1993 Cousins National Chapter Award
Building Upon Our Solid Foundation
Jane C. Levine, Chapter President
1993 Cousins Award Winner
Winning Chapter's Essay
Fordham University Lincoln Center Psi Chi Chapter
"By wisdom a house is built, by understanding it is established, by knowledge the rooms are filled with all pleasant and precious riches." -- Proverbs 24:3-4
It was back in 1929 that Frederick Howell Lewis and Edwin Broomell Newman joined to lay the foundations for this splendid house that is today Psi Chi. As each new chapter has stepped forward to add a new room to this house of ours, it has grown steadily into "one of the largest and most successful honor societies" in the world (Cousins, 1991, p. 1). Could Lewis and Newman ever have foreseen this in 1929? No (Lewis, 1992).
As solid as the Psi Chi house is today, the same is only sometimes true for individual chapters. The 800 chapters naturally vary in their vitality. Some are as vigorous and dynamic as others are troubled, sleepy, or even moribund. What makes a chapter successful? Our view is that the correlation between chapter members' efforts and a chapter's success is a positive but imperfect one. In other words, some chapters may invest a lot of effort and get only meager results, while others invest little effort and get excellent results. In this presentation, I offer you 10 suggestions which we feel have contributed to whatever success we have had with our Fordham chapter. These 10 themes are bases for a successful chapter, much the way that posts and beams run through and support a house. Here is my checklist of 10 suggestions for you to consider, and to relate to your chapter.
1. Member-oriented. How member-oriented is a chapter? One way to "advance psychology as a science and a profession" (APA, 1993, p. viii) is to advance the skills and careers of its individual members. This is the valuable notion of goal-integration--that productivity increases whenever the organization's goals are linked with the personal goals of its individual members (McGregor, 1960). Our Fordham chapter has tried to identify and address the needs of its individual members, most of which are common to students in all chapters. Besides concerns about graduate school (Keith-Spiegel, 1991) and careers (Goodstein, 1987), there are also the less obvious but equally universal student concerns--library research skills, GRE preparation, computer software, study skills, test anxiety. Once our chapter identifies a member need, it tries to address it through programming of workshops or other activities.
2. Needs assessment. What are some specific needs of a chapter's student members? After all, chapters often have specific needs not shared by other chapters. For example, a survey within our Fordham chapter found that when our undergraduates go on to graduate school in psychology, they almost invariably remain in the New York area due to family or job ties; so our chapter now prepares a biennial, one-sheet summary checklist of the 34 graduate schools in greater New York (Knights & Takooshian, 1992), which can simplify students' work. Another example is that about half of Fordham members take classes in the daytime and half in the evening, so this is reflected in our scheduling of events and availability of mentors. Also helpful is a periodic needs survey for chapter officers and the faculty advisor to continuously espy the unidentified needs of members.
3. Traditions. Has a chapter started annual traditions? These can add structure and vitality to programming--an annual prize, conference, house party. Our Fordham chapter hosts an annual Fordham Distinguished Lecture, at which members can meet a researcher they have read or heard about in class. Fordham members also look forward to the annual symposia on graduate schools (in November) and on careers (in April), as well as the annual student research conference (in November)--all of which are now open to other local Psi Chi chapters.
4. Diversity of members. Is a chapter's membership as diverse as the overall student body of the school? Since groups have a natural tendency toward becoming cliques (attracting members highly similar to one another, while making dissimilar people uncomfortable), one way to reduce this is for the chapter to have an active rather than passive membership policy. Instead of passively waiting for students to find their way to the chapter, the chapter can actively reach out to the diversity of qualified applicants. By design, our Fordham chapter includes many types of students--full-time and part-time; older and traditional-age; working and nonworking; evening and day; undergraduate and graduate, interested in careers outside psychology as well as different specialties within psychology. It has added to the life of our chapter when older and younger students work together, when graduate and undergraduate students get to know each other, and faculty work side by side with students outside the classroom.
