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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2015

Sailing the Sometimes Tumultuous Seas
of the Psi Chi Chapter

Kevin M. P. Woller, PhD, Rogers State University (OK)
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A smooth and efficient chapter is a boon to your university, the student members, and indeed to yourself. However, creating and maintaining such a chapter is much easier said than done. Throughout my years as advisor to the Rogers State University (RSU) Psi Chi Chapter, I have learned six lessons that may assist in giving your chapter the highest chance for success.
1. Moor Your Chapter to a Strong President
Probably the most key position in your chapter is that of president. The formal installation of the office of the president includes the line, “The conduct, value, and contributions to the university exhibited by this chapter rest upon your shoulders more than upon those of any other officer or member of the chapter.” In my 10+ years as an advisor, I find that no words ring more true. Over the years our chapter has had presidents who were fantastic and those who were mediocre. The chapter itself tended to parallel the president, so in years that they were fantastic so was the chapter, but in years that they were mediocre we didn’t fare so well. Generally it is my position that an “advisor should advise” and try to leave the decision making and business of the chapter up to the officers and members. However, one of the most effective things I did for our chapter was to start “interviewing” candidates for the office of the president. I find this process serves several purposes including (a) letting potential candidates know that this is a serious and important position, which often times includes doing the work of more than one person; (b) allowing me to pass along “institutional and chapter knowledge” to give those who are elected to the position a head start, as well as the tools necessary to be the best president they can be; and (c) to help determine if the candidate is truly suited for the position. The quality of our chapter presidents has been closer to fantastic since I started this practice.
2. Keep SGA on Your Radar
Another important position is that of our chapter’s Student Government Association (SGA) representative(s). Although not listed as a mandatory officer by Psi Chi, I have found this position to often be almost as important as that of the president. First and foremost, SGA provides us with funding for our events—from our yearly induction to the various community service projects the RSU Chapter has accomplished. Equally as important is the information, both formal and informal, that these officers bring back from the meetings. Among the key issues we have learned from our SGA reps are modifications to funding policies, adjudications in the amount that the SGA has to allocate to student organizations, and procedures to access higher levels of financial support. Your SGA representative(s) need to be comfortable with public speaking, persuasive yet charismatic, reliable so they can attend both SGA and chapter meetings, and have an eye for detail so they can report significant findings back to the group.
3. Command a Research Vessel
Although specific positions are critical to your success, I have found that group activities are the lifeblood of the organization. If there are no goals or tasks to accomplish, your group will quickly f lounder or languish and you will see meeting attendance and participation dwindle. One valuable goal is a group research project. Pick a topic or area early and get a core group of dedicated students who are not overly involved in individual projects to help with the investigation. Target a state or regional convention so their first presentation experience can be a positive one (i.e., I have found the SWPA convention to be an ideal venue for first-time student presenters in our area).
4. Chart a Quarter/Semester or Year-Long Voyage
For those not as research oriented, determine a large project for the chapter to focus on. Although smaller projects like food or clothing drives can be helpful and quick, and have their place in every organization, a large-scale effort can keep members engaged for an entire quarter/semester or academic year and generate both excitement and a wealth of creativity. One such yearly project for our chapter is called the “Special Day of Care.” This community service project is targeted at Safenet Services, which is our local women and children’s abuse shelter. The event partners with two local day spas to provide a variety of free beauty services for the women, and a “day of fun” for their children akin to an indoor carnival. Planning for the event is extensive including a specific date targeted around the safety of the participants, daycare workers, security, fund-raising, food, drinks and materials for the activities, as well as many other details. This helps to involve a variety of students, staff, and faculty with varying interests from counseling and social psychology to those interested in working in protection-related fields and services. Such an event is a catalyst for cooperative group efforts and is an excellent hands-on and practical experience that has applications toward a variety of future professional experiences.
5. Hoist Your Chapter Flag
Fostering a group identity can also help strengthen and maintain the bonds of its members with one another toward the chapter. I have found that annually designing and distributing a yearly shirt is a simple yet elegant way to foster a shared identity for our chapter. Whether your chapter chooses a short-sleeve T-shirt, a casual polo, or a button-down oxford, this symbol of unity and belonging can help keep your chapter strong. You can include design contests (with a free shirt as a prize), special editions (my favorite is our limited-edition 10th year anniversary shirt), and occasionally mix in other selections like hoodies, hats, and the like. I always allow a great deal of latitude for the selection process but also strongly suggest including the international logo as part of the design. Although you will have to go through the formal online permission process to use the logo that protects chapter territories and limits selling the shirts to anyone but members, this will give your students a strong sense of group membership. Be sure to order early so your group can wear them at whatever university, community service, or research events you have planned for the year. Order a few extra if you can to both get a better deal and allow for sales at your yearly induction event.
6. Reward Your Crew
Finally, don’t forget to have FUN! All the hard work in both research and community service activities can leave students burned out. Have an occasional pizza party, challenge each other to a chapter bowl-a-thon or laser tag event, or do whatever you call “fun” in your region. Reward your chapter members for their efforts, and they will come back renewed and invigorated for the next challenge!

Kevin M. P. Woller, PhD, is a professor of psychology and former department head at Rogers State University (RSU) in Claremore (OK) where he has served 16 years. He earned his PhD in counseling psychology at Kent State University (OH) in 1999, and his BA degree in psychology at the University of Washington in 1989. Dr. Woller has published 10 articles and has 31 presentations at various conferences. He has earned the RSU Service Award three times in the last 7 years, earned the inaugural 2014 “RSU Advisor of the Year Award,” and is active in both university governance and community service. RSU’s Psi Chi Chapter has earned the Model Chapter Award seven times since its inception in 2003.

Copyright 2015 (Volume 20, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


 
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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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