2007 Cousins National Chapter Award Winner
House of Achievement: The Construction Plans for a Successful Psi Chi Chapter
Stephen F. Austin State University (TX)
Sarah Burns, Chapter President
Whitney Swearegen, Chapter Secretary
Laura Dokupil, Chapter Treasurer
Lauren Huffman, Chapter Vice-President of Programs
Christie Poe, Chapter Vice-President of Membership
Daniel Reuther, Chapter Historian
Marcie McDaniel, Chapter Vice-President of Grants & Awards
Brandon Scott, Chapter Vice-President of GRE & Graduate
The establishment of a successful Psi Chi chapter requires the same dedication, perseverance, and hard work associated with building a stable home. The architectural design or purpose of Psi Chi is to “encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology.” A successful chapter will bring the basic design to life by encouraging, leading, and providing members with the tools to become “well-educated, ethical, and socially responsible.” The Stephen F. Austin State University Chapter believes that the value of a chapter can be measured by the accomplishments and work ethic of its members. The members become unified in an effort to construct a chapter that will be able to fulfill its obligation to promote scientific research in psychology, provide services for the community, and strengthen the bond of Psi Chi chapters nationwide. Therefore, just as homes are erected using essential building materials, the members are able to build a successful and selfmaintaining chapter by striving for active membership, leadership, and communication within the organization. Before the challenging task of building begins, careful and precise planning must be initiated by the members, officers, and advisors.
First and foremost, a successful chapter must organize a plan of action that will allow for projects, programs, and events to operate efficiently. One of the most important components for having effective, precision planning is time management and communication. When a chapter plans and implements a program in a timely manner, it will usually have enough members participating for the event to be a success. Once events are proposed among the officers, some logistics should be discussed before it is brought to the members. However, once officers determine the basics of how and when an event could take place, they should communicate the idea to the members. If there is enough interest among the members to invest time and effort, then more specific details of the event can be decided upon. For large events that require a great deal of time and effort, the SFASU chapter forms small committees that consist of at least one officer and three to four members. It is a great way to involve the members in planning, while relieving the officers and advisors of the pressure to organize large events on their own.
When planning the strategy that will assist the members to be successful, a solid foundation must be established to support the weight of the membership for many years to come. The foundation of a chapter consists of an active membership that becomes united for the purpose of providing services for the university, the community, and other Psi Chi chapters throughout the nation. For example, the chapter recently submitted a proposal to the National Office suggesting more efficient ways for each chapter to connect to other chapters nationwide. A successful chapter does not solely concern itself with reaching a record number of members, but encourages current and future members to participate in a variety of activities. For example, the majority of the Stephen F. Austin State University chapter members each participate in research activities, fundraisers, and service events. We coordinate several events with the SFA Psychology Club so that future members can build their interest in becoming part of Psi Chi. Through our fundraising efforts, the chapter is able to raise enough money to pay the hotel and travel expenses to the Southwestern Psychological Association Convention for, on average, 25 members. The chapter encourages its members to attend this and other conferences to present research and network with other universities.
After the foundation has been laid, the chapter must now face the challenge of developing a structure that will withstand the storm of adversity and the winds of time. The structure of a successful chapter is put together through leadership, cooperation, and precision planning. Leadership is an essential element in achieving goals of an organization and maintaining the efficient operation of daily, monthly, and annual activities. An officer and advisor support system is extremely helpful in maintaining a successful chapter. When members do not have strong, unified officers to rely on, how can the officers expect a strong desire from members to participate? Officers and advisors should walk into every meeting “on the same page.” They should be organized, prepared, and ready to answer any questions that the members might have about the chapter. The SFASU chapter believes that officer meetings are the best way to accomplish these goals; therefore officer meetings are on a two-week schedule that alternates with full chapter meetings. Officer meetings are a time when officers and advisors can meet to discuss upcoming events, progress on ongoing projects, and implementing new programs. Because the person who holds an officer position will be replaced after a year, the advisors’ role in a Psi Chi chapter is vital. The advisor support system offers continuity as members graduate and ensures that ongoing ventures are not forgotten.
The structure of a successful Psi Chi chapter must be joined together by the nails of communication. Psychology has taught us that interpersonal relationships are strengthened by clear and concise communication. Communication is the key that unlocks the door of opportunity and maintains an active membership. It is a skill that becomes more efficient with practice. We encourage members to openly discuss ideas during meetings, through personal appointments, or through email correspondence. Communication between the advisor and officers, communication among the officers, and communication between the officers and members, allows the chapter to accomplish many goals. Chapters can maintain good communication with regular meetings, sending out minutes after each meeting, and regular emails with reminders of upcoming events. By maintaining an active membership, our chapter is able to maintain projects and fundraisers on an annual basis and build a realistic set of expectations for the members and those with whom we interact.