2002 Cousins National Chapter Award Winner
Representing the Cousins Award-winning chapter from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, faculty advisor Dr. Susan Whitbourne (left) and chapter vice-president Shannon Maney at the 2002 Psi Chi/APA Convention.
How to Become a Successful Psi Chi Chapter
Chapter Vice-President (2001-2002)
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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Winner of the 2002 Cousins National Chapter Award
The University of Massachusetts is a large school; therefore, in order to make our chapter successful, we had to get out there and be visible. This is true for any chapter, no matter how large or small. Students cannot join something they do not know anything about or have not heard of. It is important to have announcements of meetings posted in buildings where psychology majors will see them, and to provide a little incentive for students to go to the meetings. We offer pizza at all our meetings, as they are usually held around dinnertime, and students give a dollar each and eat while we talk. Also, we use signs to advertise the topic of discussion and our guest speaker; this is important as well. To increase visibility, we also publish a newsletter and post it to all faculty members' doors and leave it at our coffee table where all the students can obtain it.
The coffee table is where everyone sees us, because all those psychology folks need their morning coffee and muffins, and this is where people can ask us questions about Psi Chi--what we do and what we are all about. Also, the six-foot bulletin board in our psychology building lobby helps draw a lot of attention to our chapter as well.
So, now that you have the attention of people and you are getting people to join, how do you keep them interested? We award points to those members who are most active, and they pay less to attend the EPA convention, because we assist them in paying for their trip. In addition, we recently handed out certificates at the induction ceremony to those volunteers who worked hardest within our chapter, and they were all invited to the ceremony and received a free meal as well. We also make our meetings fun and offer a lot of inside tips for psychology majors, such as what classes to take, how to get teacher and research assistantships, etc.
So, now that we have visibility and volunteers, what do we do? We sponsor many activities, such as car washes, charity walks, and final wake-up calls, and we also publish an undergraduate journal. These activities increase our visibility in the community and make many of our members feel good for taking time out of their busy schedules to volunteer and help others; this is something that many college students do not usually do.
We also look for faculty involvement, and this is often harder to achieve than student volunteers, because faculty members are extremely busy with their classes, lectures, and research; however, we achieved a marked increase in faculty interest and participation this past semester. Most of our officers had worked closely with a variety of professors, and we recruited those we knew best to speak at our Psi Chi meetings and provide insight into their particular field of study. The students seemed to love this, and it gave them a chance to talk and interact more casually with faculty, which they might not otherwise get a chance to do in our large psychology classes. The newsletter we recently began to publish also highlights some of what Psi Chi is up to and thanks those who become involved, and because these newsletters are posted where all faculty cannot avoid them, many read them, and it sparks an interest in Psi Chi.
It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of long meetings, but it is invigorating to establish a strong and growing chapter. The main ingredients are visibility, student and faculty involvement, interesting volunteer and fundraising activities, and rewards for those who participate. Yet, at UMass we believe the most important thing of all is to learn and work while having fun! Most of our members stick around and participate more and more frequently because we keep everyone energized and entertained. Here at UMass, Psi Chi is more than just an honor society; it is a way of life.