|Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2016|
Eye on Psi Chi
Winter 2016 | Volume 20 | Issue 2
Starting a Chapter Newsletter
Kimberly Iacino, Central Connecticut State University
In September of last year, our Psi Chi Chapter at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) published the first issue of our monthly departmental newsletter, Central Psychology News. The newsletter was the brainchild of Dr. Marianne Fallon (advisor) and Judah Butler (then president), who believed it could prove valuable to our recently reestablished chapter in more ways than one. Jaclyn Vancour (officer) volunteered to serve as the original editor, and together we created a publication that instantly became popular with students and faculty alike. Now, with the 11th issue set to be published this month, we can definitively say that Central Psychology News has met and surpassed all of our expectations. Not only has it proven effective in circulating psychology- and department-related information to psychology majors and minors, but it has also had a positive effect on departmental cohesion and student-faculty relations. The process definitely takes effort, dedication, and a substantial time investment. But with a dedicated and highly motivated group of individuals, it can easily be a fun and extremely rewarding experience, as well as an ultimate source of pride for the chapter.
Why Start a Chapter Newsletter?
The benefits of a chapter newsletter are manifold. For any chapter, and especially those that have been recently (re)established, a newsletter can be a great way to encourage active membership and increase the visibility of the chapter and its activities. A newsletter is an excellent means of advertising relevant events and opportunities to students because it can be delivered directly to students via e-mail. Although students may choose not to read the newsletter, the feedback we have gotten on Central Psychology News suggests that a large proportion of students do in fact read it and find the information both interesting and valuable.
In addition to publicizing opportunities, a newsletter is a valuable way for students to develop their professional skills. As we make sure to point out to students, becoming involved with Central Psychology News is a great way to bolster one’s resumé or curriculum vitae. Indeed, the skills requisite for such a project are some of those most highly valued by employers and graduate schools such as the ability to work as part of a team on a single collective product, and the ability to interpret and communicate information to a general audience.
The establishment of a newsletter can also increase group cohesion in the chapter, as well as within the department as a whole. Crafting a newsletter requires individuals to communicate and work extensively with each other, and it can serve as an inspiring catalogue of the chapter’s activities and accomplishments. At CCSU, our newsletter’s incorporation of information from multiple constituents (i.e., student groups, faculty) has definitely increased effective communication and a sense of unity in the department.
Establishing a Chapter Newsletter
The decision to start a chapter newsletter should be made in consideration of the goals and resources of each individual chapter. Foremost, the chapter must have a group of dedicated individuals willing and able to invest the time necessary to sustain the project. Of course, the amount of time each individual must dedicate depends on how many individuals are interested in sharing the necessary responsibilities. At the very least, there should be four to five officers or members responsible for designing the newsletter, editing, and developing content or finding article writers. It is important to establish the roles prior to jumping into an initiative that may later prove overwhelming for the chapter’s resources. For chapters interested in starting a newsletter at their institution, here are suggested steps to follow based on our experiences with Central Psychology News at CCSU.
Step 1: Envision the Newsletter and Allocate Responsibilities
Before leaping into the actual drafting process, it is a good idea to take some time to visualize and plan. Start by discussing goals for the newsletter and receiving suggestions and input from members. Once the essential components of the newsletter have been decided, individual responsibilities can be designated based on the logistics of the chapter. It is recommended that there be at least one lead editor to oversee the process and establish deadlines, but a chapter can individually determine whether to include additional editors and other roles. Depending on the volume of article submissions from the campus community, a chapter may also decide to create a designated group of writers responsible for creating article content each month. Chapters with fewer available members may have to combine certain responsibilities such as editor and graphic designer or publish less frequently to make the newsletter a feasible project.
One thing worth noting is that an attractive and eye-catching newsletter design can make a substantial difference in the appeal it has to readers. Thus, it is worth trying to find someone with basic graphic design skills or else a computer publishing application capable of producing similar quality results. If neither of these are options, I will attest to the fact that it is quite possible to create an attractive newsletter using the basic features of Microsoft Word®, and offer my advice and assistance to anyone wishing to take this route (see contact information at the end of this article).
