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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 1997
Establishing a
Psi Chi Scholarship for
Undergraduate Research:
A Way of Enhancing Chapter Visibility and Opportunities
Roman Taraban, Christy Potts, and Stephanie Carrera
Texas Tech University

Many psychology departments have a Psi Chi chapter, but how do you get the word out to students, and how do you keep students and faculty active in the group throughout the year? These are questions that are probably on the minds of faculty advisors and chapter officers as they sit down to plan the chapter's calendar of events.

Several activities have been the "meat and potatoes" of our organization over the years and have served the members well. For a typical semester these include a half-dozen speakers, a fundraiser for the chapter, a social, and a charitable activity. These activities make a major contribution to the quality and value of Psi Chi in our department. The speakers address a range of topics that are of interest to students: getting into graduate school, career opportunities related to psychology, and volunteer work. One of our best recent speakers was a clinical psychologist in private practice who related the typical day-to-day activities in her practice. Students enjoyed this speaker because she gave them a clear sense of one real career opportunity in psychology. As a complement to these organized presentations, we regularly sponsor a faculty/student softball game, have a faculty/student pizza social, or take a field trip to a psychiatric prison or mental health facility.

About two years ago several of us thought that the chapter could do more to promote research conducted by undergraduates. We decided to try to do this by establishing a permanent scholarship fund that would be administered by Psi Chi. At our university we have a Development Office that will set up a scholarship fund at no cost. However, a minimum of $200 must be raised before an account is established. In order to raise the initial sum we made an appeal to former psychology students whose names we secured from the university's alumni association. Using bulk mail rates, we sent out approximately 300 letters asking for a flat sum of $5. This initial effort raised enough to get us started (about $300). During the next few semesters we used member dues to continue to build the scholarship fund. At present, we have about $685 in the fund and feel that we can securely begin awarding a $100 scholarship each year. Dues will continue to be used year to year to replenish and build the fund.

This is the first year in which we will award the scholarship. Although there may still be several bugs to iron out, we now have a call for short proposals from psychology undergraduates (deadline in November). In order to submit a proposal, students will need to secure the support of a faculty member. One student's proposal will be selected by a committee of Psi Chi members and faculty advisor through a process of masked review. The award will be announced in late fall. During the spring term, the student will carry out the research and present it as a scholarly paper to the Psi Chi membership and invited guests. We hope that this award and the associated activities will help at least one undergraduate per year get off to a strong start on a research path. Students who receive scholarships will be acknowledged on a bronze plaque that will be permanently displayed in the Psychology Building.

We expect several positive outcomes from this effort. Psi Chi is not restricting proposals to Psi Chi members and is thus reaching out to all undergraduates. A spin-off of this is that Psi Chi will be more visible around the department as it solicits proposals. Students who might otherwise be unfamiliar with Psi Chi may first learn about the organization in a context--research--that is quite relevant to the discipline of psychology. The scholarship also gives undergraduates a formalized basis for approaching faculty about a research idea. In a sense, Psi Chi is standing behind these students as they try out their ideas on faculty. From another perspective, faculty could suggest to students with whom they are working to submit a proposal. This would be a way to provide praise and encouragement.

Of course, there are good things that may come from the scholarship idea that are unanticipated. A serendipitous outcome has come in the process of selecting a name for our scholarship. The members considered this question over the course of several meetings and ultimately voted to name it after a beloved senior faculty in the department, Florence L. Phillips. Thus, without expecting it in advance, we were able to thank and honor one of our faculty through the scholarship.

The Psi Chi chapter at our university has been a continuous presence in the department for over 35 years. We are proud of the group for what it represents and provides to the department and university. We hope that the multiple facets of maintaining and awarding the scholarship will help students and faculty to more fully realize how much Psi Chi can offer them. A recent article by Dr. Stephen F. Davis describes several of the benefits of strong student-faculty research relationships. We hope that our scholarship will promote these bonds. We are also encouraged by the recent establishment of a journal devoted to undergraduate research--the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research--a sign that we are beginning to bring our undergraduates students more fully into the research arena.

Reference
Davis, S. F. (1995, Summer). The value of collaborative scholarship with undergraduates. Psi Chi Newsletter, 21, Psi Chi National Office: Chattanooga, TN.


Roman Taraban is an associate professor of psychology at Texas Tech University and has served as Psi Chi faculty advisor from 1993 to 1996.

Christy Potts is the current president of the Texas Tech Psi Chi Chapter and is an undergraduate majoring in psychology.

Stephanie Carrera is past president of the Texas Tech Psi Chi Chapter and is currently a doctoral student in psychology at Texas Tech.

Copyright 1997 (Volume 1, Issue 2) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology

 

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Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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