Better Together—A Merger Unifies Two SPS Chapters

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SPS Chapters on Building Community

Better Together—A Merger Unifies Two SPS Chapters


Kayla Dickert and Joseph Popp, SPS Chapter Co-Presidents, Saint Joseph's University

SJU Chapter Showcase Table.jpg

Saint Joseph's University SPS chapter members pose at PhysCon 2022. Authors and co-presidents Joseph Popp and Kayla Dickert are seated. Photo courtesy of Roberto Ramos.

In the spring semester of 2021, Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) and the University of the Sciences (USciences), both in Philadelphia, announced the possibility of a merger. The following June it became official: Saint Joseph’s University would be absorbing the University of the Sciences. SJU would become SJU - Hawk Hill campus, and USciences would become SJU - University City campus. 

This came as quite a shock to many students, and especially to physics majors at USciences. The announcement raised questions regarding curriculum, tuition, class locations, and extracurricular activities and left students feeling uneasy about the future. To ease some of these anxieties, the two physics departments and SPS chapters worked together to create a positive and productive environment throughout the process. 

The semester before the merger, we focused on getting to know each other. We organized weekly physics seminars on the Hawk Hill campus where USciences professors introduced themselves and their research. SPS officers from both chapters met and organized joint activities, including tours of both campuses. These activities promoted fellowship and camaraderie, and gave students an excuse to indulge in
department-funded snacks. 

Students appointed a set of SPS officers from each campus to share governance during the fall 2022 semester, enabling equal representation and distribution of the large amount of labor needed to work out the merger. This body of officers meets every other week to organize and report on events, scholarship opportunities, and activities. So far our merged chapter has attended conferences (including the 2022 Physics Congress), been involved in community service projects, completed scholarship applications, and hosted community events on both campuses. A new, more typical set of officers will be elected for next year.

“If it weren’t for the merger, I would not be at Saint Joe’s anymore,” says Joe Popp, the SPS co-president from Hawk Hill campus. “It simply did not have the resources I needed to reasonably reach the goals I wanted.” Now that there are new faculty, students, labs, and opportunities, Popp is confident that his SJU education will support his goal of pursuing a PhD in physics. Kayla Dickert, the co-president from University City campus, agrees that the merger is a great opportunity to gain new experiences. “It was rewarding to gain a new perspective, and I’m excited about the opportunity Saint Joseph's awards us,” she says. 

SJU physics professor and our SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma advisor for the joint chapter, Dr. Roberto Ramos, says, “It was a very difficult and uncertain time for both physics majors and physics faculty.” He says he’s proud of the students. “[They] underwent a phase transition and are still adjusting to the changes brought by the merger, but I am amazed at their resiliency and forward-facing resolve.” 

The USciences SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma chapters were retired on May 4, 2022, during the last Sigma Pi Sigma induction ceremony. The ceremony was facilitated by Dr. Ramos, and the chapter’s Red Book, which contains the names and signatures of the USciences Sigma Pi Sigma members, will be kept at the SPS National Office. Dr. Brad Conrad, the SPS director, was on hand to close the SPS chapter. 

“The legacy of USciences SPS, with its strong history of off-campus physics outreach and seven straight years of being an Outstanding SPS Chapter, lives on in the combined chapter at Saint Joseph’s University,” says Dr. Ramos. “When you have students from two outstanding SPS chapters coming together, considering the combined strengths of the two physics programs, the future can only be bright!”


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