Step 2: Generate Content
Early brainstorming about a chapter newsletter should include a consideration of the type of content the newsletter will include. In each issue of Central Psychology News, we include certain regular features such as a “Psi Chi Update” written by our chapter president, a “Psych Club Update” provided by the president of that organization, and an “Events and Opportunities” page. One of our earliest determinations in the creation of Central Psychology News was that we did not want it to focus narrowly on matters pertaining only to Psi Chi, but to represent the psychological science department as a whole. Thus, in addition to regular updates from organizations such as Psychology Club and Active Minds, our newsletter includes articles on features such as the peer tutoring program, the master’s program at CCSU, faculty-sponsored events on campus, student presentations and research awards, and opportunities for students to assist professors in their research projects. Most issues also include a “Professor Spotlight” in which professors are interviewed about topics such as their path through the field of psychological science, research interests, and tips for students. The Professor Spotlight is an excellent way for students in the department to get to know their professors better and is also a nice way to give recognition to members of the faculty who do so much for students.
In addition to familiarizing students with departmental events and resources, we wanted our newsletter to be a source of interesting and readily consumable information about advancements in the field that students would find relevant. We thus invite all students to submit articles on any psychology-related topic of interest to them, and this has yielded quite a range of interesting subject matter. For example, we have had articles on subfields such as industrial/organizational and quantitative psychology, and articles applying psychological principles to phenomena such as color perception and the preference for print books. We especially strive to deliver content that students can readily apply to their own lives. To this end, we have included articles on topics such as uncommon careers in psychology, job opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree, tips on fostering a growth mindset, and how to fight daytime sleepiness.
Coming up with article topics is, in my opinion, one of the most enjoyable parts of the newsletter creation process. One tip for developing article content is to make use of seasonal themes. For example, Central Psychology News included an article on how to deal with stress over the holidays in the December issue, an article on Valentine’s Day in the February issue, and an article explaining why we like to scare ourselves in the most recent October issue. Contributors may also find inspiration for articles in research literature or other publications they have read, or topics they have encountered in their courses. Articles can take the form of anything from a movie or event review, to an interview, to a psychological analysis of a particular current event, trend, or controversy. Overall, the only real restriction article writers have on their creativity is a necessary consideration of psychological science.
Step 3: Publish and Circulate
Once the newsletter has been compiled and edited, the final step in the process is to publish and circulate it to its intended audience. Our chapter is quite lucky to have the enthusiastic assistance of our department chair, who is able to send the newsletter as a PDF to all psychological science majors and minors through the school e-mail system. She also posts JPEG images of the newsletter on the department’s Facebook® page, and we upload the document to our own social media pages and website. Other chapters possessing the requisite resources may choose to print copies of their newsletter for distribution, but overall we have found virtual distribution quite sufficient and effective. However, we do post printed color copies of Central Psychology News on our Psi Chi bulletin board, where they easily pique the interest of students and faculty passing by.
Starting a chapter newsletter has been an awesomely rewarding journey for our chapter and will continue to be so as we refine the publication. The process undeniably requires a decent commitment of time and effort from at least a few members, and is certainly not guaranteed to be easy. With the right resources, however, it can be an incredibly successful endeavor with far-reaching benefits for both the individual chapter and the campus community as a whole. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have or to share your own chapter newsletter experience at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also be sure to check out previous issues of Central Psychology News on our website at http://ccsupsichi.wix.com/ccsupsichi
Kimberly Iacino will graduate from Central Connecticut State University with a master’s degree in general psychology in May 2016. She currently serves as head of public relations and lead marketing director for her university’s Psi Chi chapter, which she helped reestablish during her previous two terms as vice-president. Her research interests include the diagnostic classification and theoretical underpinnings of personality disorders, with a primary focus on Borderline personality disorder symptomology. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree and hopes to one day have a career that combines elements of clinical work and research. Her aspirations are oriented toward the belief that a better understanding of the neurobiological processes underlying mental disorders may be the key to decreasing stigma and victim-blaming and increasing treatment adherence and acceptance among those living with mental illness.
Copyright 2016 (Vol. 20, Iss. 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology