Question: How can a Psi Chi student, professor, or alumnus receive $2,000 this fall to complete some important behavioral research in 1999-2000, to be published in the spring of 2001? Answer: Apply for a Hunt Award by October 1. This presidential message limns the value of behavioral research and how members can now benefit from doing research on policy questions of importance to Psi Chi.
In earning our doctorate, we psychologists are trained to value behavioral research. In my own case, I studied with psychology "missionaries" who savored research as the true path to objective answers for questions across topics--Professors Stanley Milgram (social influence), Florence Denmark (gender), Edgar Borgatta (statistics), Barbara Snell Dohrenwend (stress), Samuel J. Messick (psychometrics), and Larry Gould (organizations). When people's opinions differ, psychologists often note "It is really an empirical question" awaiting study. We know that research not only helps resolve questions, but can also reveal unimagined new facts (Kerlinger, 1986). Of course, this is widely known outside psychology as well. Like the U.S. Congress's Congressional Research Office, every major corporation, government agency, and association (including APA) must have its research arm. Such is the rationale for the Thelma Hunt Award--announced on pages 51-52 of this magazine.
Our semiannual Council meeting in January 1994 in New Orleans heard President Joseph Horvat pose this perennial question to us nine Council members: How can we draw our students and faculty beyond their own chapter to get more involved in the national work of Psi Chi? My answer was a one-page proposal to the next Council meeting at APA in August 1994, to try funding three new $1,000 grants to members who would lend their research skills to studies that somehow advance the mission of Psi Chi.
It works this way: During its deliberations, the Psi Chi Council naturally raises policy questions that need study, but which overworked Council members simply lack the time to research adequately. For example, the initial two unanswered questions in 1994 were, "Do any other nations have psychology honor societies Psi Chi should contact?" and "How many top psychologists today were influenced by Psi Chi as students?" This list of policy questions is disseminated as RFPs (what grantmakers call Requests for Proposals) among folks at the August APA meetings and elsewhere. Then by October 1, interested researchers submit their brief proposals, hear back from the selection committee by November, and have nine months till next September to submit their findings, which are eventually published as an article in Eye on Psi Chi.
From the start, this Hunt Awards program offers several benefits besides getting talented faculty and students more involved in Psi Chi work: The program (1) channels money back to individual members, (2) encourages faculty-student teams to develop their research skills and publish their findings, (3) generates solid articles for Eye on Psi Chi, and (4) addresses policy questions important to Psi Chi. This award was named for Thelma Hunt, PhD, MD (1903-92), the longtime historian of Psi Chi (Hunt, 1979). A professor and chair of psychology at George Washington University beginning in 1938, Thelma was an "enabler, a person who made it possible for others to realize their full potential" (Lubin, 1993, p. 3). Her colleague and biographer, Clyde Lindley (1994), was contacted and, as the executor of her estate, welcomed a Psi Chi award bearing Thelma's name.
First Six Awards
Though the Hunt Award proposal was shelved from 1994-96 due to full agendas at Council meetings, it was quickly approved once voted on in 1996, and the findings of the first two Hunt Award research projects, funded in November 1996, were published in the Spring 1998 Eye: (1) Dennis Carmody noted how Psi Chi tries to promote student research, and completed a solid survey testing the later impact of conference presentations on student presenters. (2) Jason R. Young and Tania DaPrada studied "25 Years of the Hunter Psychology Convention"--what happened to alumni who presented their work at this local conference? In 1996, a third $1000 award went unclaimed due to lack of a suitable proposal.
In the fall of 1997, three more Hunt Awards were granted, with three articles published on pages 13-22 of the Eye in the Spring 1999 issue: (3) Mathilde Tarsi and Norine L. Jalbert compared matched samples of 125 psychology alumni who were or were not Psi Chi members, to compare their career paths and success. (4) Jeffrey B. Titus and Nathan J. Buxman surveyed some of the 900+ Psi Chi chapters to assess "Is Psi Chi Meeting Its Mission Statement?" (5) Mark O. Millard surveyed 152 Psi Chi and non-Psi Chi students from five schools to compare differences in their achievement, satisfaction, and involvement levels.
Starting in 1998, the National Council raised the Hunt Award from $1,000 to $2,000. Only one project was funded: (6) Erica Heitner and Florence L. Denmark's survey of top U.S. psychologists, to find out how many of them had a brush with Psi Chi during their student years--a timely question for Psi Chi's 70th anniversary year.
It is noteworthy that half of the 12 current Hunt questions listed on Psi Chi's Hunt Award form (see page 52) originated at gatherings outside of the Council. For instance, question #9 asks, "Are many Psi Chi members diagnosed as LD, or learning disabled?" When an NYU student raised this question during a 1995 APA graduate admissions symposium, four other students quickly agreed that their difficulty with standardized exams like the GRE contrasts with (and thus underpredicts) their outstanding grades in school. If so, what an important yet hidden problem. Still, the National Council continues to raise issues as well, such as mystery #11, why on earth some schools never form a Psi Chi chapter; indeed, almost 100% of the approximately 20 new charters Psi Chi approves each year contain a statement like "We are eager to launch our chapter," yet Psi Chi needs to reach those other schools that for some reason are either unaware of the opportunities Psi Chi offers or they choose to remain "outside the fold."
Perhaps someday the Hunt Awards may segue into a full-fledged research office within Psi Chi, to coordinate systematic studies the way APA's research office now does. For example, the Council has now begun to commission polls to better represent its members' views, and evaluations of its many new programs (which have more than doubled since 1993). Meanwhile, the Hunt Awards have not been unduly competitive to receive, yet some have proven a cost-effective way to glean valuable new information while giving students and faculty a chance to do funded research. Those who would consider a Hunt Award before the October 1 deadline should check the current questions (see page 52) and then refer to the Psi Chi national website (www.psichi.org) for Hunt proposals funded in the past. May the Force be with you.
Kerlinger, F. (1986). Foundations of behavioral research (3rd ed.). New York: Holt Rinehart Winston.
Lindley, C. J. (1994). Thelma Hunt (1903-1992). American Psychologist, 49, 141.
Lubin, B. (1993, Winter). The passing of a friend and guide to students, psychology, and Psi Chi: Thelma Hunt, PhD, MD. Psi Chi Newsletter, 19, 1, 3.
Hunt, T. (1979). Five decades of Psi Chi, 1929-1979. Washington, DC: Psi Chi.