Greetings, Psi Chi members and interested others. In this first President's Message I would like to welcome you back to school and talk with you a moment about my sense of the essence of Psi Chi. Last year I represented Psi Chi at the annual meetings of the Southeastern Psychological Association, the Southwestern Psychological Association, and the Western Psychological Association. At those meetings I began to think more and more about the important role that mentors play in our lives and how Psi Chi National might serve that role for you. In my copy of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, the word mentor is defined as a "trusted counselor or guide." For most of us, when we think of mentors, we think of people. I think of Dr. Henry A. Cross, Jr., who allowed me to work in his lab as an undergraduate and who guided me through graduate school and life beyond. Mentors, then, sound like people and not institutions or organizations. However, I think there are important ways in which Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology, serves the role of mentor.
In academic settings, the roles of a mentor are many and varied. Mentors give good advice and guidance. They provide the information you need to make informed decisions regarding coursework, research, and internship possibilities, whether graduate school is right for you, and, if the answer is yes, which graduate program would best fit your needs. Mentors also help build your confidence and provide support for those times when you seem less sure of yourself. Finally, mentors serve the role of facilitator. They help you to do the things you want to do, see the possibility of doing things you thought you could not, and realistically evaluate your strengths and your weaknesses.
So, how does Psi Chi serve the role of mentor?
Psi Chi offers good advice, guidance, and the information you need to make informed decisions. At regional APS, students can attend symposia and talks sponsored by Psi Chi. Recent topics have included "Getting In and Staying in Graduate School," "How to Develop and Maintain Your Vita," "Important Courses to Take in College," "Career Options With a BA or MA Degree,'' ''Career Options With a PhD," and "Securing Research and Internship Experiences." Information on these topics and others is also provided in Psi Chi's magazine, Eye on Psi Chi. Reading the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research provides important information about hot topics in psychology, and submitting a manuscript to the Journal provides information on how to publish a manuscript. Finally, Psi Chi also offers you chances to see, hear, and meet nationally prominent psychologists through its invited speakers series offered at each of its programs.
Psi Chi also plays a role in boosting your confidence. This is accomplished through its sponsorship of Psi Chi programs at regional and national meetings. At these meetings you are given opportunities to present your research in the form of a paper or a poster. Not only do you discover that your peers are just like you in terms of confidence and ability, you learn that you can compete. This realization your research presentations through its Regional Research Awards and National Convention Research Awards programs. Up to 86 awards of $300 each are presented for the best research submitted for the national (8 awards) and regional (78 awards) conventions. Psi Chi National is also considering ways to support local psychology conferences. Stay tuned for developments on this exciting program.
Confidence is also built when Psi Chi rewards your hard work through its many awards programs. Regional Chapter Awards and the Cousins National Chapter Award are given to those students who work the hardest to promote Psi Chi. The Allyn & Bacon Psychology Awards, the Erlbaum Awards in Cognitive Science, the Guilford Undergraduate Research Awards, and the Newman Graduate Research Award are given for the best research papers submitted. To win such a national award, we think, boosts your confidence and provides a strong foundation upon which to build your career.
One of the important roles of a mentor is to help you get the experiences you need to realize your full potential. Research experience is critical in this regard. According to a 1994 study by Keith-Spiegel, Tabachnick, and Spiegel, the top three criteria for admission to a quality PhD program are GPA, GRE, and letters of recommendation. KeithSpiegel et al. (1994) suggest that these three criteria may not always discriminate among the top students. As a consequence, second-tier criteria are used to make decisions about admittance. Among the most important of the second-tier criteria is involvement in research. As an undergraduate in psychology, learning to conduct research offers several major advantages. You acquire a better understanding of the scientific method, particularly as it relates to the methods of science commonly used in psychology. You learn to design better experiments and to determine the controls necessary to establish cause-and-effect relationships. By presenting your results at regional and national conferences, you keep current and you receive information regarding graduate programs including admissions requirements and the various programs of research. By conducting research and by presenting and publishing your work, you become more competitive in a tight graduate school market, and you are able to significantly contribute to such programs earlier.
Psi Chi provides financial support for your research through three separate programs. The Undergraduate Research Grants program provides funds for undergraduate Psi Chi members to defray the direct costs of conducting a research project either at the student's home institution or at another institution. Currently, students can receive up to $1,500 to support their research, and up to $45,000 will be provided to support this program this year. In addition, Psi Chi funds three Thelma Hunt research awards. Up to $3,000 can be used to complete empirical research regarding questions of interest to Psi Chi. In addition, Psi Chi supports up to 12 research grants (two within each region) submitted by Psi Chi faculty advisors. It is expected that the awarding of such grants will provide more opportunities for students to be involved in research. Awards up to $2,000 will be given in this category. In the next year we hope to provide additional ways to support student research, and we hope to develop programs that might allow students to complete internships. At Psi Chi National, we believe that this apprenticeship approach is the best model for teaching students what it means to be psychologists.
I feel strongly that mentors can change lives and that Psi Chi can serve the role of mentor. I caution you, however, in this regard. Mentors do not typically come knocking on your door and asking to come in. Mentoring is a two-way interaction. Do not be afraid to contact us and to take advantage of the many ways we can help you to get your career off to a flying start. Mentors are nice people who care about you. Just call the National Office or your regional vice-president. I think you will hear the friendly voice of someone who wants to help you succeed. What else are mentors for?
Keith-Spiegel, P., Tabachnick, B. G., & Spiegel, G.B. (1994). When demand exceeds supply: Second-order criteria used by graduate school selection committees. Teaching of Psychology, 21, 79-81.