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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2016

Psi Chi Preconvention Activity: An Exercise in Service

Elizabeth List, PsyD, Northwest Nazarene University (ID)
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Community connection, student collaboration, and service have always been special areas of focus for Psi Chi. But in April 2016, these areas were of particular focus for Psi Chi chapters attending the RMPA Convention in Denver, CO. Birthed out of a conversation from the previous year’s Rocky Mountain Psi Chi Chapter Exchange, an idea was formed to broaden Psi Chi’s scope of philanthropy and service to make a larger impact in the city where the convention was held each year. The idea came as students reviewed the service projects they had conducted throughout the year. This sparked a conversation about what students could do as a larger group if they had a venue to work together. With the help of facilitators Drs. Elizabeth List and Krista Bridgmon, a plan was soon made to unite the Psi Chi chapters for a service project at the 2016 RMPA convention held in Denver.
Organizing a service event in a host city for an unknown amount of students is not easy, but through the efforts of Drs. Matthew Genuchi (Psi Chi Rocky Mountain Regional Vice-President) and Randyl Smith, a pilot service project was planned for Thursday, April 14, the morning of the first day of the convention. Chapters in the Rocky Mountain region were invited to participate by e-mail to their faculty advisors. Although many venues were considered for the service project including homeless shelters, trash collecting, and working at a food bank, the Denver CHARG Resource Center, a mental health facility collaborating with the students of Metropolitan State University of Denver, was ultimately chosen.
  An innovative community established in 1989, CHARG serves adults with major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar illness, and major depression. It is a joint venture of people who believe that effective & lasting empowerment of persons with mental illness occurs when they can make decisions regarding their needs, and that they thrive with dependable & ongoing services. (Charge website, 2016)
Early on Thursday morning, with nervous smiles, excitement, and bright-green T-shirts in hand, everyone piled into the vans ready for their service. Many of the students became acquainted with each other during the van ride and even shared research tips and resource information while they traveled the short distance to CHARG. The students were then warmly welcomed with Voodoo donuts and breakfast burritos by the staff and partners of the center. While munching on their treats, the students learned about the successful and award-winning program from CHARG administration and members of the CHARG community.
Then, the Psi Chi members split up and began work in the grounds outside of the center.  Together they pulled weeds to make room for the center’s vegetable garden, planted flowers, picked up trash, mended fences, and made the yard outside the CHARG facility look great. As they worked, members of the CHARG community came out and helped. Soon, laughter and talk hummed along with the work as students and CHARG members, faculty advisors, and CHARG administrators all worked together as a team.
The project only lasted a few hours, but in that time, the contribution made by Psi Chi members to the facility seemed to brighten the day of the CHARG community. It also enriched the lives and learning of the students as they experienced a successful treatment community. In the process of laughter, conversation, and hard work, students had fun getting to know one another in a less formal environment, while working side by side to serve in a community that was in need. Best of all, Psi Chi was able to make a difference for the center, whose members were very happy for the extra help to get their garden ready for the year.
A debriefing with the participating students after the service activity indicated that the endeavor was hugely successful. It was strongly suggested that the preconvention service project become a permanent part of the Psi Chi RMPA convention activities. The students felt good about their contribution and enjoyed getting to know about the center and each other. They expressed their firm desire that Psi Chi be known for its service at a larger level, and they liked the idea of working together. As Psi Chi members assembled to focus on sharing their work and learning from each other, it seemed fitting that they also pause to first focus on one of the communities that they serve.
As with any new venture, there were some aspects that need to be fine-tuned should this preconvention service project be duplicated in the future. Due to the pilot nature of this endeavor, e-mail invitations were sent rather late in the planning process, so many of the schools planning to participate in the convention could not amend their schedules to attend the preconvention project. In the future, invitations to participate should be sent to faculty advisors before the convention submissions deadline so that appropriate travel plans can be made. Transportation could also be an issue if many more students had participated. Therefore, this should be considered when determining future locations for service. Finally, it was learned that colleges and universities in the host cites have relationships with potential venues that make for valuable resources when planning for a service project of this magnitude. It is important to work with Psi Chi faculty advisors in the host city to help direct and plan for the project.
As a faculty advisor and a participant in this project, I want to thank all the students involved, as well as the faculty, advisors, and administration. I was very proud to observe everyone’s collegiality and hard work. I think we all learned something through this project, and it is my sincere hope that we will be able to continue this endeavor for years to come.

Elizabeth List, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist, an associate professor, and the chair of the Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice Department at Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) in Idaho. She enjoys teaching clinical classes and has recently taken 15 students on a trip to Europe to study the roots of the history of psychology in Europe. Her recent research interests have been in the area of the effects of ministry life on ministry families, particularly with the children of ministry workers. Dr. List is the faculty advisor for NNU’s Chapter of Psi Chi. One of the highlights of her year is going to RMPA convention with the Psi Chi students and watching them present.


Copyright 2016 (Volume 21, 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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