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Pass It On: Leadership Continuity
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by Martha S. Zlokovich, PhD - Psi Chi Executive Director and Associate Editor
Category: Executive Director's Message
If you are considering running for a Psi Chi office, whether a Psi Chi chapter officer or faculty advisor, an important part of your leadership role will be nurturing the future of your chapter. Most Psi Chi officers have the opportunity to serve in one or more officer positions over the course of one to three years, but some only serve for one or two semesters. Faculty advisors, on the other hand, can provide continuity over a much longer time span than student leaders. Nevertheless, the officers and faculty advisor need to work together to provide leadership continuity for their chapter.
When this kind of care is taken, it prevents new officers from feeling overwhelmed, wasting time, and “reinventing the wheel.” Although Psi Chi provides information about each officer’s duties and the faculty advisor’s responsibilities in the Chapter and Officer Handbooks, there are two reasons why this information is not sufficient for smooth transitions to the next group of officers. One reason is that each chapter should have its own bylaws. These bylaws are written and voted on by each chapter, so they will vary somewhat from chapter to chapter (see the Officer Handbook for model chapter bylaws if you would like ideas for revising or creating bylaws for your chapter).
The second reason that Psi Chi’s information alone is not sufficient is that each campus has its own unique rules governing student organizations and activities, so it is helpful for officers to keep track of how to get things done on their own campus for the benefit of the next generation of officers. Then new officers should update this information as needed. For example, when current officers have figured out tasks such as how to register a student organization on campus, which office approves signs or flyers to be posted on campus, what funding is available from campus sources to support student organization programming, who to call for free advertising in the campus paper or on the campus website, or how to set up campus copying and direct pay accounts, passing this information on to new officers saves them time and allows them to move directly into planning events and activities for the chapter.
New faculty advisors may also feel the same frustrations if they did not receive any information from their predecessors. So like officers, if faculty advisors can keep track of how to accomplish tasks on their campus, such as who to contact in order to determine the 35% GPA cutoffs for new members or reserve campus rooms for induction ceremonies, it will make the next advisor’s job that much easier.
Different chapters have used different techniques in order ensure that information is passed on to the next group of officers. Some chapters elect the new slate of officers with enough time for them to overlap with the outgoing officers, meeting and learning from them before they move to a different position or graduate. Some keep a notebook for each office in a central location or with the faculty advisor, while others keep files in a Psi Chi office space (if they have it) or online. Newer ideas that officers might try are starting a wiki that is password protected so only the faculty advisor and officers can make changes to it, creating officer webpages, or keeping officer information on a social networking site.
On January 2–4, 2009, chapter presidents and faculty advisors have the opportunity to meet in Nashville, TN, to participate in Psi Chi’s National Leadership Conference. Some of the chapter presidents attending the NLC will graduate in May or June, so they will need to be conscientious about communicating their experiences to their chapters. The presidents and advisors will have the greatest impact on their home chapters not by returning to their campuses and leading alone, but by bringing back what they have learned and passing it on to the rest of the chapter’s officers. In addition, communicating with other members is important, because today’s member may be tomorrow’s officer.