I am just beginning my year as President of Psi Chi, and I’m excited at the prospect of some major developments opening up for the organization this coming year. One of the biggest changes will be the development of a new Psi Chi website to allow access to more information in an easier to navigate format. In addition, you will see the membership application process shift from faculty data entry to online application by prospective students, interactive features within each region, and continual improvement of online submissions for awards and grants.
But it is the development of some other new initiatives that I want to highlight here to support one of the most important experiences you can gain during your time in college. Sure, everyone tells you to "get involved,” and most of you, by dint of being a Psi Chi member, likely already fall into the "well-connected” category.
There is, however, an increasing truism about best preparing for any career involving the application of psychology: you must gain some form of research or internship experience (e.g., Giordano, Davis, & Licht, 2012; Wegenek & Buskist, 2010). Taking classes is not enough to cultivate the variety of skills you will need for the specific research or practitioner environs to which you may aspire.
Psychology is a contact sport. You must directly, viscerally encounter the specific settings in which psychology is studied and applied in order to a) acquire helpful research- or practitioner-related skills that future graduate programs and employers will value, and, equally importantly, b) assess early enough in your student career whether or not these psychology-relevant experiences are a "good fit” for your own career goals. In other words, fully immerse yourself in these experiences in order to appreciate the challenges and demands of being a researcher and/or practitioner. If that feels enlightening and exciting, go forward; if not, speak with an advisor immediately to re-evaluate your career course.
Where does Psi Chi fit into this process? Everywhere. One of the central goals of Psi Chi (in addition, of course, to honoring your excellent progress in your psychology work) is to provide monetary support to help our members conduct research and present that research at conferences.
With respect to research support, Psi Chi offers a number of awards and grants (see HERE for a quick overview) that help fund specific research projects, summer research experiences, and research and practitioner-related internship opportunities.
What if research opportunities on your campus are limited? One option is to contact area research institutions. This could include other colleges and universities, as well as hospitals, clinics, government-run health agencies, and sometimes even private industries that may have in-house research divisions.
More persistent students, who are often more assertive about their education, will take the initiative to find out about these off-campus opportunities. There is no rulebook here other than conducting yourself as a professional as you seek out these experiences.
In addition, Psi Chi is working to help provide some online research opportunities that would allow our members to collect data at their own campuses for larger projects being conducted at multiple sites. Some of these projects may also offer publication opportunities for participating researchers. As one example, our Western Regional Vice-President, Jon Grahe, is currently working with Psi Beta (the psychology honor society for community college students) to develop an online National Research Project. Details on this project were included in regional vice-presidents’ fall 2012 letters, and more will be sent to Psi Chi members in coming weeks.
With respect to presenting your research, Psi Chi in recent years has made special efforts to listen to its members and has been increasing the number and variety of travel grants to psychology conferences. Regional travel grants help with costs associated with attending and presenting at any of the six regional psychology conventions. More of our members attend these conventions than any other type of conference. Deadlines for these grants vary by region. Check HERE for details on your region’s travel grants.
In addition, Psi Chi recognizes that there are many other more specialized conferences that our members would like to attend. Some of these hosted by the Society for Research in Child Development, the Psychonomics Society, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and a large number of other research- and practitioneroriented conferences. To help our members attend these conferences, we have made available our new Unrestricted Travel Grant; details are available HERE.
Going forward, in line with Psi Chi’s continuing expansion as an international society, we will be working to increase support for international and cross-cultural research opportunities. Look for invitations to connect with Psi Chi’s international chapters and students in a variety of ways in the coming year.
We continually seek your input, and I hope that during the coming year I will have the opportunity to help shepherd many new initiatives into fruition that directly influence the professional growth of our members. Here’s to a promising year!
Giordano, P. J., Davis, S. F., & Licht, C. A. (2012). Your graduate training in psychology: Effective strategies for success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Wegenek, A. R., & Buskist, W. (2010). The insider’s guide to the psychology major: Everything you need to know about the degree and the profession. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.