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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2014

Psi Chi Coadvising: Sharing
the Commitment and Vision

Carrol Perrino, PhD, Natasha Otto, and Pamela E. Scott-Johnson, PhD, Morgan State University (MD)

Looking Back: Carrol S. Perrino, PhD
Our Psi Chi chapter at Morgan State University1 (MSU) was founded May 23, 1958, and is the second Historically Black College University (HBCU) to earn that distinction. Following "much discussion” between Dr. John Richardson III (MSU psychology professor) and Meredith Marks (Psi Chi Executive Secretary, 1056–58), Dr. Richardson succeeded in establishing the chapter and becoming its first advisor. Dr. Richardson wanted MSU students to have access to an organization that gave them professional honors status. I became the advisor not long after arriving at MSU in 1968 and have continued in this role to the present.

The criteria for membership in Psi Chi supported the department’s goals of increasing levels of student scholarly activities including strengthening their preparation for graduate studies and participation in service to the college and Baltimore community. As the advisor, I felt my role was to support the members’ choice of speakers, projects, and conference attendance. However, this philosophy has its limitations because members’ choices are dictated by current popular trends and levels of engagement particularly of the chapter officers.

In 2002, I welcomed my first coadvisor, Dr. Pamela Scott-Johnson, who moved our chapter in an entirely new direction. To make sure that students knew and appreciated the legacy of scholarship and leadership in psychology, as well as to help students showcase their own activities, Dr. Scott-Johnson submitted a proposal for the Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Conference Grant. Our chapter was awarded $1,000 to enhance and memorialize Mae P. Claytor, a previous chapter advisor, and Martin D. Jenkins, a psychologist and MSU’s former president, in the department’s undergraduate year-end symposium. The newly titled Mae P. Claytor/Martin D. Jenkins Behavioral Science Undergraduate Research Conference provided a venue for MSU’s Psi Chi seniors, all graduating psychology seniors, and other students from nearby colleges and universities, especially those from Maryland and other HBCUs, to display posters in a professional manner similar to those at the national meetings. Underclass students from across the campus were encouraged to attend and ask questions about the individual projects. Psychology graduate programs in Maryland sent representatives to talk to potential graduate students and distribute written information. Dr. James Jones, a renowned cultural and social psychologist, and Dr. James Outtz, a National Academies recognized industrial/organizational psychologist, were our first speakers to lead what became the feature of the senior luncheon. Awards and recognitions were supported by John Wiley and Sons Publishers. This event has been replicated over the years with an enthusiasm and level of engagement that promises sustainability.

Envisioning the Future: Natasha Otto, MA
In 2012, I volunteered to be the new coadvisor to help infuse new energy into our Psi Chi chapter. We needed to move in new directions, especially in finding new ways to sustain high levels of membership participation. We also needed to be focused on helping students develop leadership skills. With a team of enthusiastic and passionate Psi Chi officers, we have encouraged and supported their development of an innovative tutoring service for psychology majors and other students enrolled in psychology courses. Other activities have included more vibrant community outreach initiative programs such as participating in the National Alliance on Mental Illness awareness walk, volunteering with the university’s peer tutoring and peer counseling programs, and sponsoring bimonthly speakers to discuss psychological issues critical to the community. Finally, we are sponsoring a graduate school readiness workshop in which students learn the craft of writing graduate-school statements, requesting letters of recommendations, and applying to graduate and professional programs. This year, we will connect for the first time with our own graduate students in our psychometrics program as a joint effort to show how test construction and evaluation plays such a critical role in our multicultural/multiethnic society.

Our vision as advisors is to develop and cultivate the next generation of scholars in psychology who come from diverse ethnic, educational, and experiential backgrounds. Our objectives are to create programs and activities that help our students realize their dreams of participating in the psychology of the future. The expansion of the Mae P. Claytor/Martin D. Jenkins Behavioral Science Undergraduate Research Conference to a regional conference will open doors to undergraduate scholars across the mid-Atlantic. Our leadership conference expansion and leadership training will also support our goals of having the MSU chapter be recognized as a model honor society here on MSU’s campus.

Sixty-Five Years and Beyond: Carrol S. Perrino, PhD
This year represents the 65th anniversary of the MSU Psychology Department. Our theme for this anniversary is "Embracing the Past, Engaging the Present, and Empowering the Future.” With over 40 years of service as the advisor to Psi Chi at MSU, I have witnessed the marvelous metamorphosis of young African American psychology majors into clinicians, academicians, lawyers, and other accomplished professionals. Their membership in Psi Chi has provided a vital element in their choices and to their successes. My colleagues, who have played their roles as coadvisors, have supported my own commitment and vision for our students, have helped me shape their leadership, and have added the spark of originality that makes Psi Chi membership as vital today as it was when I first set foot on MSU’s campus 46 years ago.

1Note: Morgan State University was formerly recognized as Morgan State College until 1975

Carrol Perrino, PhD, has been an associate professor in the MSU Psychology Department since 1973 and served as chair of the department from 1985 through 1994. Dr. Perrino is an experimental psychologist who has pursued the ever-changing role of statistics and methodology in applied research, allowing her to explore a wide range of topics including substance abuse, transportation safety, sexual harassment, and institutional research. Dr. Perrino holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Syracuse University (NY), and a master’s and a doctorate in experimental psychology from Northwestern University (IL). Her current research focuses on the impact of integrating developmental courses (e.g., English, history, and reading) on enhancing writing skills of entering first-year students.

Natasha Otto is a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at MSU. She earned her master’s in educational and developmental psychology with an emphasis in developmental psychology from Andrews University (MI), and earned a BA in human development and family studies from Oakwood University (AL). Professor Otto is a member of several divisions of the American Psychological Association. She serves as the coadvisor of MSU Psi Chi Chapter. Professor Otto also serves as a member of the Instructional Resource Award committee of the Society for Teaching Psychology.

Pamela E. Scott-Johnson, PhD, is a professor of psychology and former chairperson of the Psychology Department. She currently serves as the acting dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Department at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. She earned a BA degree in psychology and graduated magna cum laude from Spelman College (GA) in 1982, and an MA and PhD in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton University (NJ) in 1984 and 1989, respectively. Dr. Scott-Johnson is an active member of the APA, Association of Heads of Psychology Departments, Project Kaleidoscope, and SEPA. In the mid 1990s, she served as the director of SEPA Psi Chi Undergraduate Convention, a position now held by one of her former students.

Copyright 2014 (Volume 19, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


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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