5. Diversity of programs. How diverse are a chapter's activities? Besides the lectures that already predominate a student's classroom career, consider the variety of other possible formats--workshops, debates, panels, trips, contests. One format that has worked well at Fordham is the "dinner/dialog," in which a formal presentation is immediately followed by an informal meal where the presenter exchanges views with the listeners. In another case, chess master Robert Ivan Reynolds gave an unforgettable public exhibition of six-board simultaneous chess in Fordham's plaza, followed by a more intimate dinner/dialog on the psychology of chess. Certainly our national Psi Chi Newsletter contains a wealth of innovative, emulable ideas for chapter programs, along with practical information on such relevant topics as organizing conferences (Robinson, 1993), publishing student research (Takooshian, 1993), and effective faculty advising (Lunsford, 1993; Takooshian, 1992).
6. Recycling. What is the role of alumni in a chapter? In a way, our alumni are a valuable yet oft-ignored resource. Who is better qualified to advise current students than returning alumni who have gone on to success in careers or graduate schools and can offer frank advice to the students now sitting in their former seats? At Fordham, we routinely invite alumni back not only as speakers, but also to serve as panelists in our yearly symposium on careers in psychology--to the mutual benefit of all involved. For alumni, it has been a chance to share their experiences with others, while also receiving well-deserved recognition for their accomplishments from current students and faculty. For current students, useful information has been received, as well as the knowledge that they will continue to be valued members of our chapter long after their graduation. It also has been a pleasant sort of "homecoming" for alumni to return to their campus in this important new role as Psi Chi speakers.
7. Cooperating internally. How much does a chapter cooperate with other campus groups? One of the beauties of the field of psychology is its great breadth, overlapping with virtually every other field--business, law, medicine, computers. (Is there any field that does NOT interface with psychology?) By cosponsoring activities with other campus groups, a chapter can double the participation in its activities while halving its expenses. It also demonstrates to the campus community how psychology relates with other fields in this interdisciplinary world. For example, our Fordham chapter cosponsored a prayer breakfast with Campus Ministry, a workshop on "Giftedness" with the four other Fordham honor societies, a panel on industrial psychology with the business school, a workshop on test-taking strategies with our Counseling Center, and other events with the student clubs for science, law, black studies, computers, and chess. When planning events, our Fordham chapter pursues another type of internal cooperation as well, i.e., informing other campus offices of our events--Admissions, Alumni, the Calendar, WFUV Radio. As long as we are working to organize Psi Chi events, why not broadcast some of them on WFUV Radio, or open them to non-psychology guests outside our own membership?
8. Cooperating externally. How much does a chapter cooperate with off-campus organizations? Nearby even the most isolated campuses, there are typically all sorts of organizations that also plan regular activities and welcome student participation. The geographical section inside the directory of the American Psychological Association (1993, pp. 1443-1678) is an easy and rich source of local psychologists and groups. These groups might include professional organizations, government and private institutions, or even other Psi Chi chapters. Some community groups have large budgets to invite out-of-town speakers if the chapter would provide a campus room and/or refreshments. Others may be mental health organizations or local boards of education which hire psychology graduates. At our Fordham chapter we have cooperated with off-campus groups such as the American Psychological Association, the New York State Psychological Association, the Society for Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the New York City Board of Education. This not only helps our students network outside the campus but, in some cases, has allowed our chapter to host otherwise unavailable national and international speakers (see Tables 1 and 2).
9. Faculty needs. Does a chapter address the needs of faculty? Faculty also have needs which can be addressed by chapter activities, such as doing faculty research or advising. Concerning research, for instance, Fordham faculty publish a sheet of their current research interests which the chapter works to distribute to student members seeking a research mentor. In the area of advising, our chapter organizes an annual panel on graduate school admissions at which faculty can concisely yet thoroughly discuss the process in one afternoon, as an alternative to incessantly repeating themselves all year in one-on-one counseling sessions. When Fordham faculty did a self study of the school's psychology curriculum, Psi Chi organized a session at which students and alumni gathered to give their direct input to faculty.
10. Faculty service. How productively do faculty serve a chapter's needs? Though chapters are best run by students themselves, cooperative faculty can be a valued resource in several ways. They may know of local community groups and colleagues who are ready to visit the campus, as well as advance notice of out-of-town colleagues who will be passing through the area. On occasion, our Fordham faculty help us to coordinate our Psi Chi events with their classes, so a guest speaker invited into their class is also addressing members of our chapter--a way for our chapter to cooperate rather than compete with our psychology classes. With such faculty involvement, a Psi Chi program of activities can better complement what goes on in the college classroom. This is what Fordham Dean Edward Bristow terms "cocurricular" planning--in which activities outside the class may enrich a student's school years as much as the classroom learning itself, adding an extra dimension that would otherwise be lacking.
