As we celebrate Psi Chi’s “golden anniversary,” I realize that we are witnessing a very special period in the history of the Society: the founders and most of our members are still living and continuing to make contributions on behalf of our organization. For example, the cofounders, Edwin B. Newman and Frederick H. Lewis, are with us today, and the speakers at our last three conventions, Neal Miller, B.F. Skinner, and Rollo May, are all members of Psi Chi.2
Through the support of current and alumni members, Psi Chi has continued to grow in numbers and in objectives since 1929, when the organization was founded. This year, Psi Chi gained about 7,000 new members and 36 new chapters, bringing the total number of members registered in these 50 years to over 113,000.
Although it is a good sign when an organization keeps growing, in order for it stay vital, an organization not only must be able to cope with a constantly changing environment, but to help bring about change. Futurists tell us that in the year 2000 (and I might remind you that is just 20 years from now) no area in our lives will be the same as it is today. This kind of accelerated change naturally produces instability in organizations as they adapt to the changing needs of their members.
The decades ahead will bring more changes in the sciences and meaningfulness for Psi Chi. During Psi Chi’s earlier stages, recognition for achievement was the major attraction for joining, but in the future the feeling of belonging and the need for self-fulfillment will be just as important. The trend in the 1980s will be self-realization—a value that honor societies have helped to bring about.
For Psi Chi to help its members fulfill this striving for self-realization, we have to provide a balance of services. Success for Psi Chi is like playing a piano, you have to hit the right combination of keys to make music.
One of these keys is providing our members with opportunities to develop skills necessary for their later professional careers. For example, by providing learning experiences to help them acquire skills of self-directed learning (competency learning) our members will be prepared to continue learning and to be productive all their lives. These learning experiences will supplement classroom learning, which traditionally is based on the assumption that if we pour enough knowledge into people—especially during their youth—it will be sufficient to deal with their problems in later life. However, this dependency on learning is not as conductive to competency as in the inner-directive learning.
Another key is the role of information and communication which will be a foremost service in Psi Chi’s world of tomorrow. The breakthrough of technology will be astounding, and we conceive Psi Chi to become a “learning community”—a system of learning resources.
A third key is increased consciousness, which produces change. For instance, new technology such as computers with built-in dictionaries and encyclopedias that will automatically check spelling, statistics, quotations, and other facts, will free human beings to concentrate on tasks requiring imagination and creativity. Thus, we will see more individualism, diversity, experimentation, and consequently greater awareness. This greater consciousness brings about change—an unstable state that is good because it assures the continuous evaluation of the organization’s undeveloped values.
Thus, Psi Chi leaders at all stages in the Society’s development have inspired, and will continue to inspire, changes in the way people live and feel about themselves. This type of leadership takes an immersion in people, an understanding and sense of people. With leaders like these as role models, Psi Chi will continue to hit the right combination of keys to make beautiful music, that is, to prepare our members for competency.
We thank Dr. Newman and Mr. Lewis for giving Psi Chi to us. The organization has been the instrument to help inspire change and to enrich the field of psychology, as well as the lives of our members, and society.