Before graduate student Nicole Kriegel became president of the Psi Chi chapter at Georgia's Augusta State University last spring, the only leadership position she had held was as vice president of her sorority.
"As far as being completely in charge of an organization, this is the first time for me," says Kriegel, who expects to graduate with a master's degree in psychology in May.
Kriegel found solidarity and support at the first-ever Psi Chi National Leadership Conference in January. The event brought together chapter presidents, presidents-elect, faculty advisers, Psi Chi National Council members and staff of Psi Chi, the national honor society in psychology. Psi Beta, the national honor society for psychology students at community colleges, held its first national conference last fall.
BRINGING TOGETHER PSI CHI...
The Psi Chi conference took place January 5-7 in Atlanta. The theme? "Ethical and Socially Responsible Leaders in Psychology."
"Chapter presidents are always seeking ways to improve their leadership skills," says Psi Chi Executive Director Virginia Andreoli Mathie, PhD. "We offer a variety of programs at regional meetings, but we wanted to give them an opportunity to connect with people from other regions as well."
The 92 conference participants heard keynote addresses from two leaders in psychology. Diane F. Halpern, PhD, a former APA president who directs the Berger Institute for Work, Family and Children, talked about the skills a leader needs. Alan Kraut, PhD, executive director of the Association for Psychological Science, discussed that organization's role within psychology.
The conference also featured sessions to help presidents develop skills to be leaders within their chapters and within the profession. Topics included diversity, team-building, tips for dealing with difficult situations and mentoring.
What Kriegel found most valuable was the opportunity to exchange ideas on everything from setting up peer mentoring programs, to holding bake sales to organizing psychology conferences on campus.
"I got tons of ideas," says Kriegel. "I have pages of things I would like to implement this semester."
One of her ideas is to increase chapter membership by creating a point system to reward involvement. Students with the most points would get priority for things like funding for conferences, for example. Kriegel also picked up innovative fundraising ideas, such as helping out at concession stands during sporting events in exchange for a share of the profits.
Psi Chi paid transportation and lodging costs for the first 60 eligible students and faculty advisers to register. The next National Leadership Conference will take place in 2009. For more information, visit www.psichi.org.
...AND PSI BETA
Psi Beta's inaugural National Psychology Synergy Conference took place October 6-7 in Plano, Tex. The 350-plus conference participants included students and faculty advisers from high schools, community colleges and four-year institutions from around the country.
"The conference brought together different psychology enthusiasts to network," says psychology professor and Psi Beta adviser Jennifer L. O'Loughlin-Brooks of Collin County Community College, which hosted the event.
Stephen F. Davis, PhD, visiting distinguished professor of psychology at Texas Wesleyan University, gave a keynote address on academic cheating. James W. Kalat, PhD, a psychology professor at North Carolina State University, offered an overview of developments in biopsychology. Kalat covered taste, vision, the startle reflex and several other topics. To inspire the professors in the audience, he demonstrated exercises they could use in their classrooms.
Other sessions and workshops focused on topics specific to Psi Beta, such as raising money, preparing for graduate school or psychology careers and making the transition from Psi Beta to Psi Chi. Students even had a chance to present their own research.
This year's conference will take place October 4-6 in Plano. For more information, visit http://psibeta.ccccd.edu.
Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.