1997-98 Hunt Award Research Report
Is Psi Chi Meeting Its Mission Statement?
Jeffrey B. Titus and Nathan J. Buxman
University of Northern Colorado
As recipients of the 1998 Thelma Hunt Award, we sought out to see if the Psi Chi chapters around the nation were living up to the proposed mission of Psi Chi which is to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship and to advance the science of psychology. Psi Chi membership is an honor that represents high academic standing and scholarship in the field of psychology. If its members can truly be viewed as the best and brightest, then it leaves little argument that Psi Chi members are the hope for psychology’s tomorrow (Jalbert, 1997). With this in mind, the role that Psi Chi plays in the field of psychology becomes apparent. The impact that each chapter has upon each individual member can have profound affects upon the direction of the field.
Becoming a leader in one’s field requires opportunities and challenges to foster learning and experience. Do the local chapters encourage members to present studies at conferences and push the field to new understandings? Psi Chi is crucial in its role to help students reach their goals, whether they be academic or professional (Jackson, 1997). The support that undergraduate students require while applying to graduate school is tremendous. Psi Chi becomes a great avenue for support through fellowship and helpful activities (Norcross, 1997). The value of Psi Chi chapters as a whole can be dependent upon regular activities to provide the support and experience that members require (Jalbert, 1996; Taraban, Potts, & Carrera, 1997). If Psi Chi is to continue to represent the top psychology students and further enhance the field of psychology it becomes clear that the quality of members must be assessed and the effectiveness of each chapter questioned. To what extent are the Psi Chi chapters measuring up to the mission statement that is designed to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship, and advance the science of psychology? To address this question, this survey evaluated the participation level and quality of members, and the level at which members feel their chapter is meeting the Psi Chi mission statement.
Participation was determined by distributing 10 copies of a questionnaire to 420 randomly selected Psi Chi chapters. Chapter officers were asked to make additional copies of the questionnaire, when necessary, to accommodate for more members. The questionnaire consisted of 18 items designed to give a profile of the respondent and an assessment of the chapter in which they are a member. Descriptive member information was gathered, such as age, sex, GPA, classification, year inducted to Psi Chi, and whether psychology was a major, minor, or concentration. The first nine questions dealt with obtaining a member profile. They assessed members’ level of participation (questions 1-4), whether they have a learning disability (questions 5–6), ethnicity (question 7), and their future goals (questions 8-9). The remaining questions dealt with the participant’s Psi Chi chapter. These mainly assessed to what extent participants’ chapters live up to Psi Chi’s purpose (question 18), and included questions on fellowship (questions 10–11), encouragement (questions 14–16), and significance to the individual (question 17). Also, the frequency that the chapter meets was used as a measure of its activity (questions 12-13).
A list of all Psi Chi chapters were acquired from the Psi Chi National Office. Upon obtaining this list, 420 chapters were randomly selected and mailed copies of the questionnaire. Return envelopes, with postage, were mailed with the questionnaires to ensure ease of return. Upon reacquisition of questionnaires by March 15, 1998, the data was compiled and analyzed (see Table 1).
Eighty-seven schools responded with a total of 687 surveys. Of those responding, 83.7% were women (n = 546) and 15.8% were men (n = 103; see Figure 1). The mean age of Psi Chi members was 23.1, the mean overall GPA was 3.56, and the mean psychology GPA was 3.69. Ninety percent of the Psi Chi members were psychology majors. It appeared as if typical Psi Chi members are involved in other aspects of their schools as well, with 75% of them belonging to other clubs or organizations. Eighty-eight percent of the Psi Chi members indicated that they intended to apply to graduate school, and when asked on a scale from 1–7 how they viewed their chances of being accepted, the mean response was 5.7. Since Psi Chi is an honor society, this appears to be an accurate assessment.
When looking at the participants’ Psi Chi chapter, fellowship appears to be limited with only 24% of members making new friends since joining the chapter. The activity of the individual Psi Chi chapters was shown to be regimented with most chapters meeting once a month on a scheduled basis. The chapters appeared to be highly encouraging to their members with good access to Psi Chi publications and prompting to present research at area conferences. However, the number of members who actually presented was low. Only 16.8% reported any presentation experience.
