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Then, Now, Later
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by Scott VanderStoep, PhD - Psi Chi National President; Hope College (MI)
Category: Presidents' Messages
I arrived at MPA in the spring of 1986 to watch a fellow student present her award-winning research. The next year, I was fortunate enough to return to present my Regional Research Award project. Thus began my 20+ year relationship with Psi Chi. Although my Psi Chi relationship doesn’t officially end here (because remember, membership is lifetime), this does mark the end of a major chapter in my Psi Chi life. This is my last article to you as Psi Chi National President. As a 22-year-old doing my first conference presentation, I never would have dreamed that someday I would have the privilege of serving as National President. (In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know there was such a thing as National President.) It’s perhaps appropriate that my Psi Chi experience began at a regional conference in 1986 and this part of my Psi Chi experience is ending at a regional conference in 2009: I’m writing this from my hotel room in San Antonio during the SWPA meeting. Since I’m feeling a big nostalgic, allow me to reflect on the changes I have seen since I became a Psi Chi member 24 years ago and also my future wishes for the organization that I love.
Then. During the 1984–85 school year, the organization inducted 8,262 members. In the mid-1980’s, I think there were four to six Regional Research winners each year. Very few students at very few schools engaged in research as undergraduates. It was clearly something that could separate you from the pack in grad-school applications. In 1985, Psi Chi disbursed approximately $2,100 for research and awards. Applications from new Psi Chi members came in through regular mail with no email notification that materials had been shipped. Executive Director Ruth Cousins (with some help from National Council) ran the office largely by herself, handling all matters related to grants, awards, memberships, and chapters. Any correspondence was done by phone or mail. Most new members paid with a personal check and the membership fee was $25.
Now. Last year we inducted 22,019 new members. In 2008-09, there were 269 Psi Chi members who submitted their work for consideration for Regional Research Awards in the Midwest Region alone! We now give up to 24 of these awards in some of the larger regions. Today, undergraduate research experience is almost essential for students bound for graduate school. Doing undergraduate research will no longer separate you from the pack; you now need it to keep up with the pack. This year, we allocated $315,650 for grants and awards to members. Since I joined National Council in 2002, both the dollar amount and the percentage of money distributed have gone up. The office is now staffed by six fulltime professionals who field emails and phone calls from members, advisors, and chapter officers. Our seventh full-time staffmember holds a PhD in psychology and is the organization’s professional voice to the greater psychological community. Our new website allows members and advisors opportunities to interface with the organization in better ways, including paying online for most purchases. I recently submitted Hope College’s spring induction material. I did it electronically and I paid with a credit card. The much-improved membership card and certificate, along with new Psi Chi pins, arrived in two days. Our lifetime membership fee is currently $35; it will be raised to $45 beginning July 1, 2009. This membership fee still remains low relative to inflation and low relative to most other honor societies.
Later. As I say goodbye as National President, I offer three wishes for the Psi Chi’s future. First, may your membership numbers flourish. Psi Chi prospers when it inducts lots of members. Being Psi Chi ambassadors is every member’s job. We all need to convince qualified psychology students that joining Psi Chi is a smart professional move. Second, may you spend all of your grant and award money every year. (And, dare I say in tough economic times, expand and enhance these opportunities.) Such grants and awards are the lifeblood of this organization. Finally, may you become even more digital. Impressive changes have occurred with respect to conducting Psi Chi’s activities online. But more is to be done, and future leaders of the organization will be responsible for moving us forward. Examples include online charter applications, online publications of the Eye and Journal, and video conferencing of officer and advisor training and even business meetings. Such technology would save much on conference travel. And with the recent passage of the constitutional amendment to make Psi Chi an international organization, such video conferencing will become even more vital.
Thank you, Psi Chi. You have brought me many opportunities for professional growth that I certainly didn’t expect and probably didn’t deserve. I’ll be less involved now at the national level, but will continue to be one of the hard-working chapter advisors who promote Psi Chi’s mission to foster excellence in psychology.