Did you ever wonder what happened to the thirty-five bucks you paid for your Psi Chi membership? The certificate, the membership card, and the pin were nice, but they couldn’t cost that much. The Psi Chi budget projects income of over one million dollars for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Threefourths of the revenue is derived from new-member dues and the purchasing of supplies that our members order such as chapter supplies, graduation regalia, and apparel.
So where does all the money go? Roughly 40% of it goes to pay our great staff in Chattanooga. Processing orders for new-member inductions from over 1,000 chapters, producing our high-quality publications for our members, staffing regional and national conferences, the website, and the many other daily tasks are handled by a small and energetic staff from our humble dwelling on Vine Street. The next biggest chunk of money, over 30%, goes back to members in ways that I will describe. I will call this a Psi Chi member’s “return on investment.” Let me explain three ways you can get a return on your Psi Chi investment.
A minimal return on investment will be simply to use Psi Chi as a résumé-builder. In other words, the $35 you spend to be inducted in Psi Chi provides you the chance to tell people that your academic performance was meritorious enough to warrant inclusion in this group. Sounds elitist, perhaps. Psi Chi is an honor society, and honor societies do not accept everyone. You are to be congratulated for gaining admission to the society; roughly two-thirds of psychology majors and minors are not even eligible for membership, because their academic achievement does not meet Psi Chi’s eligibility requirements. Also, in a ferociously competitive job-market and graduate-school environment, undergraduates need every tool available to them to set themselves apart from the crowd. Your distinction as a member of this Society is noteworthy, and you should be justifiably proud. But the hard truth is, we induct over 20,000 psychology students a year, and most grad-school-bound psych majors are probably Psi Chi members also.
A second higher level of investment is to take advantage of some of the local opportunities provided through your chapter. This could mean something basic such as attending chapter meetings and attending chapter social activities. More engagement (investment) would be running/serving as a chapter officer, heading up your chapter’s service project, or being responsible for supervising your chapter to meet all criteria for the Model Chapter Award (which will give your chapter $100). Even more engagement would involve coordinating a trip to a regional conference or submitting your chapter activities to Eye on Psi Chi.
The highest level of investment moves you beyond your local chapter to take advantage of the many opportunities Psi Chi offers. (This is where all that money I mentioned earlier comes into play.) These opportunities are too numerous to mention here, and our website provides a comprehensive and informative description of all of the options. Painting with a broad brush, you can think of them as falling into three categories: grants, awards, and work opportunities. Grants provide financial assistance for conducting research with a faculty member. Research is deceptively expensive. These costs might include mileage to a data-collection site, paying research participants, or gels, electrodes, or other disposable materials. Colleges and universities vary in the degree to which they can provide these elements, so Psi Chi is pleased to be able to assist. Awards are the back-end of the research process, where the best of an already-select group of students is recognized for work well done. These awards are given at regional conferences, national conferences, or the multitude of awards given to papers submitted to the National Office. Our internships and research assistantships are less common than our grants and awards. Thus, they are also very competitive. But for those of you who can fit a summer internship into your schedule, we are confident that you will grow as a social scientist, and that employers and graduate schools will be duly impressed.
The common theme weaving through our grants, awards, and internships is the reason for Psi Chi’s existence. That is, when we are giving away money, we are animating our mission of “encouraging, stimulating, and maintaining excellence in scholarship, and advancing the science of psychology.” This highest level of investment is Psi Chi’s reason for being. When students take advantage of these opportunities, when they enjoy the dividends of their membership (when Psi Chi is spending all of our grants and awards money!), Psi Chi is at its best. The National Council is proud of the fact the amount of grants and awards funding continues to increase every year. As more of our members maximize the return on their investment, the science of psychology is bolstered, student-led research is highlighted, our members become more competitive for grad school and employment, and Psi Chi’s mission is fulfilled.