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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2004

Celebrating Psi Chi
Christopher Koch, Psi Chi President, George Fox University (OH)

One of the things I have had the pleasure of being involved in during my time with Psi Chi is cochairing the 75th Anniversary Steering Committee with Past-President Pete Giordano. Other members of the committee included Elizabeth Yost Hammer, Rebecca Stoddart, and Norine Jalbert. Paula Miller and the rest of the National Office staff played key roles in our anniversary celebration as well. We actually started preparing for the 75th anniversary four years ago. Over that time, we developed a wish list of activities that we thought would help celebrate the mission of Psi Chi. Over the summer, we examined the list again and found that we accomplished all of our goals which are only partially described below.

This year we presented the first Psi Chi/APS Albert Bandura Graduate Research Award at the opening ceremony of the APS convention in Chicago. In fact, we were privileged to have Dr. Bandura present the award himself to George Slavich. At the same convention, we heard Dr. David Myers deliver the first Psi Chi Address at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Society. In celebration of the 75th Anniversary, members enjoyed a night at Second City and an afternoon at Shedd Aquarium. At the APA convention, members set off on a sunset dinner cruise filled with Hawaiian entertainment, not far from the marina where the beginning of Giligan's Island was filmed. Fortunately, it was slightly shorter than a three hour tour and the weather was perfect. During the cruise, Dr. Philip Zimbardo received a Distinguished Member Award for his faithful support and significant contributions to Psi Chi throughout his distinguished career. In September, there was a special ceremony at Yale University where Psi Chi (actually Sigma Pi until a name change a year later in 1930) officially became an organization at the Ninth International Congress of Psychology in 1929.

Why has Psi Chi been so successful? Why is it the oldest psychology organization for students? Why does it have more members than any other psychology organization (apart from lifetime membership)? I believe there are several reasons.

First, the purpose "to stimulate, encourage, and maintain excellence in scholarship in psychology" is relatively simple. In addition, its mission is to produce well-educated, ethical, and socially responsible members "committed to contributing to the science and profession of psychology and to society in general." The honor society was never intended to simply be a means of recognition or, as often stated, a line on a resume or vita. Instead, Psi Chi was organized to bring students together in a way that fostered the scientific investigation of psychology. Thus, Psi Chi was always intended to be a dynamic organization centered on empirical research. Over the years, Psi Chi has developed programs that help accomplish its goals including research programs at regional and national conferences, support for local research conferences, research grants, research awards, and a research journal.

Second, stemming from its purpose, Psi Chi has attracted the services of many of the greatest psychologists of the last century. B. F. Skinner was a frequent speaker at Psi Chi programs. Other Distinguished Members include Albert Bandura, Jerome Bruner, J. P. Guilford, Neal Miller, and Joseph Wolpe. Robert Sternberg and Elizabeth Loftus are also frequent contributors to Psi Chi. I find this list, as incomplete as it is, remarkable. These are some of the psychologists that helped shape the profession and, like Psi Chi, all of them stressed a scientific approach to psychology. When you have people who helped make psychology what it is today helping you, you are bound to have success.

Third, Psi Chi has been blessed with some tremendous leaders over its history. Edwin Newman and Frederick Howell Lewis formed the organization. Ruth Guilford provided the necessary guidance to the organization to make it run efficiently during its early years. Ruth Cousins, who led the National Office from 1959 to 1991, was instrumental in leading the organization and gaining honor society status from the Association of College Honor Societies in 1965. Her successor, Kay Wilson, focused on the business side of the organization which led to tremendous membership growth and financial stability. Together, Ruth and Kay built an excellent foundation for us as we move forward as an organization. Dr. Virginia Mathie, recently hired as the CEO of Psi Chi, is already making strides to further improve Psi Chi's position in psychology and with other organizations. We look forward to seeing her role in the history of Psi Chi unfold in the years to come. Space does not allow me to expound on the role Psi Chi National Council members have played throughout the years.

However, I think it is important to note that these people are passionate about student development and have served Psi Chi and its members extremely well. It is an honor to be associated them. Likewise, faculty advisors have played a vital role in the success of Psi Chi.

Finally, Psi Chi is successful because of its members who are, in turn, committed to its cause. Our awards program is successful because of the quality of your work. Our grants program is productive due to your desire to answer meaningful and creative questions. Our conference programs are successful because of your desire to learn. These programs also lead to the Psi Chi cycle. Students who become members as undergraduates often enter graduate school and later become faculty advisors who encourage students to engage in research and learn leadership skills as a Psi Chi chapter officer.

I am always thankful to be a part of Psi Chi and look forward to serving you as president this year as we usher in the next 75 years of our organization. Please feel free to email me with any comments or suggestions you might have. I also have a web page that you can go to for more information and to provide important feedback. You can access the page from the Psi Chi website. Together, I hope we can continue to positively shape Psi Chi and psychology as we stimulate, encourage, and maintain excellence in psychological scholarship by producing well-educated, ethical, and socially responsible members.

Chris Koch received a BS in psychology with honors from Pennsylvania State University, a MS in experimental psychology, and a PhD in cognitive-experimental from the University of Georgia. He is currently in his 12th year at George Fox University (OR) where he has served as Director of Undergraduate Studies in Psychology, Director of External Scholarship, and headed University Assessment. During that time, he has also promoted research in psychology by planning a biannual undergraduate research conference, editing the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Psychology, and working with youth organizations and local high school classes on psychologically-based research projects. He has served as a councilor for the Psychology Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research and the President and Western Region Vice-President of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. He has held a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities at the University of Virginia, was a Fulbright Scholar to Russia, and is a fellow of the Western Psychological Association. His primary research interests focus on the interaction between attention and cognitive and perceptual processes.

Copyright 2004 (Volume 9, Issue 1) 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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