What does Psi Beta offer its members?
By Jerry Rudmann, PhD
If you are completing your first two years at a college that offers AA degrees, see if your college has a Psi Beta chapter. Psi Beta is a national honor society for lower division college students. Psi Beta is ideal for students who plan to major or minor in psychology, as well as students who simply have an interest in psychology. Ruth Hubbard Cousins founded Psi Beta in 1982. At the time Cousins was also serving as the executive director of Psi Chi (Psi Chi is the International Honor Society for students attending four-year colleges and universities). So while Psi Beta and Psi Chi are independent honor societies, both provide educationally enriching co-curricular programs and opportunities that extend far beyond the psychology classroom. Psi Beta has 140 chapters across America, and several new chapters start up each year.
So what does Psi Beta membership offer? Psi Beta members can become involved in unique service-learning projects that promote civic engagement. For example, Psi Beta recently launched a service-learning project based on Phillip G. Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project. In this project, teams of Psi Beta students present 90-minute lessons to high school and college classes. Six lesson topics (e.g., the bystander effect, prejudice and discrimination) derived from the extensive social psychology research are available. The Psi Beta teams administer assessments to determine if the lessons have had the desired impact on their audiences. But because this is a service-learning project, the project’s positive impact on the Psi Beta students is also being studied. Preliminary research is showing that Heroic Imagination team members are learning teamwork and presentations skills and considerably more about the topics they are presenting.
Students who participate in Psi Beta’s CONNECT peer-mentor project serve as EAs (engagement ambassadors) to psychology classes composed of first-semester college students. The Psi Beta national research project provides a way for members to participate in a research project and use the research data to prepare and present posters at a conference.
Psi Beta offers these competitions: Student research paper, individual and chapter community service, college life and collaboration grants. See the Psi Beta website for detailed information on Psi Beta’s programs and awards.
Finally, Psi Beta provides programming for members and faculty at the various annual regional psychology conferences (e.g., the Western Psychological Association) and every APA conference. Conference programs include leadership training, diversity workshops, chapter exchanges and student poster sessions.
How can you join Psi Beta? Psi Beta membership requires students to have a GPA of 3.25, or a GPA that falls within the top 35 percent of the student body (based on at least 12 units of degree-applicable coursework), and to have completed a college-level psychology course with a grade of B or higher. Eligible students must then pay a one-time, lifetime membership fee of $50. The college must have a Psi Beta chapter, and the chapter must be advised by a professor of psychology who teaches at the college.
What if your college doesn’t have a Psi Beta chapter? Students have been the motivating factor behind the establishment of some Psi Beta chapters. Chapters must have at least one professor who is willing to serve as the chapter’s adviser. Ask a professor if he or she would like to start a Psi Beta chapter. The Psi Beta National Office will work with that professor to complete the application process.
If you are close to transferring, be sure to look for a Psi Chi chapter at your new college or university. Psi Chi offers psychology students even greater resources and enrichment opportunities.
About the Author
Jerry Rudmann, PhD, serves as executive director of Psi Beta and is professor emeritus at Irvine Valley College, where he teaches classes in research methods. Rudman has served on all three of APA’s task forces charged with developing the learning goals for the undergraduate psychology major. His professional interests include helping Psi Beta develop high-quality service-learning projects, facilitating research opportunities for undergraduate students, developing valid and authentic measures of student learning and identifying the characteristics and behaviors of professors who produce high learning in their students. Memberships: APA, WPA, PT@CC, Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology), Psi Chi, Psi Beta and CUR (Council on Undergraduate Research).