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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2018–19

Eye on Psi Chi

Winter 2018–19 | Volume 23 | Issue 2


Diverse Chapter Recruitment Strategies With Denise Friedman, PhD

by Bradley Cannon,
Psi Chi Writer/Journal Managing Editor

View this issue in Digital and PDF formats.

Psi Chi proudly provides member benefits to numerous high-achieving students and psychology-related professionals. And, in addition to this, we at Psi Chi feel that it is also essential that our programs broadly support eligible people of all racial, ethnic, gender identity, sexual orientation, and social class backgrounds. As Psi Chi’s Diversity and Inclusion Statement proclaims, “The scope of our organizational relevance is only as broad as the diversity of our membership and their scholarly pursuits.”

This fall, Psi Chi is launching a new Diversity Matters Membership Drive to help chapters celebrate diversity and ensure that potential members of all types and backgrounds are invited to join Psi Chi. A Central Office staff member recently discussed the fall drive with Dr. Denise Friedman, a new faculty advisor who is in the process of reactivating the Hampton University (VA) Chapter. As it turned out, Dr. Friedman had so many inspirational experiences and specific suggestions that we asked her to share those here today! Dr. Friedman’s responses are provided on a variety of topics related to chapter growth.

How can chapters ensure that all potential and current members feel welcome?

The Diversity Matters Drive is actually one of the initiatives that we are most excited about in my chapter. As a part of an Historically Black College/University (HBCU), we strive to enhance diversity. One way we can do that is by identifying and breaking down local barriers. Another way we can assist is by encouraging our members to be active, not only locally, but in engaging with nationals. We change the face of Psi Chi in part by increasing our coverage of how diverse we already are in membership. Our chapter intends to enhance our presence on social media and to actively engage the national, regional, and local support mechanisms.

Our university and department actively considers diversity issues, specifically around race. As such, we are eager to engage with Psi Chi and others who are doing the same work. We are predominantly African American in membership, and our faculty advisor is disabled. As such, we are sensitive to advancing diversity, to being advocates, to hosting open conversations about diversity, and to advancing research in these areas. Engaging with others who are doing the same in other areas—LBGTQ, disability, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic—will help us advance our field. Engaging students who are just starting their professions will ensure that these matters are considered throughout careers and will change the face of psychology as we age.

We firmly believe that we become more diverse by enhancing exposure to and coverage of others who fall into these categories. Recognizing our differences and celebrating the ways they strengthen us as a people and as a field is vital. We are excited to join Psi Chi in these efforts.

What strategies will you implement to increase chapter membership and engagement?

First, I met with interested students to hear what they wanted from Psi Chi and the department. I asked that they review the Psi Chi and departmental websites ahead of time. We decided to host a fall induction to reengage students as soon as possible. We are planning to participate in an Out of the Darkness (suicide prevention) walk in a local city. We are also planning to host multiple events throughout the year, from how-to events on LinkedIn profiles and writing personal statements for graduate school to what you can do with a degree in psychology career panels to social activities that enhance departmental connectedness.

Additionally, we are going to help increase the departmental presence on social media by helping solicit and craft focal points. We will increase discussion of Psi Chi by placing flyers about events around campus and asking departmental professors to announce events in their courses. We intend to be sensitive to the needs and desires of our constituency and to celebrate wins, big and small, as we grow interest and participation.

What do you tell students who ask why they should join Psi Chi?

Joining Psi Chi comes with lifelong benefits. It is an honor to be recognized as being among the best in your discipline. You will have access to resources, information, research and travel opportunities, scholarships and grants, and more. You can be as active in your local chapter as you choose but the more active you are, the greater the benefits. You can grow your professional network at a local, regional, and national level. The more you give, the more you get back!

Why reactivate your chapter?

I recently returned to academia after leaving to work in the nonprofit sector. Initially, I found myself in administration where I longed to return to the classroom and daily interactions with students. One of the most meaningful activities I participated in as a professor was advising a Psi Chi chapter. When I was hired at Hampton University, I jumped at the chance to advise Psi Chi again.

Psi Chi has supported me and my former students in numerous forms, from providing extensive information on resources about funding, graduate programs, and careers to funding research efforts and conference attendance to covering our chapter activities in Eye on Psi Chi. Psi Chi is an excellent example of how a professional organization acts to support and engage those in the profession from the newly minted to the seasoned professional. Reactivating the chapter was never a question of why but rather how soon. We are particularly excited to be reengaging with Psi Chi this year because diversity is a key focus and we know we can help contribute to the international efforts as an HBCU.

Do you have any tips for others interested in maintaining a thriving chapter?

Being a faculty advisor can be challenging because it is work you often take on in addition to everything else that is required. However, I have found that it is deeply rewarding. You get to hear the real success stories of your department. You learn about the activities students are engaging in but don’t necessarily see as relevant to their future careers. You get to shape the future generation of psychologists by being a mentor.

When work gets busy, recalling our successes helps keep me moving forward. I never fail to find myself surrounded by bright, dedicated, enthusiastic students who want to see themselves, the department, and the discipline advance. Often, I can just follow their lead. They have great ideas and are willing to do the work to see them through. I help them by providing connections, making suggestions, and signing off on university paperwork. Then, I show up and support them at the events.

I get to know students well enough that I can recommend specific grants or scholarships that they should apply for through Psi Chi and other organizations. As others begin to see our successes, they are drawn in. Mostly, I enjoy the positivity and motivation of being involved with this group. There is an energy that flows bi-directionally from the local to national level. You won’t regret working with Psi Chi.

Do you intend to use Psi Chi’s Membership Assistance Fund for your chapter?

The Membership Assistance Fund will most definitely benefit our chapter. We have a number of students, both first generation and legacy, who are paying their own way through college by balancing work and studies. Being able to support these students by ensuring access to our professional honor society is critical to the diversity efforts. We can’t help others if we unintentionally shut them out and fail to recognize their needs.

Can you think of any other ways that Psi Chi can help chapters ensure that all potential members are invited and able to join?

It would be wonderful if Psi Chi worked with APA and/or APS to increase travel support for students to attend Psi Chi conventions as well as the larger professional conventions. Acting as a network facilitator to help regionally positioned colleges and universities pool resources to attend conventions would also be helpful (e.g., sharing room costs, renting a bus, or sharing school vans). Additionally, Psi Chi and APA could team up to help provide access to programs like I am Psyched! so chapters can host them locally.

Do you have a most memorable Psi Chi experience?

I have so many wonderful Psi Chi memories, from the induction ceremony where I knew each student well enough that we hugged rather than shook hands to the time my student and I received summer support to engage in our research. The close relationships I’ve developed through Psi Chi are definitely the highlight.

Encouraging a diverse membership in our Professional Organization starts with you! Are you confident that all eligible students are invited each year to join your Psi Chi chapter? And, importantly, are you confident that eligible students of all types and backgrounds are made to feel welcome joining and participating in local and international Psi Chi endeavors? It’s OK, if you aren’t sure. We are here to help!

To assist your chapter in this important cause, we have provided a Diversity Matters Membership Drive PDF (available at, which features specific strategies to consider for your recruitment planning this fall. This PDF also includes a bulleted list of six specific groups of potential members who are sometimes overlooked during local chapter drives!

An additional tool to help you recruit diverse members is our new Membership Assistance Fund. This unique fund allows advisors at each chapter to request two membership fees be waived each year for students who show financial need (as funds are available). Up to 100 membership waivers are available for this academic year. This program actively empowers Psi Chi chapters to encourage people of diverse backgrounds to join based on their academic achievements, regardless of their financial situations. Learn more at

Readers, take a moment to consider what ideas you have for expanding and diversifying your own chapter. We would love to hear your thoughts about strategies to recruit diverse members. Please email

Denise Friedman, PhD, is an associate professor in psychology at Hampton University (VA). She received her BS in psychology from Averett University (VA), her MS in psychological science from Virginia Tech and her PhD in developmental and biological psychology from Virginia Tech. Dr. Friedman is an avid teacher-scholar who conducts research in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), emerging adulthood, and cyberpsychology. She is passionate about diversity issues and work-life balance. She resides in the Chesapeake Bay area with her husband, son, dog and cat.

Copyright 2018 (Vol. 23, Iss. 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology

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