UN International Youth Day Special - Interview with IAPSS President Justin Patrick: “Together, we can make a brighter future for youth and students around the world”

UN International Youth Day Special - Interview with IAPSS President Justin Patrick: “Together, we can make a brighter future for youth and students around the world”

Publication date: Tue, 11 Aug 2020

August 12 is UN’s International Youth Day. This year’s theme is “Youth Engagement for Global Action” which seeks to highlight the engagement of young people. On this occasion, we wanted to give the word to Justin Patrick, the new President of the International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS).

As a long-time IPSA partner, IAPSS is a non-profit student association for Political Science students. Since its foundation in 1998, IAPSS has represented students around the world and organized various academic events including IAPSS World Congress, Academic Conventions, Winter and Summer Schools and Study Trips.

Justin took over the presidency from Tobias Scholz who launched several projects during his term, including the Regionalisation Project, to make IAPSS a more accessible, inclusive and global association. During Tobias’ Presidency, the Association reached out to more students from different parts of the world to offer its academic events and services. Stronger ties were also established between IAPSS and IPSA through academic cooperation and partnership. We would like to thank Tobias for his great work with IAPSS and his dedicated collaboration with IPSA the team.

We had an interview with Justin to learn about his goals and projects as IAPSS President as well as the importance of Political Science for students.

How did you come to join IAPSS and in what way is IAPSS important for Political Science students?

All Political Science students are de jure represented by IAPSS since it is the only democratic student government representing them at the global level recognized by the United Nations. I formally got involved as an IAPSS volunteer in the Fall of 2018 in the role of Events Social Media Coordinator. I was elected Secretary-General in 2019 and then President in 2020.

IAPSS is a valuable resource for Political Science students since it is likely their best chance at successfully advocating for improvements to Political Science education and it is also a good way to advocate for student interests in general at the national, continental and global levels. This is especially the case for students in places where there are no national or continental student governments that represent them. Furthermore, IAPSS offers significant academic and professional development opportunities through its events, publications, student research committees, delegations to conferences of partner organizations such as IPSA and other initiatives.

On top of this, the networking potential through IAPSS opportunities can open the door to significant cross-border and intercontinental research collaboration, not to mention a community of friends all around the world. IPSA members should be actively promoting IAPSS to their students to ensure that they are aware of what IAPSS offers and can exercise their democratic rights within IAPSS' decision-making structures.

Can you give us an idea of your educational background and research interests?

I have a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and history from the University of Ottawa and a Master's degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto. I will be returning to the University of Toronto in September to start a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Policy to specialize more towards my main research interest, the study of student government, which blends Political Science and the study of education.

What are your priorities and projects as IAPSS President?

We need to make sure that all Political Science students are actively involved and participate in IAPSS' democratic processes. The 21st century has so far been a period of student government fragmentation, retrenchment and collapse around the world, so we are trying to work against this global trend and defy the odds. My main priorities have involved forming long-term partnerships with local and national political science student associations and political science departments to ensure that IAPSS can grow its involvement and sustain such growth for years and decades to come.

We have also been building alliances and networks with other student governments and non-governmental organizations to further boost involvement, provide IAPSS members with more information about relevant opportunities, increase IAPSS' global reach, continuously improve the quality of IAPSS' events and initiatives, as well as open the doors to additional funding opportunities.

One notable initiative is that IAPSS has taken a leading role in forming a coalition of other student governments from around the world to discuss the possibility of forming a Global Student Government to represent all students of all subjects to replace the void left by the fall of the International Union of Students in the early 2000s.

Why is it important that students learn about Political Science and get involved in politics?

As IPSA members are likely aware, practicing good politics keeps us out of the clutches of autocracy. I like to view politics as the art of working together since the better we are at making decisions collectively, the greater our accomplishments will be. Political Science is particularly important because studying politics is a key part of helping to improve how we work together. There is still so much research that needs to be done to provide insights to improve levels of government and politics that have been left to the wayside and to help alleviate the many policy issues of our time. It is, therefore, more important that today's Political Science students are well-equipped to become capable researchers and political actors not only tomorrow but also right now in their own time as students. This is precisely IAPSS' mission.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education and academic events forever. How is IAPSS dealing with the negative effects of the pandemic?

IAPSS has been able to make a relatively easy transition to online event formats. We have found that this has allowed us to make our events more accessible to students around the world, especially those who cannot afford to travel to in-person events. The online format also preserves our events so students in future years can benefit from the content we are creating now. In other words, every event we hold online becomes an educational resource that can help students learn. I would go so far as to say that in terms of research on student perspectives and Political Science education, our online events could be more easily cited and used as case study examples for academic discourse on Political Science education and other topics specific to the events' themes.

For instance, IAPSS Asia recently organized a panel discussion on student politics in Asia where student leaders and academics shared valuable information about student governments being banned in Pakistan and Afghanistan and how it has affected current student initiatives. Even when we can go back to having in-person events, I hope that IAPSS will be able to have a simultaneous online component so that students who are unable to attend in person can still participate remotely, and so IAPSS can develop its in-person events into online resources for future students.

So far, our online events have been free for students to participate but we are considering ways to keep IAPSS revenue at sustainable levels for our larger conferences planned for 2021 and are re-evaluating how we can make participants' experience well-worth the ticket fee. The pandemic has been a sort of wakeup call for IAPSS since it has taught us that we cannot rely on events as a guaranteed revenue source, so we are exploring ways to diversify our revenue streams and see what additional opportunities we can offer Political Science students.

Can you tell us more about upcoming IAPSS events?

The IAPSS regions (IAPSS Africa, IAPSS Asia, IAPSS Europe, IAPSS Latin America and the Caribbean, IAPSS Oceania, and IAPSS USA and Canada) are producing a fairly regular stream of online events and content that Political Science students can access via IAPSS and IAPSS regions' respective social media accounts (facebook.com/iapss and twitter.com/iapss are good places to start), or by signing up to become IAPSS members. The 2020 IAPSS World Congress was postponed due to COVID-19 and will likely take place in 2021 in an online format. 

Finally, do you have a message for Political Science students on todays' UN International Youth Day?

Political Science students are needed more than ever to get involved in organizations like IAPSS and work to ensure that students continue to have a voice at campus, national, continental and global levels.

If you are not yet signed up as an official IAPSS member with voting rights, please do so as soon as possible so you can take part in our elections and contribute to our policy proposals to improve political science education. If your campus Political Science student association or Political Science department is not affiliated with IAPSS, encourage them to reach out to us so we can ensure that their students have democratic rights within our organization.

We, as Political Science students, have much to offer each other and our fellow students in other fields. Together, we can make a brighter future for youth and students around the world not just after we graduate but also right now by contributing our unique student perspectives to education policy discourse.