intention has always been to support students who study within physics and astronomy departments.

A change to the constitution requires approval of the SPS National Council and a majority of its chapters. So, after the SPS National Council approved the change, it was put to a chapter vote. The measure passed with 93% approval! This high level of support suggests that most SPS members are as excited as we are to finally give equal footing to astronomers and astrophysicists in the SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma community.

Kevin Marvel, Executive Officer of the American Astronomical Society and longtime friend of physics and astronomy students, enthusiastically supported this change. “It is truly an honor to have astronomy now intentionally included in SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma through the historic constitutional change just approved by the membership of these important organizations,” he says. “Although astronomy has always been present in the interests and focus of both organizations, having astronomy specifically called out in their foundational documents will welcome those identifying more closely with astronomy and let them know they can join and support SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma.”

While SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma will retain their names, Sigma Pi Sigma will officially become the “physics and astronomy honor society.” The SPS mission will now be “to encourage and assist students interested in physics and astronomy.” Our documentation, websites, and publications will be revised to reflect this inclusivity. Furthermore, chapter resources will explicitly cater to students with interest in physics, astronomy, and closely related fields. We’re looking forward to collaborating with the American Astronomical Society as we make this transition to a more welcoming and accessible community for astronomy students.We also look forward to collaborating with standalone astronomy programs on their potentially new chapters of SPS!

While we make these changes on an institutional level, we ask that you and your chapter extend the full range of SPS opportunities to your local astronomy community, if you haven’t already. We also encourage you to welcome their ideas for new chapter activities. Please reach out to your zone counselor or the SPS National Office if you have any questions.

The stars are within our grasp (and understanding), thanks to the many wonderful astronomers and physicists who have supported research, learning, and physics curiosity over the years. We look forward to illuminating, celebrating, and supporting astronomy and astrophysics, through these changes and beyond. //

The 2021–22 SPS National Council. Photo by Hyun Joo Kim/AIP.

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