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Chapter Continuity and Visibility on Campus: An Advisor's Touch
by R. Reed Hardy - St. Norbert College
Categories: Chapter Growth | Faculty/Teaching/Curriculum
When our Psi Chi chapter began to take shape in the late 1970s, the faculty in the department made a collective decision to nurture it, but to make it clear that it was to be a student organization, dependent solely upon student effort and initiative. In many ways that approach worked well, generating sufficient student interest and involvement to maintain a healthy, growing chapter for 16 years. However, there is much to be said for moderation in all things. Prior to this past academic year (1995-96) the chapter had been recognized as an outstanding campus social and academic resource only once. In 1984 the chapter award for "Best Academic Organization of the Year" was earned largely due to the extraordinary leadership provided by the then-president, Jerome (Jerry) Short (now Dr. Short, clinical psychologist). Between 1984 and 1994 I became increasingly aware that our outstanding academic organization was not receiving the on-campus recognition it deserved. It was clear that our problem did not center on the quality of our student leaders. The problem, I decided, was that the organization lacked continuity. Each year a new executive board was/is elected and little attention has been given to passing the torch from the graduating leaders to the new leaders.
In the spring of 1994 I made what turned out to be a momentous decision. I decided to try to help our chapter by providing some continuity of leadership and by encouraging our chapter leaders' natural desire to excel. During the year that followed, instead of attending just the full chapter meetings, I attended all of the Executive Board meetings as well. While I did my best to remain in the background at all of these meetings, when it came to planning for recognition-related activities it was surprising how effective just a few words of encouragement could be. The end result has been, in my opinion, a more visible, better respected, and more enjoyable Psi Chi for all participants. The fact that the chapter was named the "Best Academic Club or Organization in 1995-96" by our Student Life Committee supports this opinion.*
My specific recommendations for thus enhancing Psi Chi visibility are not mysterious. First, our chapter members strive to do well in all of their endeavors so that on that rare occasion when they do achieve visibility they look good. This holds for group as well as individual achievements. On-campus service is a second area in which our chapter has excelled. They have entertained and informed their fellow students with faculty-facilitated discussions of topics like hypnosis (complete with a brief demonstration experience) and the movie Silence of the Lambs (following a viewing). They have participated in campus politics and academic debate via published articles in the campus newspaper. They have supported other organizations on campus by becoming members and officers of social and Greek organizations and by serving as volunteers in such programs as our student counseling services, our campus hot line, our after-hours escort services, and our peer programs. They have created opportunities to work cooperatively with other campus organizations by scheduling joint dinner/dance and intercollegiate sports activities that also generate donations for local charities. But all of this high quality work would not help the organization gain recognition if they did not also make sure that each event/activity was well covered via the campus newspaper, cable station, radio station, and Web page. They even publish their activities in their own "Psi Chi Newsletter."
It must be said that the credit for our local chapter's success in recent years must go to the student leaders and members of the chapter. As I said above, I did little more than attend their meetings and participate as little as possible. They were the ones with the creative ideas, and they were the hard workers who turned those ideas into realities. But I do take credit, as faculty advisor, for finally recognizing that I could facilitate my chapter's success and recognition by simply providing a bit of continuity and almost nondirective guidance.
* St. Norbert College Chapter's 1995-96 Activities
-- Picnic with the psychology faculty at faculty advisor's house
-- Movie viewing and follow-up discussion: Silence of the Lambs
-- Hypnosis demonstration and discussion with a faculty facilitator
-- Make-A-Difference Service Project: Fall leaf raking and other chores for local elderly and other folks who were unable to do this work on their own
-- Dinner with department faculty in the college cafeteria once each semester
-- Career Night: Local people in the field discuss graduate school and issues
-- Dream interpretation: All-college entertainment/educational discussion
-- Hosted Native American psychologist to speak on diversity
-- Halloween mixer with the Environmental Club
-- Psi Chi bowling: A fun winter mixer for members and psychology faculty
-- Attended psychology-related plays and movies as a group with follow-up discussion
-- Dance For Heart service project
-- Friendship in the age of AIDS: Attended as group with follow-up discussion
-- Formal induction brunch for new members, their relatives, and faculty
Winter 1997 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 1, No. 2, p. 13), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 1997, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.