Letter of Nomination: Linda J. Skitka, PhD
University of Illinois at Chicago
10 September 2000
With joy, the University of Illinois at Chicago chapter of Psi Chi nominates Linda J. Skitka, PhD, for the Psi Chi Regional Faculty Advisor Award. A member of Psi Chi since her induction as an undergraduate in 1982, Dr. Skitka has served as faculty advisor at UIC since 1994. Before Dr. Skitka's arrival, our chapter was obscure and stilted, barely surviving even as a campus organization. The chapter had few new inductees, meager participation in events (assuming that there were events to be held!), and generally maintained a low profile within the campus and community.
Having previously served as faculty co-advisor at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (from 1992-1994), Dr. Skitka set about to help the students at UIC turn our chapter into a departmental and campus-wide powerhouse. One of the first events suggested by Dr. Skitka was what is a now-biannual event known as "Matchmaker," in which students are given a chance to hear brief presentations from faculty and researchers in search of undergraduate research assistants. The students are then able to contact the researchers with whom they believe they have the greatest "match," in terms of research interests. This event, held in the first two weeks of every semester since 1994, consistently draws uipwards of 10-15% of all Psychology majors at UIC. Last Spring, so many undergraduates attended that lines formed outside the doors of the lecture hall. Many students had no choice but to sit on the aisle stairs (creating quite an obstacle for presenters attempting to descend into the ampitheatre!).
Our "Matchmaker" events are but one way in which Dr. Skitka pushes undergraduate research involvement to the front of our chapter's agenda. Students involved in research are actively recruited for presentation at the annual conference of the Midwestern Psychological Association, and for presentation at national conferences as well. Students are also encouraged to submit their papers to other more informal conferences and symposia. Last year, several Psi Chi members presented research at a Rockford, Illinois undergraduate research conference. The year before that, perhaps fifteen UIC undergraduates orally presented research at the first annual Northwestern University Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference.
Before each event at which students will be presenting, Dr. Skitka will give a "coaching session," volunteering her time to allow students a "dry run" of their presentation. Dr. Skitka, other faculty, and presenters' peers are able to provide feedback, gentle criticism, and pointers to the presenters. Sessions such as these have led to consistently professional presentations by undergraduates from our university.
Under Dr. Skitka's close advising, our chapter was awarded the Ruth Cousins' National Psi Chi Chapter of the Year Award in 1997 (an award that the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville chapter had won previously with Dr. Skitka as co-advisor in 1994). In 1997, Dr. Skitka was also instrumental in helping our chapter to attract Dr. Philip Zimbardo as a guest lecturer on the "Psychology of Evil"; interest in the event was so strong that the UIC administration, with the assistance of our chapter of Psi Chi (and of Dr. Skitka!), has brought Dr. Zimbardo back again this year for an "encore" performance as part of a "Unity Month" celebration.
One of the most successful and ambitious single events that our chapter has held was a "Psychology Career Workshop" in April 1999, with over 200 undergraduate participants from universities, colleges, and high schools throughout Chicago. The event featured multiple "mini-conference"-style presentations given by university faculty and staff. In addition, Dr. Skitka gave a characteristically enthusiastic address at the workshop, entitled "Making the Most of your Undergraduate Education."
Dr. Skitka is well-known throughout the psychology department for her rousing and near-legendary workshop, "How to Get Into and Survive Graduate School," given annually at UIC since 1994. In addition, the workshop has been presented at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville from 1989 to 1994, at the American Psychological Association's national convention in 1993, 1994, and 1995, and annually at the Midwestern Psychology Association's annual conference from 1993 to 1999.
Other Psi Chi events at UIC under Dr. Skitka's tenure as advisor:
- Creation and maintenance of an automated "Psychmajors" listserve to post Psi Chi and departmental announcements (currently with close to 500 subscribers)
- Development of a UIC Psi Chi website at http://www2.uic.edu/stud_orgs/hon/psichi that strives to reflect the diversity within the UIC campus and psychology department (please take a look!)
- Fundraising to help victims of Hurricane Mitch
- Free Psi Chi-provided statistics tutoring (affectionately named "Psi Chi-squared")
- Volunteer involvement such as Adopt-a-Shelter efforts
- Planning and organization of numerous specialized seminars (e.g. Animal Assisted Therapy, Careers in 110 Psychology, etc.)
- Maintenance and upgrading of a departmental Graduate Student and Faculty Psychology Library
Dr. Skitka maintains an extremely active professional life, all while keeping her door wide open to undergraduate students, whether Psi Chi members or not. In the last academic year alone, she composed over 100 different letters of recommendation for twelve undergraduate applicants to graduate school, medical school, and so on. In addition, she has prepared numerous research publications and conference presentations with student co-authors (40+), and has sponsored more than 50 independent presentations by undergraduates in the last ten years. Dr. Skitka has also been faculty advisor to four Psi Chi Midwestern Region Research Awardees.
Psi Chi National and Regional Service positions held by Dr. Skitka:
- Psi Chi National Council, 1993-1995
- Midwestern Regional Vice-President of Psi Chi, 1993-1995
- Program Coordinator for Psi Chi at the Midwestern Psychological Association, 1994 and 1995
- Chair, Midwestern Regional Research Award Committee, 1995
- Chair, Lewis Distinguished Lecturer Committee, 1994 and 1995
- Chair, Student Participation Committee, 1994
- Chair, Guilford Award Committee, 1993
It is our absolute honor to be able to nominate Linda J. Skitka, PhD for the Psi Chi Regional Faculty Advisor Award. It is our belief that Dr. Skitka holds the values of undergraduate teaching, research, and academic excellence in the highest regard, and we hope that the committee gives full consideration to our advisor and our friend.
Michael J. Zalanka
UIC Chapter Webmaster, Feb. 1999 - Apr. 1999
UIC Chapter President, 1999-2000
UIC Chapter Internet Officer, Apr. 2000-Present