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Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award
2014 Winner's Essay
In many ways, becoming the Psi Chi chapter president for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) was an unexpected development for my collegiate career. Initially, as a newly inducted, second-semester sophomore, I pursued an officer position that fit one of my best strengths: student-faculty liaison. However, due to an absence of officer applications, I was approached with the proposition to apply for president. Although this was a big responsibility, I knew that, if I could create a good interpersonal, work driven environment among the other officers, we could accomplish any goal we put before ourselves.
Our first induction ceremony went smoothly, but we lacked for volunteer events during the first months of fall. Come Christmas break, I decided that we needed to have a more structured executive committee. I organized a hierarchical system by which tasks were distributed to my fellow officers based on position and personal relevance. For instance, I took it upon myself to pursue volunteer opportunities with the Autism Society of North Carolina because they are one of my employers. Our treasurer, Melisa, assisted me with organizing a talk on the psychology of monsters to introduce new social psychology professor Kurt Gray to the students. Our student-faculty liaison, Sarah, organized collaboration with Psychology Club, which she was an officer for, to help inform undergraduates of prospective research/graduate school opportunities. These events helped us get the ball rolling during the winter season and resulted in a nice turnout of new Psi Chi members.
Our next move was to create something entirely new for members to participate in—something that reflected our mission to further student-faculty interaction and also my personal drive to provide members with opportunities to explore what really interests them in psychology. The end result was UNC-Psi Chi’s annual series of coffee talks. Although other clubs on campus often provide colloquia on frequently discussed topics such as graduate school and research labs, no other group provides opportunities for members to pursue their own interests, regardless of how specific. With the coffee talks, our members are able to state which topics in psychology truly interest them, whether it be the perception of psychological conditions in the media or the abuse of prescription drugs in populations with anxiety/depression. We recruited professors and graduate students to lead these talks in small group environments. The reception was overwhelmingly positive; four total talks were conducted during the spring semester of 2013.
Despite this initial success, the new officers and I aimed to significantly expand Psi Chi’s influence over the summer of 2013 to form even more collaborations between other organizations and faculty. To facilitate this, we began having weekly executive meetings in our school psychology hall. The format of these meetings is egalitarian and discussion based. All officers are free to voice their ideas, and we decide what works as a committee. We preserve a running itinerary that we touch base on every week. By utilizing this framework, we have greatly increased the quantity and quality of events we’re involved in. We have collaborated with the Minority Psychology Student Association (MPSA), Psychology Club, and Active Minds Psychology Club. Volunteer events include dates at the Ronald McDonald house (four dates as of this penning), Autism Outreach sponsored events, and the creation/funding of the UNC-Psi Chi Relay for Life group. Both fall and spring inductions have had a great turnout, and the ceremonies have gone swimmingly. Early on in the year, UNC-Psi Chi created the UNC-Psi Chi Psychology Honors Thesis Award, which provided $150 to three senior honors theses students whose work was deemed exemplary by a panel of three psychology professors. This award is slated to become an annual part of Psi Chi-UNC’s mission. Finally, participation with Psi Chi’s coffee talks has drastically increased almost 250%, from 26 to 64 prospective participants. Also, the number of topics has increased to nine, ranging from evolutionary psychology to impacts of telepsychotherapy.
One particular collaboration that highlighted both presidential leadership ability and executive teamwork was Psi Chi’s involvement with Active Minds on a weeklong event around eating disorders. Upon initial contact, my volunteer coordinator, Alexis, the leader of Active Minds, Priya, and I had a three-way Facebook® and e-mail conversation to discuss project specifics, volunteer needs, and resource acquisition. In the following days, Alexis and I helped facilitate the setting up of the event and coordination of Psi Chi volunteers. Last Monday, the event kicked off to great success. The event was set up, and Psi Chi volunteers were informed of their proper positions. The planning of this event illustrates both coordination via the use of frequent communication, and also the weighing of different ideas and choosing of the best options.
When we met during the meeting, Alexis and Priya, as well as our other officers, had disagreements about exactly how the event week should proceed. Our officers thought that the event should be more transient, with small events welcome to those who decided to participate during the hours we were in the pit (campus center). On the other hand, Priya considered larger structured events for the 4-hour time slots. However, these might have inhibited passerby interaction due to a fear of complexity. Thus, as a facilitator, I listened to both of these ideas and came up with a promising compromise. We had some of the volunteers attempting to get passerby to participate with the promise of small activities indicative of a negligible time commitment. However, in the background (but still visible) we had a main event going to represent the theme of the day, with the little activities considered accessory items. For those who wished to find out more, we opened the event with small events. For those looking for the message we were trying to spread about eating disorders, it was right there in the daily theme (e.g., Anorexia Nervosa for Monday, Bulimia Nervosa and binge eating for Tuesday, etc.). Overall, this combined strategy worked excellently, and we had a phenomenal turnout that week. Collaborations like these have truly helped UNC-Psi Chi move to the next level and grow during my 2 years of presidency. With incoming president Meredith Griffin leading the charge next year, there is no limit to what we can accomplish for UNC and our community as a whole!


 
 


 

 
 
 
 
 

What does being a leader mean for you?

Edward Bartels
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill

"Although this was a big responsibility, I knew that, if I could create a good interpersonal, work driven environment among the other officers, we could accomplish any goal we put before ourselves."

APPLY FOR THIS AWARD
Visit HERE to view the complete submission guidelines for the upcoming Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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