What would your goals be if you were Psi Chi National President? Holding this position is a great honor and also a serious responsibility. It deserves a lot of thought. Knowing that I would assume this office at the APA convention in New Orleans, I gave this matter much consideration. I also gained inspiration by learning from the ideas of those who held this office before me. And certainly, I made plans for a productive year for Psi Chi and its members. I believe that this year all of us can learn and grow as we work together to promote Psi Chi and advance the science of psychology.
As a Psi Chi member, you will want to know as much as possible about your organization. Because we are a large and active national society, others want to know about Psi Chi too. A recent example comes to mind. In April, I met with the APA Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP). As the Psi Chi liaison to that committee, I prepared a brief overview of Psi Chi to present to the CIRP members. What I told them will help you gain a broad understanding of the history and growth of Psi Chi.
Of course, I first said that Psi Chi is the national honor society in psychology and that it was founded at the International Congress of Psychology at Yale University in 1929. In the 77 years since it was founded, it has grown to an astounding individual membership of over 500,000 with more than 1,040 chapters. (For information about Psi Chi's 500,000th member
who was inducted on March 9, 2006, see the Summer 2006 issue
of Eye on Psi Chi,
p. 62.) I also explained that Psi Chi membership is for life and that our honor society is the psychological association with the largest number of members in the United States. The National Office in Chattanooga, Tennessee maintains this vast database of membership records and serves behind the scenes in countless other ways to support the Psi Chi activities of local chapters and members. In fact, the National Office is central to fulfilling Psi Chi's purpose which is to "encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology."
I told the CIRP members that to support this purpose, Psi Chi provides distinguished speakers and research awards at the annual meetings of the APA and APS and at meetings of the regional psychological associations (EPA, MPA, NEPA, SEPA, SWPA, RMPA, and WPA). Psi Chi budgets approximately $250,000 per year to fund a variety of research grants and awards for Psi Chi members.
Now that you know some of what I shared with the CIRP members, I encourage you to learn more about the history and mission of Psi Chi by reading back issues of the publication you are holding now, Eye on Psi Chi.
Articles from past issues are available on the Psi Chi website, www.psichi.org,
Knowing about the past and present of Psi Chi, let us now consider some possibilities for its future. Often it is difficult to foresee the future with much accuracy on an individual basis. In my own case, I did not dream five years ago that I would someday be National President of Psi Chi. You may have an equally difficult time imagining where you will be five years from now. For it is not so much our intentions and goals that determine our future as it is the people we meet along the way, the people who see our potential and suggest ways we can fulfill it.
I know I would not be Psi Chi President today if it were not for those who encouraged me to move in this direction. Foremost among these is Jesse Purdy, who was National President in 2000-01. He suggested to my chapter officers that they nominate me for Psi Chi Vice-President of the Southwestern Region. Sometime later while I was serving as Southwestern Vice-President, he urged me to consider the Psi Chi National Presidency. My faculty colleagues at Texas State University-San Marcos generously encourage my involvement with Psi Chi, as do the many chapter officers and members. Other guiding lights for me have been a number of past national presidents and the wonderful people of the Psi Chi National Council and National Office with whom I have worked. They have all inspired me with their dedication, wisdom, and goodwill and made this achievement seem possible. Thank you, one and all.
But, perhaps we can be more exact about Psi Chi's future than we can about our own if we consider the forces of change in the broader world. Today we are frequently told, "We now live in a global community." In fact, we hear this so often that we may have ceased to pay attention. However, it is certainly true that there is a very strong movement today toward involvement with other countries. I believe this trend is important and worthwhile and I feel strongly that Psi Chi should be a part of this movement.
I am not the only one who feels this way. In 1998, then Psi Chi President Slater Newman wrote about internationalizing Psi Chi. He stated, "I believe that the time has come for Psi Chi to become continuously, internationally engaged." (Newman, 1998, p. 80). In 2005, National President Christopher Koch wrote an article containing excellent suggestions about contributing to and benefiting from international psychology (Koch, 2005). Other national presidents have also recognized the importance of becoming more international and, because of their foresight, Psi Chi is already moving in the direction of becoming the International
Honor Society in Psychology. In fact, for more than ten years the Psi Chi Constitution has permitted the chartering of international affiliate chapters. Article XII, Section 2 of the constitution states: "International Affiliate chapters may be established according to uniform criteria determined by the National Council."
During the past summer, my wife and I had the very pleasant experience of visiting with Dr. D. Stephen Lindsay, faculty advisor of the very first International Affiliate chapter which is located at the University of Victoria, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. This chapter—though chartered only recently (on April 8, 2003)—clearly has a presence in the Psychology Department at the University of Victoria. It is healthy, strong, and growing.
Several other Canadian universities have begun the charter application process as well. Reviewing their applications has been a valuable learning experience for me and the other members of the Psi Chi National Council. We now look forward to making the benefits of Psi Chi membership available to students of psychology throughout Canada and beyond.
Like Slater Newman, Chris Koch, and others, I believe that a next important step for Psi Chi is the attainment of full international status. This move would be eagerly received by psychologists and psychology students in other countries. I also believe that it would greatly benefit Psi Chi and psychology in the United States. However, there are still some challenges involved in Psi Chi's becoming the international honor society in psychology. In a recent article in Eye on Psi Chi
(Davis, 2005), I examined these challenges as well as the practical benefits of such an expansion. Among the latter will be both an increase in international activities and many opportunities for international exchanges of both faculty and students.
Thus, whatever you and I are doing five years from now, I predict that Psi Chi will be well on its way toward achieving a million members and that our society will have grown in other ways that advance the science of psychology. I predict that Psi Chi will have a good number of chapters in Canada and other countries and will be known as "The International Honor Society in Psychology." References
Davis, J. M. (2005, Winter). Should Psi Chi become the international honor society in psychology? Eye on Psi Chi, 10
(2), 36-37, 51.
Koch, C. (2005, Spring). Contributing to and benefiting from international psychology. Eye on Psi Chi, 9
(3), 4, 29.
Newman, S. E. (1998, Summer). Internationalizing Psi Chi. Eye on Psi Chi, 2