2004 Cousins National Chapter Award Winner
Members of the 2004 Cousins Award-winning Psi Chi Chapter from Charleston Southern University receive the award. From left, Dr. Christina Sinisi (chapter advisor), Psi Chi National President Martha S. Potter Zlokovich, and Tina Ferguson (chapter president) at the 2004 APA Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii.
How to Become a Successful Chapter: Six Essential Elements
Tina Marie Ferguson
Charleston Southern University Psi Chi Chapter President, 2003-04
Defining success of a chapter is not an easy task. Success exists on many levels and appears in many forms. Chapters also vary. One thing in common is that each chapter is a three-dimensional entity representing the membership. Charleston Southern University's chapter of Psi Chi is a true example of a successful chapter. The success is evident on campus as well as in the Southeastern Region proven by our award of Best Chapter in the Region for small colleges in 2003. To encourage other chapters in their endeavors for success, I would like to share with you our formula for success. Six elements are deemed essential by our chapter, and Psi Chi is used as an acronym to ensure compliance. These elements are persistence, service-oriented, insight, charisma, humor, and integrity.
Chapters of all types will face resistance and opposition. These problems could come from members, other chapters in close proximity to you, or an array of other reasons. To ensure your chapter will survive these tumultuous times, you need members and an advisor who are overwhelmingly persistent. It is crucial to remember the adage "if at first you do not succeed, try, try again". There needs to be one ideal in your chapter concerning uncertain times and that is to do whatever needed, however needed, and whenever it is needed to survive and thrive. Never give up on any endeavor simply because you face a bumpy road. This is the time to strengthen your membership by banding together to preserve through persistence.
Service projects are crucial to the success of a chapter. Success appears not because of any form of monetary gain, because in most cases, there is no money involved. Success appears, because in order for service projects to flourish, member dedication and interaction are essential. At Charleston Southern University, we complete well over a dozen service projects per semester. The time each project consumes allows members to learn more about other members and for students who can not attend meetings, to participate fully in our activities. Success is also acquired on campus as other chapters witness a chapter that devotes itself to the service of others. At Charleston Southern University, we rotate closely to a quote by motivational speaker Anthony Robbins. Robbins stated, "Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life's deepest joy: true fulfillment."
One of the greatest challenges to having a successful chapter is the need to be a "mind reader," that is to know the direction you should lead your members and essentially the chapter. Although challenging, you can be successful by using members' insightfulness. No one knows your members, essentially your peers, better than you do. Follow your instincts about service projects you think will be interesting, speakers you feel will draw a crowd, and events you believe will be favorable. Confer with others when decisions are unclear. The strength of a chapter is not found in one person alone. The strength appears when many people filled with insight and discernment come together for the greater good.
One of the most important elements in our formula to success is charisma. Leaders in an organization are expected to know and to be able to share the ideals and mission of the respective organization, however, those who can do so while capturing the attention of members are most effective. The existence of charismatic members appears to be linked to an increase in attendance to meetings and participation in on and off campus events. Every member in your chapter will not likely be driven by charisma, but they will have other talents that will be beneficial to the chapter. Members who are charismatic are a great link to the campus at large. It is eminent that you use their effervescence by encouraging them to speak, recruit, and represent your chapter. The best asset a chapter has is its members--use them and use them wisely!
If there is one thing a chapter needs, it is the ability to laugh. Laugh when something goes array, joke about past flubs, and roast all members who make their chapter truly unforgettable. Without humor, a chapter is colorless and often received as too serious because of its no-nonsense approach. One of the greatest joys about being a part of a chapter is the fun, laughable memories you create. Dwight Eisenhower once stated that "a sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with other people, and of getting things done." A chapter is not always all about the written, planned and formal acts. A true sign of a successful chapter is the ability to take humor and turn unpleasant memories into inside jokes that unite members. The ability to adapt and find humor in awkward, and sometimes embarrassing situations. is a sign of maturity and definitely a successful chapter.
Last, but not least, is the presence of integrity within a chapter. A chapter may have a specific aura surrounding it; however, members are accountable for themselves. To be viewed as a truly successful, reputable chapter, members must have integrity. Oliver Cromwell believed in the dire need for personal integrity and was quoted as saying, "subtlety may deceive you, integrity never will." Out-siders look for a chapter whose works in the community are honest, trustworthy, and upright. Chapters not exhibiting those characteristics may survive by being mediocre, but a truly successful chapter is one filled with members possessing unmovable integrity.
In conclusion, what works for one chapter is not always a sure-fire route for another. The only thing that I know for certain is adhering to our six elements. Psi Chi is a premier chapter on our campus. Dedication to remaining persistent, service-oriented, insightful, charismatic, humor-minded, and bodied with integrity has served our chapter well. I encourage all chapters to employ our six-step formula. After all, you have nothing to lose. You do, however, have a successful chapter to gain.