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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 1997
Keys to Increasing
Active Participation

Jeanette Altarriba, State University of New York at Albany

Active participation among the members of a Psi Chi chapter is an important goal. The greater the number of individuals who are on hand at meetings and events, the greater the number of activities that can be accomplished by the group as a whole. Of course, having sufficient numbers is not the only key to increasing active participation; incentives must also be provided in order to stimulate and motivate students. This article outlines some of the guidelines that have been followed by the Psi Chi Chapter at the State University of New York at Albany, in order to maximize attendance and participation by our members. By implementing these guidelines, membership increased well over 300%, and active participation increased proportionately.

Membership Drive
The recruitment of new members is essential to maintaining activity with a Psi Chi chapter. Advertising in the school newspaper, posting flyers and announcements, and asking faculty to mention the membership drive in their classrooms are all good ways of alerting possible applicants to the benefits of joining Psi Chi. Applications at our chapter are located in a central location--the Psi Chi Bulletin Board. Students are asked to pick up an application and return the completed forms to the faculty advisor's mailbox. Establishing a deadline for the receipt of applications and a separate deadline for payment of membership dues is also important. A period of approximately two months has been effective for a typical membership drive.

The application itself should provide sufficient detail regarding requirements and benefits and should be no longer than a single page for ease of distribution and recordkeeping. [The form, "Call for Student Information and Application for Psi Chi Membership," is mailed to each active chapter in the regular fall and spring mailings and is also available from the Psi Chi National Office. --EDITOR] Previously stated benefits have included:

  • The intrinsic value of membership is rewarding to students because they are being recognized for outstanding academic achievement.
  • Membership may be used as a reference throughout one's lifetime.
  • Opportunities are provided to interact with other psychology majors and minors who are interested in similar goals such as securing a job in the field or applying to graduate programs.
  • There are also opportunities to become active in the Department of Psychology by advising and mentoring students and providing peer counseling.
  • The possibility of holding office and assuming a leadership role, and learning the skills involved in running a student organization.
  • Opportunities are made available to the members for promoting their research, receiving national and international recognition, meeting and interacting with leaders in their field and faculty members at SUNY-Albany, and meeting members of other chapters who also will be future leaders.

At some point during the membership drive, a general interest meeting should be held so that students can meet the chapter officers and discuss the events that have been proposed for the coming months. Students should also have the opportunity to submit their applications at that time and to meet the faculty advisor of the organization. It is a good idea to have on hand the chapter scrapbook or previous copies of the Psi Chi Newsletter and/or Eye on Psi Chi in order to recount some of the activities that have been undertaken by the chapter.

Chapter Meetings
Although the gathering of members at meetings is an obvious part of the operating procedures of any organization, several factors can contribute to their effectiveness as a tool to increase active participation. Given the diversity of student schedules, meetings may alternate between two different days or evenings such as Mondays and Tuesdays, or Tuesdays and Wednesdays. There should be an established pattern and a regular meeting room. In other words, members should be able to predict when and where the next meeting should take place with a high degree of accuracy. In addition, the Psi Chi Bulletin Board should be used to communicate the agenda and the exact location for each meeting.

Chapter officers should have a set agenda of topics to cover for each meeting. The meetings should always include ample opportunities for members to engage in an activity. That is, the meetings should not simply be those in which past business or events are reviewed or discussed. Finally, the point system presented below includes specific activities that can be undertaken by the Psi Chi members. Meetings combined with guest speakers, panels, or workshops are extremely effective as the students have a more explicit reason for attending the event.

Workshops/Panels
Sponsoring a workshop or a panel discussion is one way of lending visibility to a Psi Chi chapter. Often, students who attend these events inquire about membership and follow through on the application process. An extremely valuable presentation is one dedicated to preparing students for the application process to graduate school. "How to Apply to Graduate School in Psychology" is typically a well-attended program for psychology majors at most institutions. The panel of speakers should include individuals who represent a broad range of mental health professions such as researchers, clinicians, counselors, social workers, and school psychologists. Although not every group needs to be represented during a single session, a diversity of professions should be included to provide sufficient options for career choices by students. This event should provide information related to the application process, interview techniques, and school selection. The Psi Chi chapter can also provide literature and obtain different catalogs and reference books for this presentation. A key to increasing active participation in the chapter includes making a chapter known to the department and to the student body as a whole. Sponsoring activities and events is a good tool for increasing awareness of the services provided by a Psi Chi chapter.

A second successful panel can include current graduate students within the university or from neighboring institutions who agree to discuss their experiences in the application process and as members of a graduate student population. Students may find it easier to understand and identify with the experiences of new graduate students, and they have the opportunity to ask questions firsthand regarding the daily routine and obligations of students in various programs. Again, different areas of psychology should be represented on any graduate student panel. With faculty and advisors absent from the discussion, students can freely discuss any aspect of the application process and the expectations they have of a graduate program in general.

Point System
Perhaps the single most effective key to increasing active participation with the SUNY-Albany Chapter of Psi Chi has been the use of a structured point system. The philosophy behind the point system is that students are more likely to attend meetings and participate in Psi Chi - sponsored events if they are provided incentives to do so. Although some of the benefits previously mentioned are intrinsic and intangible, the point system provides for rewards for participation in a more structured manner. A sample point system that has been used effectively for SUNY-Albany appears on the following page [SUNY-Albany's Point System appears directly below. --WEBMASTER]. Note that this university is on a semester system, and Psi Chi is active for two semesters a year--fall and spring. The system can be adapted for schools that divide the academic year into quarters as well. In addition, the stated number of points should be altered to reflect the actual number of activities and meetings a chapter expects to undertake during a given year.

SUNY-Albany Psi Chi Chapter Point System
In an effort to promote active membership, the following point system has been devised:

Category

Points Awarded
(per semester)

Chairperson

4

Voluntary Work Service (per activity; number of points per activity depends on length of time given and responsibilities assumed)

1-2

Attendance at meetings and speaking events (per meeting)

1

Participation in a Psi Chi - sponsored event in an active capacity (e.g., acting as an usher at the induction ceremony; participation in a fundraiser)

1

Peer Advisement

1 (per hour)

- - - - - - - - - - -

Member Standing

Total Points Needed
(per semester)

Outstanding Member

15

Good Standing

9

General Standing

8 or less

Inactive Member1

0

Note: If a member cannot come to an event or meeting but wants to be an active member, that person should call or talk to the Psi Chi chapter secretary whose number is listed on the Psi Chi Bulletin Board on the first floor of the Social Science building. This is the only way to receive points if you cannot attend the above.

1 EDITOR'S NOTE: Although it is preferable for Psi Chi members to be active, chapters should recognize that some members are unable to complete such activities as are listed here. Inactive members continue to be members of Psi Chi for a lifetime. Privileges of membership should not be withheld.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Awards

Total Points Needed
(per academic year)

Certificate of Outstanding Membership*

27

Note: A list of Outstanding Members will be distributed to the psychology faculty for use in providing letters of recommendation and letters of reference; in addition, Outstanding Members will be given honor cords and/or a Psi Chi medallion to wear at graduation.2)

Certificate of Active Membership in Good Standing

16

*If you have been a member of this organization for less than one academic year (two academic semesters) check with the chapter officers or faculty advisor for further information.

2 EDITOR'S NOTE: Inactive members may also wear the honor cords and/or medallions at graduation, but they must purchase them.

- - - - - - - - - - -

  • All certificates are to be awarded at the yearly induction/awards ceremony.
  • It is expected that all officers will be Outstanding Members of the organization. Their participation is expected throughout their entire term in office.
  • Members who hold office at some point during their undergraduate years at SUNY will automatically be eligible to wear some distinction of honor at graduation.
  • It is the responsibility of the chapter secretary to keep a log of the points accumulated by all current members and to have that information ready for inspection at any time. The secretary is also responsible for informing all current members about the point system.
  • Chairpersons are in charge of organizing specific events throughout the semester. If, for example, you are chair of fundraising, then you will be expected to serve as a chairperson throughout the semester, regardless of the number of activities performed by this group. Chairpersons are expected to be active members of the organization, maintain good attendance at meetings, and assume responsibilities for the events they supervise.

- - - - - - - - - - -

The following list of activities is a tentative one. Others may be added or current suggestions may be deleted as the need arises:

1. Posting
Duties: This activity involves the duplication and posting of signs announcing Psi Chi-sponsored events. Posting should be completed at least four days prior to the event date. The chairperson for this activity is responsible for meeting with the treasurer and a faculty advisor to discuss the disbursement of funds for the duplication of materials. The chairperson will also be responsible for recruiting other members of Psi Chi to participate in this activity.

2. Fundraising
Duties: Fundraising involves the selection of ideas for possible fundraising activities, organizing those activities, and reporting on their outcome. It is the responsibility of the chairperson to oversee the organization and execution of the activities surrounding the actual events and to report the amount raised to the members of Psi Chi. Money raised should also be reported to the treasurer and a faculty advisor for deposit in the organization's account.

3. Speakers
Duties: This activity requires the chairperson(s) to seek individuals who are willing to make presentations to the university on relevant topics in psychology. They should generate a list of names of individuals, contact those individuals, and arrange the location for their presentation. The list of names should first be presented to the members of Psi Chi for selection. The chairperson(s) of this activity should then contact the chairperson for posting to advertise for the event.

4. Induction
Duties: This event requires the chairperson(s) to work with the chapter officers in preparation for the induction ceremony which will be held in April. This involves arranging for speakers, order of ceremony, invitations, printed programs, decorations, refreshments, cleanup, etc. This activity requires individuals who are organized, motivated, and highly reliable. The faculty advisor can provide a mailing list for mailing invitations, and the treasurer can provide funding for mailing supplies.

5. Peer Advisement
Duties: Individuals engaged in this activity will be responsible for arranging an area for Psi Chi members to meet other psychology majors at preregistration. The Psi Chi members will serve as advisors in assessing other majors in the selection of courses for the following academic semester. The chairperson of this activity needs to consult the faculty advisor for information on when and where to set up this event. The chairperson will need to set up hours for advisement and make sure that peer advisors have the necessary materials (catalog of courses, semester schedules, etc.) before this event takes place.

6. Volunteer
Duties: In order to promote service to the community at large, this group will focus on locating outlets for volunteer activities for the other members of Psi Chi. This may include contacting local hospitals, care units, mental health centers, schools, community programs, etc., to find out the details of each volunteer activity. Individuals will consult a chairperson(s) and the officers of Psi Chi to discuss and present the possibilities to them, and later to all of the members.

In Conclusion
The inclusion of incentives and the opportunity to receive recognition as an Outstanding Member has greatly increased active participation in the SUNY-Albany Psi Chi Chapter. Although there are always a large number of comments made by individuals, particularly by officers, with regards to other types of benefits and rewards that are achieved through volunteer work and the sponsoring of events, the recognition of active members is deemed as an important part of Psi Chi.

The above comments are meant as a guideline for new and existing Psi Chi chapters. The institution of any new policies or procedures should always be discussed with individuals at the Psi Chi National Office so that current rules and regulations can be reviewed before a new procedure takes place. The use of a point system is only one of many options for structuring a chapter so as to maximize attendance and participation. However, it has already been shown to be quite effective at our institution.


Dr. Jeanette Altaribba (center), an actively involved Psi Chi faculty advisor at SUNY-Albany for the past four years, has been instrumental in increasing the chapter's membership by 300% using the keys outlined in this article.

For further ideas on increasing chapter participation, refer to the chapter activities reported in the "Sightings" section of each issue of Eye on Psi Chi.

Copyright 1997 (Volume 2, Issue 1) 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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