For the last four years, Psi Chi students from Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico have come together for an annual Psi Chi service project in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association (RMPA) annual convention. The preconvention service project was born out of an RMPA break-out session focused on ways to assist students in engaging with each other more effectively at RMPA. Psi Chi students are focused on service in their respective schools throughout the year, and we thought it would be a natural fit to have them come together to work collectively on a service project in the hosting city of the convention. This short service time (the morning before the noon start of the convention) would allow students to collaborate, talk, and have fun while squarely acting within the values of Psi Chi—helping others, enhancing student development, and fostering networking skills. We are happy to report that it was very effective!
As a faculty mentor, I overheard students comparing their different Psi Chi chapters, different psychology programs, and discussing future graduate school plans all while picking up trash, cutting shrubs, and distributing mulch. “It is fun to hear about how other people’s psychology programs are different from our own,” said one student. As the students worked, they also began to establish relationships: “I was so nervous about coming to RMPA this year,” said one student, “but then I met some of the students from the different schools at the service project, and I realized that we were all kind of nervous about presenting. After the service project, we made plans to go out to dinner to talk about our research, and we are going to go to each other’s poster presentations.” Students also spent time talking about their research and even exchanged information to work on future projects together.
Over the years, Psi Chi service projects have included planting flowers with mental health clients, doing yard work for older adults, and cleaning up a park and neighborhood. In April 2019, 45 Psi Chi students engaged in two service project locations. Half of the students beautified a park in conjunction with the city of Denver and the other half worked with Volunteers for America by performing yard work for older adults. At the park location, students spread mulch, weeded, picked up shattered bottles, trash, and drug paraphernalia to beautify the park. Locals were very happy to have the group come, and several approached the students and thanked them personally. At the yard work location, students cleaned up and weeded yards for two houses with senior occupants who were not physically able to maintain their yards. Tiffany Harris, from Volunteers of America, said, “The students did a wonderful job. The seniors they serviced were extremely pleased with their work. Thank you!”
To coordinate the event, students indicate their interest at the RMPA registration meeting at the convention location the morning that RMPA starts. Students receive a free T-shirt for volunteering and any instructions they might need for the day. They then car pool to the location of the service activity. Sometimes breakfast is served at the service location and other times students socialize and eat breakfast before heading out to the event. “I enjoy getting to see the city where the convention is [located],” said a student as we were driving from the convention hotel located in the suburbs of Denver toward the urban park where we were going to work. “You don’t often get to experience a city when you are at a convention as you only see the hotel.” Another student said, “I think it [the service project] totally represents the Psi Chi spirit. When we give back to the city where the convention is, we aren’t just using the city for the convention. We come together to add value. That is one of the things I love about being part of Psi Chi.”
The preconvention service project aligns well with Psi Chi’s Vision 2020 goal of Chapter Experiences by providing “a vibrant and meaningful environment for chapters and all members to contribute to and benefit from continued engagement.” This preconvention service project brings together Psi Chi members through a shared activity. Students have reported enjoying the opportunity to network with other students, with faculty mentors from other universities, and furthering their research and connections all while serving a host community. It is our sincere desire that other regions begin their own preconvention service project so that Psi Chi can make a difference in our host cities across the nation. Come join us!
Interested in starting a Psi Chi Preconvention Service Project?
Here are some tips to get started:
- Just ask!
Our project was started by a Psi Chi faculty mentor with an idea. I went to the convention steering committee and asked if I could do this and was given permission. We started small, but it has grown over the years. If I can do it, you can too.
- No budget, no problem.
Remember, this is a service project. We didn’t have a budget at all when we got started. We have been working to carve out a little money for breakfast and a free T-shirt for the volunteers with each subsequent year. The more we have done, the more we are able to do. Just work with what you have and tell people what you need.
- Plan early!
I have learned that there are a lot of people who would love us to help, but they need time to get us set up. If you can get the volunteer information in the registration for the convention, I have found that is the most efficient way. But it isn’t required. I did e-mail blasts, word of mouth, and promoted in Eye on Psi Chi for a long time. Either way, try to get tentative volunteer numbers as early as you can, and reach out to volunteer places in the host city (they will need to know how many people to expect).
- Choosing a project.
I like to start with the Psi Chi chapters in the host city to see if they have any ideas of where to do the service project (and illicit some help on the ground). Otherwise some other options are food banks, Volunteers of America, and each city has its own volunteer coordinator (just search for the city community outreach coordinator).
- Need help?
I’d be happy to answer any questions! email@example.com
Attend RMPA 2020
In 2020, Psi Chi students will be volunteering at the Rocky Mountain Food Bank. Students will have the opportunity to pack food donation bags. If you are in the Rocky Mountain region and are interested in participating in this project next year, please indicate your interest on the RMPA registration, along with your T-shirt size. All are welcome to participate in this Preconvention Service Project, so spread the word!
Elizabeth List is a licensed clinical psychologist, associate faculty, and the Chair of the Psychology department at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. She received her PsyD at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. Dr. List specializes in teaching clinical skills—especially as they pertain to diversity, diagnosis, and human sexuality. Her current research interests are in how we can teach diversity sensitivity to majority cultures more effectively. Dr. List loves working with undergraduate students. She has sponsored several research projects for her students at RMPA in the past several years. She has had the pleasure of being the Faculty Mentor for NNU’s Psi Chi chapter since 2013.
Lisa Kindleberger Hagan is a professor of psychology at Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver. While she has taught for almost 20 years, she has only been a faculty coadvisor for MSU's Psi Chi chapter for two years. Dr. Hagan's research interests focus on gender socialization and socialization of children's risk taking.
Copyright 2019 (Vol. 24, Iss. 2) Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology