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Eye on Psi Chi: Summer 2008

Psi Chi in 2058
Vincent Prohaska, PhD, Psi Chi National President
Lehman College, CUNY

What will Psi Chi be like 50 years from now? Let me start with a BIG DISCLAIMER: There is only one sure thing about predicting the future—and that is the predictions are going to be ridiculously wrong. So with that fact firmly in mind, I’ll continue to speculate anyway.

In 2058, the field of psychology will be huge and even more popular than it is today. As a result of the success of "giving psychology away,” more people will come to understand the reasons behind their actions. Fewer people will fall victim to advertising, more people will make better relationship judgments, and everyone will get along better with their parents. Subfields such as forensic and social-cognitive psychology will change the legal and penal systems to make them fairer and more focused on successful rehabilitations and will change people’s attitudes leading to real successes in combating problems of ethnic/religious divisions, poverty, and disenfranchisement. Clinical psychologists will successfully treat, and actively prevent, most of the disorders in today’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Psychology will become an interdisciplinary field and make significant contributions in several other domains. On college campuses, psychology will be the most popular academic major.

In parallel to psychology, Psi Chi also will become huge. It will have the largest membership of any honor society in the world with chapters in all colleges and universities within the U.S., and in many if not most, colleges and universities throughout the world. Psi Chi will accomplish this growth because it will manage to solve several key problems that currently limit its growth.
  1. The "Elite Institutions” Problem. Today, some institutions refuse to establish Psi Chi chapters because of its requirement that only the top 35% of each class is eligible for membership. These institutions feel that all of the students they admit are carefully screened before admission. Those admitted are then taught by highly qualified faculty who hold them to extremely high standards. The fact that average GPAs at such institutions tend to be high (in the B+/Arange) is an indication of the high levels of competency of their carefully selected students. Therefore, all of their students should be seen as "honor” students and should be allowed to join Psi Chi, as long as they maintain a "respectable” GPA at their institution. I think they have a point. In my time on Council, I’ve seen institutions whose 35% cutoff is around 3.7. It does seem odd to tell a student with a 3.6 GPA that her GPA is too low to join Psi Chi. The solution to this problem that Psi Chi develops in the future will be clever indeed, because it will manage to cure this problem while also addressing the second problem.
  2. "Low Standards” Institutions. To continue to be a reputable honor society, Psi Chi must maintain high standards of excellence. Increasingly, however, GPA seems to be a less valuable indicator of excellence. When the average grade at an institution hovers in the B+/A- range or even higher, how is excellence to be determined? Similarly it always seemed to me that our requirements for graduate students were based, in part, on the difficulty of gaining admission to psychology graduate programs. But now there are programs, even some unaccredited doctoral programs in clinical psychology, that admit everyone who applies. In the future, Psi Chi will figure out how to adjust requirements accordingly to preserve its commitment to excellence.
  3. The Problem of Curriculum. Another factor that keeps some institutions from establishing Psi Chi chapters is Psi Chi’s insistence that courses in statistics and research methodology be required of all majors and graduate students. Some institutions simply don’t have the faculty resources to offer such courses to all their students. But others do not see psychology as a science that requires such skills. Fortunately, future Psi Chi will not have to solve this issue by itself. Psi Chi will collaborate with other psychology organizations that focus on the psychology curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The curricular and instructional reforms most psychology departments will adopt in the period from 2010 to 2020 will solidify the importance of science in the psychology curriculum. Psi Chi will play a major role in these reforms.
  4. Globalization. Not only will future Psi Chi be able to solve the first three difficult problems within the U.S., but Psi Chi will expand from being the National Honor Society in Psychology to being an International Honor Society in Psychology by solving a host of additional problems that global expansion presented. For example, is it appropriate to expand the U.S. concept of honor societies to other countries that do not have them or may even have philosophical objections to them? How does Psi Chi determine eligibility criteria in countries where grades and GPAs are not used, or are used but have very different meanings than they have in the U.S.?
