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The political science department confers three undergraduate awards and one faculty award annually, each named after a distinguished political scientist.

Avery Leiserson Award

The department bestows the Avery Leiserson Award for the best undergraduate paper in political science, which offers a $500 prize, a plaque for the recipient, and a special inscription on the department’s plaque honoring recipients of this award. The award is named for the late Avery Leiserson, Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science Emeritus and a former President of the American Political Science Association.

Alexander Heard Award

The Alexander Heard Award is given to the graduating senior with the highest overall GPA among political science majors. The award includes a $500 prize, as well as a commemorative plaque for the recipient. The department reminds itself of honorees receiving this award, created in honor of political scientist and Vanderbilt University Chancellor Emeritus Alexander Heard, with inscription on its own plaque, proudly displayed in the department office.

James Lee Ray Award

The James Lee Ray Award is given to a senior political science major who exemplifies outstanding service and leadership within the Political Science department and the university. It confers a $500 prize, as well as a commemorative plaque for the recipient. The award is named in honor of Professor Emeritus James Lee Ray who served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies from 2000–2013.

Robert H. Birkby Award

The Robert H. Birkby Award is awarded to a Vanderbilt University professor of political science who exemplifies excellence in teaching marked by a commitment to inspiring undergraduate students in their pursuit for intellectual growth in the field of political science. This quality is often measured by a professor’s accessibility to students, passion for his or her field, and dedication to strengthening the undergraduate political science program. The recipient is chosen by the Undergraduate Political Science Association. Beginning in 2002, the Professor Robert H. Birkby Award was presented every two years. Starting in 2017, the award became annual. Starting in 2021, two award winners are selected each year, one an untenured or non-tenure track professor, and one a tenured professor. It is accompanied by a monetary reward of $1,500 and a commemorative plaque. The award winner’s name is added to the department plaque for ongoing recognition. The award is named after Emeritus Professor Robert H. Birkby.

The professors who have been recognized with the Robert H. Birkby Award are:

2024 John Dearborn and Alan E. Wiseman

2023 Katherine Carroll and David E. Lewis

2022 W. James Booth and Carrie Archie Russell

2021 Joshua D. Clinton and Keith Weghorst

2020 Charles Lesch

2019 Allison Anoll

2018 Suzanne Globetti

2017 Carrie Archie Russell

2016 Giacomo Chiozza

2014 David E. Lewis

2012 Emily C. Nacol

2010 Jonathan Hiskey

2008 Stefanie Lindquist

2006 Marc J. Hetherington