As members in Psi Chi, we all can be proud of this house of ours, with its foundations on solid rock. And look how our house grows. When the eponym of the Ruth Hubbard Cousins Award began her executive duties in Psi Chi in 1958, our society had 130 U.S. chapters with 25,000 members; when she retired in 1991, Psi Chi had 735 chapters with 215,000 members (Wilson, 1991). It is so fitting that Psi Chi's outstanding chapter award be named for her, and with such pride and gratitude that my chapter accepts this great honor this year.
[Author's note. I warmly thank my many Fordham chapter colleagues for their comments and inspiration in preparing this presentation--particularly President-Elect Eileen M. Lang, Professor Harold Takooshian, and Dean Normand Parenteau.]
American Psychological Association (1993). Directory of the American Psychological Association. Washington DC: Author.
Cousins, R. H. (1991). A tribute to all participants of Psi Chi and a farewell from Ruth Cousins. Psi Chi Newsletter, 17(5), 1.
Lewis, F. H. (1992, Winter). The early years. Psi Chi Newsletter, 18(1), 16-18.
Goodstein, L. (1987). What are 40,000 psychology majors going to do next year? Psi Chi Newsletter, 13(1), 1-8.
Keith-Spiegel, P. C. (1991). The complete guide to graduate school admission: Psychology and related fields. Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.
Knights, J. N., & Takooshian, H. (1992, November). Checklist of graduate psychology programs in greater New York. Presentation at the 14th Fordham Symposium on Graduate Psychology, New York City.
Lunsford, E. (1993). Characteristics of an effective advisor. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19(1), 10.
McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw Hill.
Robinson, M. C. (1993, Spring). Hosting your own convention. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19(2), 6-7.
Takooshian, H. (1992, Summer). Psi Chi advising: Five suggestions. Psi Chi Newsletter, 18(3), 3-4.
Takooshian, H. (1993, Spring). Involving students in report-worthy research. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19(2), 4-5.
Wilson, K. (1991). A tribute to Ruth Cousins from the incoming Psi Chi executive officer. Psi Chi Newsletter, 17(5), 4-5.
Twenty-five of the U.S. Speakers to the Fordham
University at Lincoln Center Psi Chi Chapter
Hagop S. Akiskal, University of Tennessee Medical School
Anne Anastasi, Fordham University
Ludy T. Benjamin, Texas A & M University
Florence L. Denmark, Hunter College, Pace University
Morton Deutsch, Columbia University Teachers College
Albert Ellis, Founder, Institute of Rational Living
Ruben Fine, psychoanalyst
Herbert J. Gans, Columbia University
George H. Hanford, President, the College Board
Frances Degen Horowitz, President, CUNY Graduate School
Ann T. Howard, AT & T
Caroll Izard, University of Delaware
Gregory Kimble, Duke University
Otto Klineberg, Columbia University
Robert Jay Lifton, author
Peter F. Merenda, University of Rhode Island
Stanley Milgram, CUNY
Harold M. Proshansky, President, CUNY Graduate School
Virginia Staudt Sexton, St. John's University
Lloyd H. Silverman, New York University Medical School
Curtis and Lisa Sliwa, Founders, Guardian Angels
Elizabeth Thorne, President, NPAP
Daniel Yankelovich, President, YS&W, Inc.
Robert Zajonc, University of Michigan
Ten of the International Speakers to the Fordham
University at Lincoln Center Psi Chi Chapter
Gery d'Ydewalle, University of Louvain, Belgium;Editor, International Journal of Psychology
James Gaifuba, Deputy Minister of Health, Uganda
Vadim Kharachenko, Ukraine SSR
Masha Kapitza, Moscow State University
Boris F. Lomov, Director, Institute of Psychology, USSR Academy of Sciences
Levon Melikian, American University of Beirut
Vladimir P. Trusov, Director, Leningrad University Institute of Social Science
Gurgen A. Vardanian, President, Association of Practicing Psychologists of Armenian SSR
Gianniantonio Rosi, President, Interagency, Rome
Jacqueline Williams, South African Council of Churches