Last fall we celebrated the 70th anniversary of Psi Chi's founding, and now find ourselves at the beginning of a new year, one that coincides not only with the beginning of a new century, but with the beginning of Psi Chi's next 70 years.
If you dreamed about Psi Chi's future, what would it be like? And how would you go about "planting trees" to make some of those dreams into realities? For the first President's Message of the new year, I thought I'd write a synopsis of the way in which the hopes, dreams, and successful "plantings" in the recent past by members of the National Council and our executive officers have led to Psi Chi's present. Then I'd like to talk about some of our dreams and plans for the future, and the important role you're going to play in those plans (so hang in there to the end of this article!).
By 1990, under the visionary leadership of Ruth Cousins, our longest serving executive officer, and the guidance of numerous National Council members, Psi Chi had grown in size to more than 700 chapters and had inducted 200,000 lifetime members. Ruth and the National Council showed astute financial planning during the difficult economic period of the '80s. This, coupled with a focus on increasing the number of Psi Chi members and chapters and strengthening our programs, meant that upon Ruth's retirement in 1991, the new National Council members and newly appointed executive officer, Kay Wilson, became stewards of an organization that was financially stable, large, and vibrant.
In 1994, the National Council held what its members referred to as "visioning sessions," meetings to articulate their hopes and dreams for Psi Chi's future and to engage in strategic planning to achieve those goals. What emerged from those meetings and others following it charted a large part of Psi Chi's course through the '90s, including: the establishment of the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research; the establishment of numerous awards and grants programs, including the Regional Research Awards for outstanding student papers presented at regional conferences, the Thelma Hunt Research Awards, the Undergraduate Research Grants, and the Faculty Advisor Research Grants; the establishment of a National Service Project; adding Psi Chi Distinguished Speakers and hospitality suites at regional conferences; expanding the newsletter to a four-color magazine, Eye on Psi Chi; and establishing and maintaining the Psi Chi website (www.psichi.org).
During the 1997 midwinter meeting, National Council members took stock of the new and expanded programs and services in light of the Psi Chi mission. While generally delighted with the new initiatives and eager to plan for more, Executive Officer Kay Wilson and other Council members realized that we needed to expand our organizational structure and office staff to support these programs. Since that time, we have hired additional staff to assist the expanded responsibilities of the Psi Chi National Office and have created regional steering committees. The regional steering committees are comprised of Psi Chi faculty advisors, and graduate and undergraduate students from the region. The steering committee members assist the vice-presidents in reviewing papers submitted for Psi Chi's largest award program, the Regional Research Awards, as well as other award and grant submissions, and assist in developing and moderating the Psi Chi program at each of the regional conventions.
Council members agreed that an important but unrealized goal was to find ways to more directly involve you, our student members, in the decision-making process. Now there are three ways that students contribute their ideas to the decision-making process in Psi Chi: through participation in the annual business meeting held during the Psi Chi miniconventions, by serving on the regional steering committees, and by responses to surveys distributed at the regional conventions and those published in the Eye on Psi Chi. Although this involvement has improved the communication between the National Council and Psi Chi student members, I believe that we need to expand the opportunities to hear from more of you.
A key reason that we need to tap your ideas about Psi Chi's future has to do with the size of our current student membership. I'll borrow from popular culture and compare Psi Chi's growth through the '90s to the Energizer Bunny: it kept on growing, and growing, and growing. Just as the number of psychology majors in colleges and universities increased across the country (as a major, psychology is second only to business administration), the number of students inducted into Psi Chi each year has doubled in the last 10 years. For example, while in 1989 approximately 10,000 new Psi Chi members were inducted into 678 existing chapters, in 1999 approximately 20,000 new Psi Chi members were inducted into the present 960 chapters, with an estimated 30,000+ active undergraduate student members.
Given our sheer size and the fact that students are dispersed across the country, how do we include you and your ideas in planning for Psi Chi's future? How do we find out whether your interests are in more and larger award programs, or the creation of summer career internships or research experiences? Or travel grant programs for students to attend regional and national psychology conferences? Or leadership training programs for chapter officers? And in how you would like to stay involved in Psi Chi after graduation?
Thinking for a moment like a psychologist, I'd say these are empirical questions. We need to find out how to involve you and to incorporate your ideas in our next round of future planning. There are lots of possibilities: conducting focus group interviews with small groups of students at the regional and national conventions, contacting you individually by phone or by mail surveys, using our recently established e-mail connections with each chapter, etc.
Although the National Council will have met in January, shortly before you receive this magazine, please know that our recent cycle of discussions on "planting" for the future has just begun. We need and will be seeking your input. I look forward with enthusiasm to hearing your ideas and working with you throughout the year as we plan for Psi Chi and its role in your future.