Interviewer: Tobi, you are currently the President of IAPSS. What are your key goals for IAPSS that you want to reach in your role as President?
Tobi: IAPSS should become a global network. But how? This has always been the question for us. Almost a year ago, we launched the Regionalisation Project which has become one of our key projects in IAPSS. In each region, we are working to reach out to political science students in a more sensitive and inclusive way through regional events, fundraising initiatives, and partnerships that would benefit everyone. Furthermore, building a global and federal vision of a political science community means using the advantages of the digital era to create a multilateral, democratic network. In doing so, more and more students around the world are becoming aware and able to access already-existing programs that we offer for students. For example, every student in the field has the opportunity to publish in our journals and blog.
Interviewer: What’s the greatest challenge you are facing?
Tobi: Becoming proactive to diversify the organisation’s structure is among the most demanding parts of my job. However, I try to incentivise bottom-up decision making processes and helped developing the regionalisation initiative. Only if the organisation develops a profoundly democratic, competitive, and sustainable environment, in which ideas and not people matter, our team will be successful. That’s what we are all working on every day. IAPSS is not about the individual, but the continuous vision to build a community of political science students. In the long run, all of us working with IAPSS will be measured by how many new critical thinkers, leaders, and voices we empower. Therefore it is important that everyone in the organisation is empowered and that noone is taking up too much space or power in the organisation. I guess that finding such a balance is a challenge for all organisations. And it’s for sure an exciting one!
Interviewer: When did you realise that you would like to take an active role in IAPSS?
Tobi: It all started in 2013, when a friend of mine introduced me to the idea of an international student community. In the beginning, I was just a member and waited for my first opportunity to participate in one of its events. However, I followed the organisation quite actively and found it remarkable that everybody at IAPSS wanted to build new bridges and bring students together.
Interviewer: Do you have a special memory regarding your first activities with IAPSS?
Tobi: Yes! A great example was the Summer School in Kiev 2016, which ran under the theme “Ukraine between the East and West.” We were around 25 students from all around Europe, including Russia, discussing the state of Ukrainian politics. I have never experienced such a challenging and at the same time interesting debate with students from so many different backgrounds. That is how I decided to play a more active role in IAPSS. Afterwards, I went to the World Congress in Budapest in 2017, where I experienced the same atmosphere. I love the idea of the IAPSS World Congress. It’s my favorite event.
Interviewer: What is special about it? Is there something you like most about it??
Tobi: The entire atmosphere is fascinating to me. You gather with over a hundred students from so many different countries. Everyone has a different academic interest: some may be aiming for an academic career, while others aspire to become activists or work for public service. Despite the variety of interests and focuses of participants, it is the open-minded character of participants and the will to critically discuss that makes the World Congress special.
Interviewer: You sound like a busy man. What are you doing when you’re not studying or working for IAPSS?
Tobi: I love cooking for my friends and read as much as I can. But there is nothing better than long nights with a friend, a stout and some political debates.
Interviewer: Finally. Now that you have been active in IAPSS for roughly 3 years: what do you think is the best thing about IAPSS?
Tobi: Personally speaking, it’s the sheer range of experiences, stories and friends that I like most about our association. In a world that gets more and more complex and where information and facts are increasingly subject to manipulation, it’s getting harder to maintain the overview on what happens. We, the students, can contribute to a more informed and fact-based analysis. One example for this are the previous elections in France. The moment Macron was announced President of the French Republic, we went live online on Facebook and one of our active members from a well-known university in Paris offered a Q&A which lasted around an hour. Thousands of young people around the world joined and asked their questions. This was amazing and showed what a powerful contribution we could make.
Interviewer: Thank you for your time and for sharing your insights and experiences with us today!
Tobi: It was a great pleasure. Looking forward to seeing you in Madrid!
Tobi (Tobias Scholz, 26) is President of the International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS) since November 2018. Tobi is a Master Candidate in International Relations at Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt Universität as well as Universität Potsdam.