Back to School, Back to SPS!

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Back to School, Back to SPS!

Top Five Tips for a Great SPS Year

SPS Members at the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) join in a Charro Days student parade.  Photo courtesy of UTB.

Adapted from resources in the SPS Information Handbook,

01 - Decide that your SPS chapter will be an AWESOME force in your department!

The physics department is home base for physics majors. As you plan your SPS year, think about the role that SPS can play in the department. A strong and active SPS chapter can make earning a physics degree more fun, fulfilling, and productive for everyone involved, and help departments meet many common needs, including:

• A cohesive student group—If your department does not have a place for students to work and relax together, consider leading the effort to establish an SPS student lounge.
• A morale boost—Remind everyone why studying physics is fun! Plan tours of places where science and technology take center stage, physics-inspired social activities, and science outreach events in the local community to engage and inspire members.
• More majors—An active SPS chapter can be the best recruiting tool in the department! Visit introductory physics classes during the first few weeks of class and invite students to SPS events. Participate in campus fairs, homecoming events, and other activities to attract those already on campus.
• Student engagement in research—Invite faculty to give short presentations about research opportunities. Ask faculty or senior-level students to provide tours of lab facilities or give research talks. Use Physics Today as discussion material in meetings.

02 - Have PURPOSE

Before you get started for the year, decide on some chapter goals. In addition to those mentioned above, your chapter might focus on increasing SPS membership, recruiting new physics majors, hosting outreach activities or developing new outreach tools, being more involved on campus, or attending more physics meetings and raising money to offset travel costs. If you need help in finding direction, meet with faculty in the department!
Post the goals in a prominent place and revisit them at each meeting to stimulate and celebrate progress.

03 - Join the SPS NETWORK

SPS is more than just local activity. SPS has thousands of members and chapters at 761 different institutions! Be inspired, challenged, and encouraged by SPS members from around the world virtually through Facebook and Twitter, and in person through SPS zone meetings, joint chapter activities, and professional physics meetings. These students are likely to be your future collaborators, peers, employees, and bosses, so start making connections now. Every geographic “zone” has an elected student and faculty representative whose job is to facilitate connections within their region, so reach out to them! Make sure you find out about SPS activities, meetings, awards, scholarships, internships, and more by being a dues-paying member of SPS National.


Make SPS a highly visible, important, and REGULAR part of the life and culture of your department. Whether weekly, monthly, or something in between, meetings should be at a regular, fixed time so that attending becomes a regular habit. Always invite faculty! Meetings are usually more fun with food, so add pizza, cookies, tea, or whatever your chapter prefers. With consistent meetings you are more likely to accomplish your chapter goals and build a strong community.


Be visible in your department community. Make sure that everyone in the department—faculty, students at all levels, and staff—knows about SPS events and feels welcome. Research has shown that a strong departmental community increases recruitment and retention, making the challenging process of earning a physics degree more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone involved.
Be visible in your campus community. SPS chapters have a history of hosting great campus events. Physics departments are usually small, but they can have a large impact on the culture of their institution.
Be visible in your local community. Reaching out through events provides a larger purpose for your chapter and is a great way to build community, give members teaching experience, and reinspire homework-laden physics students.
Be visible in the physics community. Start building your professional network by attending meetings, visiting laboratories and companies, joining professional physics societies, and being active in online forums. You will be amazed at the opportunities available in the broader physics community. //

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