One of the purposes of PSA, according to its Articles of Incorporation, is "to stimulate scholarship and intelligent interest in political science." PSA includes over 460 chapters nationwide. Umbanhowar is one of only three advisors chosen to receive the award, which includes a $1,000 cash prize.
Umbanhowar served as PSA advisor from 1997-1999 and again for the last three years. "The good thing about this," he said, "is that it draws attention to the program."
The chapter advisor links the student members with the national organization, and, according to the national web site, is "key to the success of the chapter and the level of benefit students are able to derive from membership in it." Among other things, the advisor oversees chapter finances, helps organize special events and signs grant proposals.
Professor Umbanhowar believes in the importance of letting students take the initiative. "For them to take charge with minimum direction gives them the responsibility and helps them develop." He suggests that perhaps he was honored with this award because "I got out of their way."
Dan Hofrenning, political science department chair, nominated Umbanhowar for the award and recognized the significance of this approach. In his nomination letter, Hofrenning wrote of Umbanhowar, "For the most part, he stayed in the background and the students did much of the work. His genius was knowing precisely when to get more involved. The result was a consistent level of strong programming in which our student leaders had a strong sense of ownership."
Associate Political Science Professor and current PSA advisor Kris Thalhammer credits Umbanhowar with "making sure that the Pi Sigma Alpha students know what opportunities are available and helping them find the funding and make the connection to make them happen."
PSA Student President Alex Hontos 04 describes Umbanhowar as "extremely dedicated to student achievement and scholarship. Professor Umbanhowar deserves this honor as a tribute to his dedication and many years of service to the discipline of political science."
St. Olafs PSA chapter was established in 1984 and involves about 20 junior and senior political science majors. Members attend events such as lunches with faculty members, social gatherings and parties, and movies involving political themes. One of the highlights of the year occurs when PSA invites speakers to campus in the spring. Last year, the current US Attorney for Minnesota Tom Heffelfinger and the former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota David Lillehaug spoke on "Civil Liberties in Wartime." This years plans are still in the making.
Umbanhowar completed his undergraduate work at Cornell University and his graduate studies at the University of Chicago. Before joining the St. Olaf faculty in 1978, Umbanhowar taught at both Idaho State and Syracuse University. He teaches classes in constitutional law, American political thought and the history of political philosophy. He plans to retire in December.
According to Hofrenning, Umbanhowars "exemplary advising is of course no surprise to those of us who have known him as a colleague. He is a person of the most outstanding intellectual and personal characteristics."