Purpose of the Competition

This competition provides students a meaningful use of applied and clinical skills to solve a real problem faced by an agency or organization. In addition to building problem solving skills, this exercise provides students with experience in teamwork and time management, and serves as a valuable networking opportunity for the next generation of practicing sociologists.

Team Composition

Teams consist of 2 to 4 students and a faculty sponsor. More than one team can be entered into the competition from any given school. A faculty sponsor may sponsor more than one team.

Submission for Participation

The faculty sponsor should complete the online CPSC submission form “CPSC 2018” available on the AACS website. Please note deadlines are the same as the deadlines for regular submission.

Competition Process

The coordinator will provide faculty sponsors with the statement of the problem and the name of the participating agency or organization one week before the conference. After receiving this information, the students may research the organization online but should not communicate with the organization at this time. Please send questions to the coordinator.

A representative of the participating agency or organization will present the problem to the student teams at the conference on Thursday, during an afternoon session of the conference. All students must attend this session and stay for the entire session.

The organization representative will introduce students to the organization, describing the organization’s history, goals, leadership, and needs. Sometimes this may include a site visit. The rubric used by judges will be provided to teams for guidance. There will time for questions and answers at this session.

On the last day of the conference, the teams will reconvene to present their solutions to an adjudicating body of AACS members acting as judges and the representative of the agency or organization. Usually, this is done during the afternoon time slots. Each team will have at least 20 minutes for the presentation, and should allow about 5 minutes for questions.

All teams should turn in their power point/video presentation, one-page executive summary, and handouts (if included) to the coordinator before the presentation session. This can be done via email or in person up to 10 minutes before the session begins. After these are turned in, the presentation cannot be changed. All team members should remain in the meeting room during the presentations and should not leave together as a team until all presentations are finished.

The judging panel will meet directly following the presentations. The winning team chosen by the judging panel will be announced at the end of the General Membership Meeting directly following the final session of the conference. The CPSC coordinator will collect the rubrics and comments from the judges, a summary of which will be emailed to the faculty sponsor shortly after the conference.

A plaque naming the winning teams will be sent to the faculty coordinator of the team winning the CPSC award. All team members participating in the CPSC will receive a certificate of participation signed by the AACS President.

Solving the Problem                                     

Students are encouraged to use all resources available to them for solving the problem including attending relevant conference sessions, seeking out conference attendees with expertise in the area of the problem, and, of course, the Internet. The Friday and Saturday sit-down lunches provide excellent opportunities for conversations with experts who may provide insight into possible solutions.

Students may arrange a visit to the community agency or organization but this is not a requirement and the organization representative does not need to comply. Sometimes a site-visit might interrupt a busy schedule, so students are advised to be considerate. They are also strongly encouraged to be creative in both their approach to the problem and in their solution.

The solution they present to the adjudicating panel of judges should be framed as a professional (oral) report to the client agency enhanced with a power point or video presentation and a printed one-page executive summary (single spaced, 12-point font size, one-inch margins). The team may include paper handouts but should not incur any additional expenses for materials. For example, fancy bound manuals or promotional materials are not permitted. Although we understand that these might be valuable in a real-world situation, we do not want students to take on an additional financial burden for the competition.

Role of Faculty Sponsor

Faculty sponsors are guides but not active members of the problem solving team. They may review the AACS program with their team, discuss the relevance of specific sessions or papers, and provide suggestions as to which conference attendees may prove helpful to their team. They may answer questions and help the students organize their teams (e.g., who will play what role) but they are not to direct the team’s research or solution. Lastly, they may act as a presentation editor but the students must be able to clearly articulate their solution on their own. Faculty sponsors should not talk or advise their team during the presentation session. We ask that all faculty mentors adhere to this rule so that the competition can be as fair as possible. Students are competing and not faculty mentors. Faculty should refer students to talk with other attendees.

Roles of the Coordinator and Organization Representative

The coordinator recruits the teams, identifies the participating organization, and organizes the sessions. The coordinator will moderate all sessions to be sure that there is time for questions and answers in the first session and that all teams have equal time in the solution sessions. The coordinator will be available via email, text or phone for any communication needs between students and the agency representative.

After the presentation of the problem in the Thursday session, the representative will answer questions from the group in person. Please contact the coordinator with your questions after the Thursday session. The coordinator will remain in contact with the organization representative via email and phone as needed. The questions should be specific to the nonprofit and should be about information that cannot be found online. This is not a way to “beta test” your solution. The coordinator might let students know that instead of requiring a response from the representative, the team can research their question online.

Roles of Adjudication Panel

The adjudication panel should attend all CPSC sessions. The representative will also be part of the panel that adjudicates the proposed solutions to the problem on Saturday afternoon. The representative will not vote on the CPSC winner but will choose the team who is awarded the “Client’s Choice.” The coordinator is not a judge but will act as a moderator during the adjudication process.

The coordinator and the judges should not be consulted by students during the competition regarding the solution. Similar to the faculty mentor, they can point them to others at the conference who might be helpful in answering their questions.

The representative and the adjudication panel (judges) listen to all the presentations, ranking the solutions on a series of criteria itemized on the same rubric that students received on Thursday. The coordinator will collect the written comments at the end of the adjudication and compile a summary to send to faculty sponsors after the conference. The CPSC coordinator will present the names and schools of the winning team and “Client’s Choice” team to the AACS President at the end of the General Membership Meeting. Participating students and faculty sponsors are advised to attend the meeting.

 Evaluation and Specific Criteria:

Guided by the evaluation and specific rubric criteria, students should be judged on their ability to make the more theoretical pieces fully understandable to a broad audience—a true challenge to good applied and community-based work.

AREA 1: Sociological Theory, Analysis, and Writing  

o   Review of relevant sociological literature related to the exercise topic

o   Clarity of analysis and organization of ideas

o   Integration of theory and methods

o   Use of applied and/or clinical social research methods

o   Ability to summarize the report in the executive summary

AREA 2: Practical Implementation

o   Coverage of the questions described in the problem-solving description

o   Feasibility of a plan of action

o   Creativity in addressing questions

o   Discussion of limitations. (e.g., costs or time constraints)

o   Overall quality of the report design and presentation