As President of the Pennsylvania State University's Chapter of Psi Chi, I have had the unique opportunity to share in the discovery of what I believe may be the "secrets" to increasing membership and active involvement in any Psi Chi chapter. This article is intended to outline these "secrets" and provide you with a systematic process for maximizing your ability to increase membership and active involvement in your chapter. It is my hope that these suggestions will enable your chapter to share in the same success that Penn State's Psi Chi Chapter has experienced since we were successful in increasing membership and active involvement by over 400% in just one semester!
The "Secret" to Increasing Membership
The recruitment of new members is essential to maintaining the success of your Psi Chi chapter. Since it is usually one of the most challenging and time-consuming processes to accomplish, it is vital to adopt the most effective process by which you can consistently recruit new members. The ultimate process would be one by which you could inform every eligible psychology student at your college or university that Psi Chi exists, and that it may be an option to them. The Pennsylvania State University Chapter of Psi Chi has demonstrated that there is a way to do this. I have outlined below the process that enabled our chapter to more than quadruple membership in just one semester!
The most effective way to recruit new members is to attain a list of all eligible students and send them a formal invitation letter in the mail.
The following is how the process works:
Prepare an invitation letter. This letter should congratulate the students on their accomplishment, encourage them to join Psi Chi, and provide them with materials and detailed instruction on how to accept membership (see letter).
Attain a list of all eligible members. The best way to expedite this process is to make an appointment with your undergraduate psychology head and/or advisor to inform them of your intent to attain a list of all psychology students meeting the eligibility requirements for induction into Psi Chi. It is very important to be persistent during step two. As you may find out, for confidentiality reasons, acquiring such a list may be troublesome. During step two, it is advisable to discuss with your department head options that are available for covering the costs of all materials and postage.
Once you or your department acquires the mailing list, address envelopes (mailing labels are most efficient!) and prepare to have the envelopes stuffed with your invitation letter and all pertinent materials (i.e., registration cards, application form, etc.).
Send the invitation letters. It is important at this point (based on how many letters you send) to prepare yourself for the possibility of a tremendous growth in chapter membership. Keep the following suggestions in mind once the invitation letters have been sent. Develop a structured procedure for filing all materials once they are returned. Designate a set place for returning all membership materials. Acquire a room for weekly meetings that is large enough to accommodate all of your new members. Make sure you have a tentative schedule of events to encourage members to attend meetings.
The Penn State Psi Chi Chapter's committee chairs, in front, from left: Theresa Gatmaitan, Historian Committee; Mandi Sjogren, "Unofficial" Undergraduate Handbook Committee; Megan Karver, Volunteer Committee; and Rebecca Wentz, "Unofficial" Undergraduate Handbook Committee. In back: Michelle McMurdy, Advertising Committe; Adam Popham, Fundraising Committe; Kristina Morgart, Volunteer Committee; and Eyal Grauer, Web Page Committe.
The "Secret" to Increasing Active Involvement
Although there are a myriad of possibilities . . .
The single most effective way for your chapter to increase active involvement is to form committees.
The formation of committees not only provides members with an excellent opportunity to gain and exercise leadership skills, but also encourages all members to feel they are part of, and can actively contribute to, the ultimate success of your chapter. You should look at your Psi Chi chapter as a team, made up of several different committees, with the ability to work together toward a series of common goals. Each committee, with the aid of a committee chair, should set individual goals and work toward them with the desire and determination to contribute to the larger team. The six committees currently in effect at the Pennsylvania State University are:
The two main goals of our volunteer committee are to set up volunteer opportunities and encourage members of our chapter to become involved.
The fundraising committee's main goal is to conduct and coordinate fundraising activities. The fundraising committee does not have to be limited to raising money for your chapter, it can also get involved in conducting a service project to benefit a local or Psi Chi - affiliated charity.
The advertising committee's main goal is to promote Psi Chi meetings and activities creatively through various media sources.
The historian committee's main goal is to keep a chronological archive of events for reference by future Penn State Psi Chi chapter members.
Web Page Committee
The Web page committee's main goal is to create and maintain a Penn State Psi Chi Chapter Web page that enables members to have up-to-date information on everything pertinent to chapter activities and requirements.
"Unofficial" Undergraduate Psychology Handbook Committee
The "Unofficial" Undergraduate Psychology Handbook Committee's main goal is to design and publish a handbook for undergraduate psychology students at Penn State to aid in registering for classes.
Officers of the Penn State Psi Chi Chapter, from left:
Sherean Elgindy, secretary; Kristopher Jones, president;
Brad Piergrossi, vice-president; and Brian D. Tier, treasurer.
The "Secret" of Powerful and Effective Goal Setting
At the beginning of every semester, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the multitude of goals you have set for your chapter. Instead of helping you become more focused, a great brainstorming session may leave you feeling like you don't know where to begin. You may have generated many great ideas, but you do not have nearly enough time to accomplish the plethora of goals you have set. How can your chapter maximize its ability to carry out effectively the aforementioned "secrets" while also striving towards Psi Chi's purpose of encouraging, stimulating, and maintaining excellence in scholarship, and advancing the science of psychology?
