If your psychology department’s happy, everybody’s happy.
Your department has the ability to support you and your Psi Chi chapter in all sorts of ways. For example, they can fund chapter endeavors such as trips to regional conventions. They can encourage membership and participation in your chapter. They can give you free promotional space in any local newsletters or other publications. They can ask professors to provide extra credit to students who attend public Psi Chi events. And they can even “free up” advisors’ time so that officers can focus more on growing and nurturing your chapter.
So, does your chapter actively receive the tools and encouragement that it needs from your department? If not, then perhaps the leaders of your psychology department simply aren’t aware of the many ways that your chapter can, in return, support them and their educational missions. Here are seven easy ideas to impress the faculty on your campus and gain the support that you and your chapter members deserve.
1. Connect Students With Research Labs
Students often have absolutely no clue which research opportunities are available and are even less clear on who exactly they should ask. Sometimes, they aren’t even aware of the value of research experience—all of this creates a perfect opportunity for your chapter to really shine. Each semester, why not reach out to all professors in order to collect a list of upcoming student research assistant opportunities. Make sure to gather a little information about what each student research opportunity would involve (e.g., approximate start date, expected hours, responsibilities, skills required, contact information). Then, you can present these opportunities at a special chapter event or distribute flyers as appropriate throughout the department.
Also, for any chapter events about research opportunities, you can likely find students who would be delighted to share about their recent research experiences. This will create further interest in potential student researchers. And faculty and students alike will greatly appreciate these efforts.
2. Host Events That Promote Your College’s Graduate Programs
Many chapters regularly invite students to visit a panel or speaker session featuring representatives of their school’s various graduate school programs. Professors (and current graduate students) generally always are eager to speak, and students often appreciate the opportunity to ask specific questions. To further encourage undergraduates to pursue graduate school, you could also host a workshop about how to prepare graduate school applications.
For many undergraduates, the chance to find out exactly what is expected is too tempting to pass up! Plus, this type of event will give your graduate school professors a special, informal opportunity to see future potential students in action. As you know, colleges pay a lot of money to promote their graduate programs; doing so through Psi Chi is sure to establish real departmental appreciation and value for you and your chapter.
3. Educate Local High School Students
Schedule a day to visit local high school psychology classes, and encourage those students to consider pursuing a degree in psychology on your campus. Just imagine how pleased your department chair will be when you ask her if there is anything in particular that she would like for your members to discuss with regard to obtaining a bachelor’s degree at your psychology department. And of course, giving your student members a chance to present before a live audience is great practice for them too.
4. Bring in a Big-Name Speaker
Raise some funds with your chapter, and then offer to pay for transportation and lodging so that a big-name speaker can present at your college or university. Who knows? Maybe you could even pick a speaker who your department chair would be particularly interested in. Or, perhaps your department has a particular theme or area that many professors are interested in, which you could strategically support through an invited speaker.
5. Give Out an Award at Department-Wide Gatherings
The next time that your department gets together for an end-of-year dinner or some other event, ask if you can present a particular annual award to a student or faculty member on behalf of your Psi Chi chapter. This will ensure that everyone present is aware of your chapter and one of the many ways that it serves to support your department.
By raising some funds, your chapter could even provide a trophy or a cash prize for excellence. Or, another way to support department-wide gatherings is to volunteer your chapter to bring food, procure a guest speaker, or even host the entire event.
6. Invite Faculty to Join and Participate
People of many walks of life are eligible to join Psi Chi. Last year, the Psi Chi Central Office specially focused on encouraging chapters to reach out to diverse groups of people who are sometimes overlooked during recruitment drives. Faculty members are one of these groups!
Actively ask if your faculty members if would be willing to speak at upcoming meetings or participate in community service events. Better yet, see if they’d like to join. Here are the specific requirements for faculty. Importantly, it does not matter if your faculty members were eligible to join back when they were students, nor does it matter if there was a chapter located at the schools where they previously attended. Full-time faculty with either a master's or doctoral degree are eligible!
In particular, your chapter’s induction ceremonies are a perfect time to leave an extremely positive impression on faculty. After all, what better way to introduce someone to your chapter than when smiling faces receive their membership certificates and as new officers are sworn in? Encourage all faculty to attend your ceremonies.
Also, go ahead and invite your college administration too such as the president, provost, etc. It couldn’t hurt, right? Dr. Prohaska has more on that in a recent magazine article.
7. Share Your Chapter’s Goals Each Year
Last but not least, perhaps the most obvious strategy to increase support of your chapter—which is often overlooked—is to simply reach out to your department chair each year in order to explain briefly your chapter’s goals. Specifically, let your chair know that your chapter hopes to (a) strengthen relationships between students and faculty, and (b) provide meaningful public services on behalf of your department to others in your community. It might also be a good idea to specifically ask your department chair and other professors if there are any particular ways that your chapter might be able to better support them.
Every school is unique, but it is my belief that any one the seven strategies above could make a significant difference in your future, your chapter's future, and your community's future. Also, if you happen to try out one or more of the ideas listed above, I would love to hear from you about how it went. Likewise, if you have other ideas for aligning your chapter so that it will be more supportive of your department, please don’t be a stranger. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note. This article was inspired by feedback provided in the “Leadership in Community: Ideas for Strengthening Your Chapter From the 2009 National Leadership Conference” article published in the spring 2009 issue of Eye on Psi Chi.