East Stroudsburg University is a small school with a relatively limited number of eligible Psi Chi candidates. Like students at other schools, many of our students have jobs, families, and other responsibilities. This makes time a premium and often has made it difficult for our students to fully participate in our Psi Chi chapter and Psychology Association. We have done two things to minimize these obstacles and increase the exposure of our chapter.
Combining Psi Chi and the Psychology Association
A recent issue of Eye on Psi Chi included an article on how students at Georgia Southern University combined a Psi Chi chapter and a Psychology Association. The article, by Murray and Wilson (1999), discussed some of the challenges facing students when involved in two separate organizations. Time and financial constraints were major concerns since both are limited resources of college students. The students, staff, and faculty often had difficulty deciding to which group they should dedicate their time, energy, and funds. Communication between organization members was said to be awkward when scheduling speakers and other activities that were of equal interest to both groups. The article explained how they solved many problems by combining the two organizations into one with a new name, "The Psychology Coalition."
At East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania we experienced comparable problems, and we successfully combined our Psi Chi chapter and Psychology Association, a club open to all students interested in psychology, into one unified organization while maintaining their two separate identities. The Psychology Association members are included in almost all Psi Chi projects and activities. Whereas Psi Chi and the Psychology Association hold their meetings at the same time and place, each has its own officers, finances, and related but somewhat distinct interests.
The Psi Chi president begins each weekly meeting by introducing for discussion those projects sponsored by Psi Chi. These projects are discussed by both Psi Chi and Psychology Association members. Next, the Psychology Association president presents Psychology Association issues, followed by discussion by members of both groups. By combining the activities of the two clubs, we increase the number of students who can support the separate functions of the two organizations and minimize redundancies when scheduling speakers, doing community service, and planning outings.
Finances are handled as two separate entities, since there are different university guidelines and resources for each organization. For example, Psi Chi sponsors the Psychology Department's Research Forum (see more on this event below) and finances the cost of the forum's refreshments. The Psychology Association finances end-of-semester socials for all psychology majors, faculty, staff, and their families. When hosting speakers on campus, Psi Chi and the Psychology Association split the financial responsibility. Each seeks funding separately at our university.
Combining a Psi Chi Induction With a Research Forum
Our second accomplishment is a dramatic increase in attendance at the Psi Chi induction ceremony. Attendance has increased from approximately 10 to 15 people to about 120 people. This was accomplished by strategically scheduling our Psi Chi chapter's induction ceremony in combination with the department's Research Forum. The forum is an hour-and-a-half event scheduled near the end of each semester. Students in several laboratory-oriented classes and those completing independent research attend this forum to present posters or talks describing their research. Professors in the Psychology Department have found success in offering a few extra credit points for students who attend the Research Forum and induction ceremony.
The forum includes four parts. First, the students who have completed independent research report their findings. Next, Psi Chi inducts its new members and officers. Following the induction we recognize the recipients of departmental scholarships. In the remaining half of the forum we move to a poster presentation by the students who have conducted research in class during that semester. The poster session is offered in a relaxed atmosphere, enhanced by the refreshments provided by the Psi Chi chapter. By combining the induction with the forum, students who previously would not have been exposed to the Psi Chi organization and induction have the opportunity to understand the accomplishment of Psi Chi members and the goals of Psi Chi. In return, by having such a large captive audience, the Psi Chi inductees enjoy an increased sense of achievement as others can share the importance of the moment. Psi Chi, remaining true to its goal, supports research in psychology by sponsoring the forum. The Psychology Association members are also present for the Psi Chi chapter's induction ceremony, encouraging some to work to become members of Psi Chi.
In conclusion, East Stroudsburg University's Psychology Department takes pride in having overcome the multiple challenges that face chapters at smaller colleges and universities. The sharing of Psi Chi and the Psychology Association membership and their combined support of the departmental events has positively affected everyone who is involved by shedding light on their individual achievements.
Murray, J. D., & Wilson, J. H. (1999, Winter). Can a psychology club be combined with a Psi Chi chapter? Eye on Psi Chi, 3, 20-21.