Instead of becoming overwhelmed by a long list of potential goals your chapter would like to accomplish, a better idea may be to . . .
Choose three or four of the most powerful and effective goals and give 100% of your dedication and time towards them.
It is a funny thing about goal setting, but it seems that you can accomplish 10 times more when you are able to focus on just a few goals at a time. Our chapter decided to pursue three main goals: (1) form six different committees, (2) increase current membership by 50%, and (3) increase active involvement at meetings by 25% over the previous year. These types of goals are very attainable, and they can provide a much-needed focus for your chapter. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by them, you will probably accomplish more than you ever dreamed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristopher B. Jones is a senior majoring in psychology at the Pennsylvania State University. A Psi Chi Member for 2 1/2 years, Kris was the chapter's treasurer for one year prior to becoming chapter president, the position in which he now serves. When he first joined Psi Chi, Penn State was inducting about 30-45 students a sememster. Since Kris took office last fall, the chapter has inducted over 240 new members.
Kris will be presenting research at the National Convention on Undergraduate Research at Salisbury State University in April and at the APA Convention in San Francisco this August. He hopes to enter graduate school in the fall of 1998 to pursue a degree in clinical psychology.
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Penn State Psi Chi's Letter of Invitation
Congratulations! Based on your superior academic achievement, you may be eligible to apply for membership in Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. In order to be eligible, you must currently have a 3.0 overall cumulative GPA and a 3.2 overall GPA in psychology. If you meet these criteria, we are pleased to invite you to become a new member, and ask that you complete the enclosed membership acceptance form, fill out the National and Chapter registration cards, and provide the requested materials.
Membership in Psi Chi not only recognizes your scholastic achievement but also your interest in psychology. For example, your membership speaks for the training of your professors, the quality of the psychology curriculum, and the accreditation of your school.
Founded in September 1929, Psi Chi has grown to be one of the largest honor societies in the United States with over 900 chapters. Amazingly, Penn State University's Chapter of Psi Chi has just recently been recognized as the #1 largest chapter in the country! That's right! Among the more than 900 chapters across the country, including schools as prestigious as Stanford and Yale and as large as Michigan and Ohio State, Penn State University is proud to announce that we are #1. This recognition and our "secrets" to success will be featured in the upcoming Spring 1998 issue of the nationally published magazine Eye on Psi Chi. We are very proud to offer you the opportunity to become part of this very honorable achievement.
The purposes of Psi Chi are to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship of the individual members in all fields, particularly in psychology, and to advance the science of psychology. To achieve these goals directly, Penn State University's Psi Chi chapter offers weekly meetings and events that are intended to help the student prepare for graduate school (GREs, admission process, letters of recommendation, where to go, etc.), broaden their knowledge of available career opportunities, and stimulate and encourage leadership, group involvement, and academic achievement. Our chapter programs are designed to augment and enhance the regular curriculum, to afford opportunities for our members to use their talents in roles that are meaningful, and to promote interaction among fellow members, faculty, and other psychologists. You will find the experience, fellowship, and recognition to be worth your time and effort.
The national organization holds its annual convention in conjunction with the American Psychological Association (APA). In addition, a national program is held during the annual convention of the American Psychological Society. Psi Chi also sponsors national and regional undergraduate and graduate research award programs, and publishes a quarterly national magazine to inform members of Psi Chi's opportunities at all levels. The magazine is free exclusively to members and will be given out at one of our regularly scheduled meetings. In addition, Penn State Psi Chi will offer several awards at our annual induction banquet to recognize those members who have demonstrated active involvement, leadership, and superior academic achievement.
Membership in Psi Chi offers unique advantages that cannot be found elsewhere, and particularly for the price. Almost all applications for graduate school and employment ask for honors, which are difficult to obtain after one leaves school. Membership in Psi Chi is open to you as a student; after you graduate it is too late to join. All membership records are preserved both at the national office and here at Penn State and can be used for reference purposes at no charge. There will be a one-time membership fee of $50, of which $25 will go to the national organization and $25 will go to Penn State's local Psi Chi chapter. This one-time fee will entitle you to the following: free charge at all meetings, events, and socials (food, bevs, etc.); a Lifetime Membership; and a free elegant dinner served at our Annual Induction Banquet to be held at the end of the semester.
Important: (Please follow these directions!) To accept membership in Psi Chi, (1) fill out the attached form and registration cards, (2) write a short statement of your goals in psychology, (3) provide an "unofficial undergraduate transcript" (you can get one via the Internet or in Room 130 - Moore), (4) enclose all materials (1-3) in an enclosed envelope, and drop it off in either the Psi Chi Office (Room 127 - Moore), Advisement Office (Room 130 - Moore) or bring it to our next Psi Chi meeting. We look forward to having you as a new member of Psi Chi. We need your talents to help us make Psi Chi the most viable honor society on this campus. We hope you will accept our invitation to membership in Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology.
Kristopher B. Jones
Psi Chi Chapter President
Spring 1998 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 24-27), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 1998, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.