1994 Cousins National Chapter Award
Psi Chi and Southern Illinois University
at Edwardsville: A Winning Combination
Irene Angelou, Chapter President
1994 Cousins Award Winner
Winning Chapter's Essay
Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Psi Chi Chapter
What is it that makes one chapter more successful than another? Is it the work of a few dedicated people? The obsessive-compulsive president? Or maybe the energetic advisor? The Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Chapter of Psi Chi has developed a formula, if you will, that generates enthusiasm among its members and fosters personal and professional growth. Perhaps it is this formula that has allowed us to achieve 25 years of continued service and commitment to the field of psychology. This presentation, then, is a celebration of the active and strong chapter that we have built together. We would like to offer some of our ideas and goals to other chapters in hope that they can share in the success that we have experienced at SIUE.
Participation. In every professional or social group you will find organizers, artists, bankers, and chefs. It is to your advantage to make all of your members feel important and encourage them to utilize their talents. Many students that are new to our chapter are amazed by the amount of preparation that we put into the year's activities. For all of our 30-plus events, we assign a chairperson and a committee. This list is distributed at the beginning of the year along with a calendar of days and times for the entire year. We have found that planning ahead allows busy students the opportunity to work Psi Chi activities into their schedules.
Solicitation. Just as a company prepares advertisements to welcome and entice customers, your chapter has to offer something to its psychology students that will motivate and encourage them to participate. Because most of our students commute to the university, we have found it beneficial to search for potential members. Before the official school year begins, every student (undergraduate and graduate) who meets the requirements for membership is sent information about our chapter and is asked to join Psi Chi.
Innovation. What does your chapter have to offer to its members? The Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Chapter is very active. Our programs are designed to augment and enhance the regular curriculum, to afford opportunities for our members to use their talents in roles that are meaningful, and to promote interaction among fellow members, faculty, and other psychologists. A colloquia series entitled "A Vision for Yourself," our annual paper-reading session, welcome-back mixer, and spring banquet were among the many academic and social activities that we sponsored during the 1993-94 academic year.
Cooperation. It would be naive to think that a chapter, even with all its members, could stand alone without the support of the university and department faculty. I realized how fortunate our chapter is to have faculty who are genuinely interested and dedicated to our Psi Chi chapter when I attended a symposium at the Midwestern Psychological Association Convention on chapter vitality. Many chapters complained of apathy on behalf of the faculty and even competition with other societies. Likewise, other chapters who were enthusiastic about making changes were at a halt due to a lack of funding. Our chapter may not be among the richest, but due to our own fundraising efforts and support from the student government, other university offices, and alumni, our members have always been able to attend professional events with partial, if not total support.
Honor. As students of psychology, we are all aware of the effects of reinforcement. Thus, we have decided that the best way to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship of our individual members is to reward them for their accomplishments. Among our efforts to show appreciation is our annual Authors and Publishers Tea held each winter to honor all of the students and faculty who have published or presented professional papers. The membership also chooses an outstanding faculty member and an outstanding undergraduate and graduate student.
Inspiration. Perhaps the most important goal of the chapter should be to foster academic and professional growth. After all, today's students are tomorrow's researchers, clinicians, analysts, professors, and psychologists. At SIUE we take pride in preparing our members for life after graduation. For those students who are thinking of graduate school we sponsor a seminar filled with useful information that will help them decide if a postbaccalaureate program is something for them and give them the basic information that they will need to begin their search. Likewise, for the student that has chosen to enter the work force we have recently put together a presentation that offers advice for resume writing, area contacts, and other helpful information. Granted, there are a lot of things that we cannot learn from a book or presentation. For this reason, we try to encourage our members to get involved with the community. In addition to offering free tutoring to students enrolled in psychology classes, we extend a helping hand outside the university. For instance, this year some of our members were volunteers at the Olympic Festival and others offered their services to victims of the Great Flood of '93. Utilizing these components for success--participation, solicitation, innovation, cooperation, honor, and inspiration--the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Chapter of Psi Chi strives to uphold and promote academic and professional standards that its members can be proud of.
[Author's Note. Preparing this essay has been both an honor and pleasure. Many thanks to Dr. Engbretson for all of his time and guidance, to Michelle Quinn and Linda Hurt for their helpful comments, and to our faculty and membership for giving me an enthusiastic and dedicated chapter to write about.]