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Eye on Psi Chi: Spring 2009

Starting Your Career: Jump-Starting Your Chapter
Scott VanderStoep, PhD, Psi Chi National President, Hope College (MI)

In the last issue of the Eye, I noted that I would discuss career opportunities in this issue. I would like to fold together a discussion of career opportunities with a discussion about maintaining an active Psi Chi chapter. On the surface, these two ideas seem disconnected, but I propose that thinking about your career and breathing life into your local chapter can be mutually reinforcing activities. This argument is based on two premises: First, you (and every Psi Chi member) need career guidance. Second, every chapter can improve its functioning. I will propose three sets of activities that can assist you in both career-building and chapter-building.

Networking. I find the word networking to be cliché. But in this case, it is appropriate. There is little doubt that gaining successful employment involves connecting in your field. This is true regardless of the type of work one pursues. So networking is important and you should try to do it. You can begin by building your professional networks through activities of your local chapter. Consider three examples: First, your local chapter could reach out to local professional communities such as counseling and clinical psychologists, hospital personnel, social workers, or marriage therapists. But do not overlook other fields in which Psi Chi members might have interests, such as human resources, financial services, research and assessment, and civil service. Once members of your local chapter make connections with these professionals, invite them to your campus. I have served as chapter advisor for 14 years at three different institutions, and during that time my students and I never had anyone turn down an invitation to address our chapter. Occasionally, we have offered a small honorarium for their time, but most of these folks will speak for free. Inviting speakers to campus is a great way to network.

Second, schedule field trips and other off-campus events that can provide opportunities to view organizational settings and develop professional relationships. A field trip can provide more time to dialog with members of a professional community and to see first-hand how an organization operates. Third, Psi Chi offers internship opportunities for its members. Specifically, internships at APS, APA, and the FBI provide fabulous work experience and a chance to weave yourself into a professional organization. The Psi Chi website has application and deadline information for these placements at www.psichi.org/awards/research_ grants.aspx.

Skill-Building. In addition to networking, your local chapter can sponsor activities that will make you more attractive to employers. Your local chapter can sponsor GRE preparation workshops and study groups, résumé lock-ins, or a reading club in which chapter members read and discuss articles from the Eye or other readings. If you are technologically inclined, you could offer to build your chapter’s website (and then submit it for the Website Award at www.psichi.org/awards/chptr_awards2.aspx). All of these activities make you more marketable and enhance the functioning of your chapter.

Leadership. In January, Psi Chi held its second biennial National Leadership Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. It was fabulous! I am grateful to many people for making this event so successful: the National Office staff (led by Lisa Mantooth), Martha Zlokovich, Vincent Prohaska, Kate Marsland, Ken Weaver, Regan Gerung, and Susan Krauss Whitborne. The conference touched many students. But the National Council believes that we can reach many more students with a change to Psi Chi’s Constitution. Currently, the Psi Chi Constitution requires that the National Leadership Conference take place in the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee (home of the National Office), and that it must occur in January. The Constitution also only allows chapter presidents to attend. The National Council is extremely eager to extend leadership opportunities to more students, in more locations, and during different times of the year. The only way Psi Chi can do this is to remove these requirements from the Constitution. The National Council voted unanimously to bring this constitutional amendment to the chapters. A change in the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of chapters. So I encourage you to go to the Psi Chi website and vote in favor of removing the National Leadership Conference from the Psi Chi Constitution. This will allow Psi Chi to offer leadership opportunities to more members in more places. In addition to enhancing your own leadership skills at events like this, the leadership training that you acquire can be taken back to your local chapter to enhance its vitality.

Psi Chi is about chapters. Psi Chi is only as good as the chapters it sponsors. And chapters are only as good as the members whom they induct. By using your local chapter to develop your professional skills, you will be simultaneously building your own professional credentials and helping your chapter to stay vital and meaningful to its members.


Scott VanderStoep, PhD, previously served as Midwest Region Psi Chi Vice-President from 2002-06. His education journey began in the same place where he currently work—Hope College—and where he is associate professor and department chair. After graduating from Hope, he earned his MA from the University of Illinois and his PhD from the University of Michigan. He began teaching full-time in 1993, and has taught at Northwestern College (IA), Calvin College (MI), and in 1999, he returned to his alma mater. He chartered Psi Chi chapters at Northwestern and Calvin and is currently chapter advisor at Hope—the same chapter that inducted him into Psi Chi 21 years ago. In his 14 years of college teaching, he has taught introductory, developmental, social, cognitive, industrial/organization, research lab, psychology of religion, and advanced data analysis. He is married to Jill VanderStoep, a statistics instructor, and has three children—an 8th-grader and twin 4th-graders. In his spare time, he officiates basket-ball ()this past season he officiated 31 small-college games in Michigan and Indiana, pitches fastpitch softball, and serves on the local school board.


Copyright 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 3) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology



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Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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