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Eye on Psi Chi: Spring 2016

Your Membership Is
More Than a Resumé Builder

Andrea Mata, PhD, University of Findlay (OH)
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If an undergraduate psychology major or minor asked you as a current Psi Chi member why they should join Psi Chi, could you detail the benefits of membership? Take a minute to answer. If you find yourself struggling to articulate any benefits beyond “It’s a resumé builder,” please do not be too hard on yourself. I was once in your position. If you find yourself rattling off numerous benefits, skip ahead to the Professional Development section for strategies that the University of Findlay Psi Chi Chapter has found most effective in engaging and retaining members.
I do not fault those who could not come up with many benefits of Psi Chi participation simply because the benefits are not always initially apparent. This coincides with our discipline, psychology, which tends to prepare undergraduate majors and minors with soft skills that are not easily quantifiable. Although not quantitative, there are significant qualitative membership advantages, which I classify into two categories: professional development and opportunities. I also provide strategies for members to capitalize on all that Psi Chi has to offer.
Professional Development
Professional development sounds fantastic, but it is often just a better way of saying “It’s a resumé builder!” This may make you cringe, and believe me, I feel your pain. But whether we like to admit it or not, this may be the leading motivating factor for undergraduates to join Psi Chi. As members, let’s stop swimming upstream, list it as the benefit it is, and market all of the other advantageous benefits. Our chapter has embraced this reality with gusto and candor.
Every academic year, the chapter president e-mails all current members and essentially states: “If you only joined Psi Chi as a resumé builder, we understand. We will not hold it against you. Just let us know so we don’t expect your participation.” Then, the president challenges individuals who want to be active members to respond with their interests, thus requiring them to actively engage for the year. We then create our active members list with the expectation of regular attendance at our events and meetings, and involvement in our decision making.
Membership Opportunities
The other category of benefits of Psi Chi membership includes the plethora of opportunities that Psi Chi offers. These include increasing knowledge, developing skills, and networking. Simply by paying $55, Psi Chi members are provided with a wealth of information of possible opportunities for true professional development—not merely a participation ribbon. The Psi Chi publications discuss a variety of topics such as applying to grad school and innovative research findings. Grants, scholarships, and awards for both individuals and chapters also provide great opportunities to fund your area of research and assist in covering school expenses.
Knowledge. Knowledge is power! Humans don’t know what they don’t know, and that was certainly the case with our chapter. We have educated ourselves and since taken advantage of many Psi Chi opportunities. I use published articles in my Conquering the Grad School App course, and our members have applied for undergraduate summer grants, the Model Chapter Award, and the Regional Faculty Advisor Award. Of these, our chapter has earned two Regional Research Awards, the Model Chapter Award for the last two years, and a Regional Faculty Advisor Award. I attribute the Regional Research Awards to the wonderful Psi Chi organization because all an undergraduate member has to do is submit an abstract for a regional convention, and Psi Chi takes care of the rest. Let me tell you, $300 to an undergraduate for simply submitting something they already planned to do is a win-win! What about our Model Chapter Awards? I attribute those to another opportunity afforded through membership: skills development.
Skills development. I cannot stress enough the numerous benefits available to Psi Chi chapter officers in developing leadership and interpersonal skills. These are proficiencies that graduate schools and employers desire. They want individuals who can lead by example, manage their time, and work well with others. Officers practice these skills as undergraduates within a safe environment and under the tutelage of a faculty advisor. A motivated officer team is necessary for a conducive learning environment and establishing a community. I have had four different officer groups in my 2.5 years, and motivation is a significant factor! A strategy we utilize is encouraging our strongest members to run for office. We also reduced turnover by reorganizing roles and implementing a natural transition from one of our lower positions into our president role the following year.
Furthermore, we initiated a summer officer retreat, a remarkable success! The officers and I find a day that all of us are available. We meet at my home, spending the morning in icebreakers and discussion. We break for a potluck lunch and use the afternoon to plan our academic year. This retreat allows for conversations regarding everyone’s roles and responsibilities, and a plan that leaves no one confused about expectations. It also builds camaraderie between the officers.
Another strategy our chapter has adopted is that we have reduced the number of all-member meetings and events, and increased the number of officer meetings. When I first took over the chapter, we had all-member meetings every month and planned multiple events that were not well-attended. The members were spread too thin with other responsibilities and chose to let their Psi Chi obligations go by the way side. Now, we only have all-member meetings when we have a specific agenda to accomplish, and we engage in activities that the members enjoy. Our additional officer meetings ensure that all of our ducks are in a row. Our officers have learned to meet when needed, be productive in our allotted time, accomplish our goals, and keep each other accountable—highly marketable skills in society. These two minor changes have reduced many frustrations that our officers had with lack of membership involvement.
Networking. The greatest benefit of Psi Chi membership is networking. But to me, “networking” sounds incredibly impersonal. Instead, I focus on building relationships. This implies a two-way street compared to networking, a unilateral relationship, or getting what you need from someone and moving on. I learned the importance of building relationships when I was a Psi Chi officer at Valparaiso University (IN). I still keep in contact with many of my fellow officers, and we bounce ideas off of each other to this day. These are the kind of relationships that I try to instill in our members.
I am still benefiting from building relationships with others in Psi Chi, even as a faculty advisor. For example, I attended the faculty advisor social at the MPA annual meeting a few months after I was selected to take over as faculty advisor. During that event, I interacted with numerous veteran faculty advisors who gave me valuable insights. The most helpful advice was from Tim Koeltzow, a former faculty advisor at Bradley University, who suggested changing one of the officer positions to that of a “compliance officer” whose main role is to make sure that the chapter is following all organization guidelines, especially for the Model Chapter Award. Our chapter did just that at our first summer officer retreat, and our earning the Model Chapter Award in the last two years has been the outcome of this small reorganization. Additionally, one of our officers applied for a summer research grant, although he did not receive it. He and his fellow officers then nominated me for the Regional Faculty Advisor Award. Had I not built a strong relationship with our members, neither of these awards would have been available to us.
In the words of the great Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I think this holds true for membership in Psi Chi. You have no idea the opportunities that membership could afford unless you join and participate. It could lead to your admittance to a graduate program, your next job, or a wider network of colleagues. The opportunities are vast, and the benefits incalculable.

The Valparaiso University Psi Chi Chapter inducted Andrea Mata, PhD, into Psi Chi in spring 2005 where she served as the fundraising chair for the 2005–06 academic year. She earned her MA and PhD in clinical child psychology from Kent State University. Dr. Mata completed her APA-accredited internship at Boys Town in Omaha, NE, where she conducted therapy with antisocial and aggressive adolescent women. In February 2013, she became the faculty advisor of the University of Findlay Psi Chi Chapter. As the advisor, Dr. Mata encourages the chapter to become more involved across campus and within the larger Psi Chi society. She is proud of the improvements she has seen within the chapter over the last few years such as members applying for research grants and scholarships, members winning Regional Research Awards, and the chapter earning the Model Chapter Award for the 2014–15 academic year.

Copyright 2016 (Volume 20, Issue 3) 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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