When members were asked, on a scale of 1-7, how important Psi Chi was to them, the mean response was 5. Similarly, when asked on a scale of 1-7 how well their Psi Chi chapter met its mission of encouraging, stimulating, and maintaining excellence in scholarship and advancing the science of psychology, the members responded with a mean response of 5.2. This suggests that Psi Chi members have a positive perception of their Psi Chi chapter and Psi Chi as a whole.
Some of the concerns that came up as a result of our inquisition were the fact that the male population of Psi Chi was only 16%. Another concern was that only 12% of the Psi Chi population was comprised of ethnic groups other than Caucasian (see Figure 2). Only 17% of the members have presented their research at some type of conference. Another concern was that only 21% of the schools responded. As an honor society of students who are interested in research, it was assumed that members would be more supportive of efforts to conduct research and examine the effectiveness of the Psi Chi chapters around the country.
With these concerns in mind, additional issues become apparent. Our findings indicate that only 66% of the Psi Chi members feel that their chapter encourages them to present their research. Unfortunately, only 17% of the Psi Chi members surveyed have presented their research regardless of whether it was a local, regional, or national convention. If Psi Chi is going to have the impact on research that it hopes to, local chapters must find a way to have more students present their research. Not until research is conducted and presented can members and chapters begin to impact the field of psychology. Future considerations for the Thelma Hunt Award should look at when research is being conducted and if the students have time to present their findings in the context of other academic responsibilities.
In order for Psi Chi to meet its mission statement with regard to advancing the science of psychology, equal proportions for gender and ethnicity must be met. It is impossible to say that one gender or one ethnic group holds a better understanding of the science of psychology than another. Clearly, our findings suggest that Psi Chi is made up of a disproportionate number of Caucasian and female members. Since Psi Chi is thought to be representative of excellence in psychology, it is assumed that it reflects the future makeup of the field. Because of this, the influence of males and various minority groups need to be considered. Without attracting the underrepresented students, how can Psi Chi expect to lead the field of psychology that was built upon the integration of numerous influences. The application of psychology in an ever-blending world requires the integration of ethnicity and gender to develop the theories of tomorrow.
To address this issue, Psi Chi may want to consider becoming more of an advocate for groups underrepresented in psychology. By becoming a more active advocate, Psi Chi would allow itself to shape psychology in a direction that is not only positive but necessary for the growth of the field. As Psi Chi seeks to attract more minority individuals, the field of psychology can expect to become more diverse and better represented.
Jackson, K. A. (1997, Winter). Building upon Psi Chi’s strong foundation. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(2), 64.
Jalbert, N. L. (1996, Fall). Psi Chi should be more than one line on your resume. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(1), 64.
Jalbert, N. L. (1997, Winter). Is there room in empirical psychology for a platonic idealist? Eye on Psi Chi, 1(2), 14–18.
Norcross, J. C. (1997, Winter). GREs and GPAs: The numbers game in graduate admissions. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(2), 10–11.
Taraban, R., Potts, C., & Carrera, S. (1997, Winter). Establishing a Psi Chi scholarship for undergraduate research: A way of enhancing chapter visibility and opportunities. Eye on Psi Chi, 1(2), 12–13.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Jeffrey B. Titus graduated from Evangel College (MO) in 1997 with a BS in psychology and a minor in biopsychology. He was awarded the Most Promising Student in Psychology for 1997. Currently, Jeff is completing his master’s degree in human neuropsychology at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). He is involved in many research projects at UNC, some of which he has presented at local and regional conferences this past year. He also works in a clinical inpatient facility as a mental health therapist. Jeff is looking forward to completing his master’s degree in May of 1999 and moving on to a doctoral program in clinical psychology.
Nathan J. Buxman graduated in 1997 from Evangel College in Springfield, Mo., with a BS in applied psychology and a concentration in biblical studies. While at Evangel, Nathan was a fellow in the psychology department and was given the Most Outstanding Psychology Student Award. Currently, he is completing his master’s degree in human neuropsychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo. Nathan is also a counselor at a residential treatment facility that houses youth from the Division of Youth Corrections and the Division of Social Services. His future plans are to obtain a PhD in counseling and own and operate his own youth ranch in the mountains of Colorado. Nathan enjoys spending time with his wife Lisa and his hobbies include playing basketball and Frisbee with his dog Murray.