But Psi Chi’s growth by 2058 will not only be the result of adding new chapters. Psi Chi will stay meaningful because it will find new and creative ways to achieve several important goals.
  1. Make Membership Truly Lifetime. In the early 21st century, the concept of a lifetime membership in Psi Chi is fairly meaningless. Many members are inducted as undergraduate students, often in their last semester, and never use Psi Chi for more than a line on their resumes. A small percentage of students go on to graduate programs in psychology but rarely interact with the "undergraduate” chapters at their new institutions. Psi Chi started to reach beyond undergraduates very early in the 21st Century by developing grants and awards for graduate students. In the future, Psi Chi will develop grants for faculty who are members and also develop benefits for members who go on to careers outside of psychology
  2. Use Technology. Psi Chi became a leader in using new technologies to stay in contact with its members. Late in the 20th Century, its magazine Eye On Psi Chi was called "the best magazine nobody reads.” Boxes of issues, sometimes unopened boxes of issues, could be found in the offices of chapter faculty advisors. As technology reduces the need for printing mass quantities of issues and eliminates the costs of mailing, the Eye will see a wider dissemination. Articles of interest to adult members who are not working in psychology will begin to appear, leading to a much larger readership. Technology will also allow members to meet and interact with other members as their careers move them from place to place and job to job—including international moves.
  3. Resist Fractionalization. In the late 20th and early 21st century, it sometimes seemed as if psychology was coming apart at the seams. First, there was the separation of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association for Psychological Science (APS). Then general organizations, such as APA and APS along with the regional psychological associations (e.g., EPA, MPA, etc.) began losing membership as faculty and students joined smaller organizations that better reflected their subspecialties and/or focused on their specific affinities. In contrast, Psi Chi will successfully lead the charge against such a fractioning of its field. Psi Chi will be the organization that continually and forcefully reminds everyone of the value of integration and of the importance of the cross-fertilization of ideas and research paradigms.
  4. Adjust Its Governance. Although it will experience tremendous growth in size, Psi Chi will never outgrow its strong connections to its chapters. Its national governance structure, originally based simply on geography, will evolve to reflect the differing needs of its constituencies and programs. New vice-president positions will be created to address programmatic needs in such areas as chapter development, leadership, finance, public relations, and diversity. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Psi Chi’s National Council started to think and act proactively on key issues to prepare foundations. But they didn’t do it alone. They sought and received input and involvement from the membership at all levels—from past-presidents through members of regional steering committees, to chapter faculty advisors and student officers. With all that help, Psi Chi will address and solve very difficult questions concerning what chapters should be, how chapters can maintain vitality, and how the society can better address the needs of its membership.
Of course, remember, everything I’ve just written is a fantasy, just my ridiculous version of the future. Or is it? What I know for sure is that the future of Psi Chi is up to you—our current student members and junior faculty advisors. You, much more than I, are going to determine whether Psi Chi successfully solves the real problems it will face over the next 50 years. So as I end my term as National President, I wish you terrific success as you lead Psi Chi into the future.

Vincent Prohaska, PhD, has been the faculty advisor to the Lehman College, CUNY, Chapter since 1991. During that time, his chapter has grown in size and activity, culminating in receiving a Regional Chapter Award in 2000 and the Cousins National Chapter Award in 2001. After serving on the Eastern Regional Steering Committee under two different Vice-Presidents, Dr. Prohaska was elected Eastern Regional Vice-President, 2003-05. He chaired a workshop on Recognizing Faculty Excellence at the first Psi Chi Miniconvention in 1995.

Dr. Prohaska and his students have contributed to several workshops and panels at Psi Chi regional and national convention programs. He has served as a reviewer for the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research and the Psi Chi/Allyn & Bacon Psychology Awards, and has contributed two articles for Eye on Psi Chi. Dr. Prohaska received a Regional Faculty Advisor Award in 2000, and the Florence Denmark National Faculty Advisor Award in 2001.


Copyright 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 4) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology



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