Student Notebook

State of the Caucus

“You see things; and you say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”
– George Bernard Shaw

The APS Student Caucus (APSSC) members make a habit out of asking “Why not?” and then finding ways to turn their dreams into reality. These dreams are about resources and programming that will enhance the experience of APSSC members. They come not only from the minds of the APSSC Executive Board, but also from APSSC members.

Before delving into the content of our dreams, I would like to tell you a bit about reality. The APSSC is comprised of approximately 5,700 students, two-thirds of whom are graduate students and a third of whom are undergraduate students. Due to the benefits of being associated with APS as a whole, as well as the programming offered by the APSSC, approximately 64 percent of the graduate student members rejoin the APSSC each year, and 71 percent of the graduate students who are eligible for full membership become full members after receiving their degrees.

Over the past few years, participation has increased in almost all APSSC programs, and this trend continues. The APSSC currently involves over 600 students in its diverse programs. In the context of these programs, students gain valuable professional experience by writing research proposals, conducting peer reviews, and raising awareness about research with underrepresented populations.

The new APSSC Executive Board convened at the Annual Convention in Washington, DC, in May 2007 and again in Miami, FL, in October 2007. During these meetings we assessed the effectiveness of APSSC programming by reviewing the results of our annual survey, which included feedback on APSSC activities from over 800 members. From this starting point, we examined ways to augment the experience of APSSC members by enhancing ongoing APSSC programming and exploring new initiatives.

Enhancing Ongoing APSSC Programming
The Executive Board must always ask “Why?” because it is necessary to keep in mind the reasoning behind the implementation of APSSC programs when we examine ways to improve upon them.

Improving Ongoing Activities. Although the vast majority of the APSSC’s annual activities are received positively by the students, there is always room for improvement. This year the Research on Socially and Economically Underrepresented Populations (RiSE-UP) Committees has added a Weight Issues subcommittee. In addition, the RiSE-UP Committee leadership has been restructured and streamlined. We have added an Advertising and Recruitment Chair as well as a Funding and Advocacy Chair, who will be specifically dedicated to two of the core goals of RiSE-UP, and we have decided to have only one chair for each of the seven subcommittees instead of two. At the annual convention, APSSC programming includes many panels, and this year we will solicit questions for panelists from convention attendees before the events so that the panelists will be able to address the most popular questions during their presentations before the question and answer sessions begin. We will also incorporate the 20th Anniversary theme into our events as much as possible, especially the student social.

Improving Communication Between the APSSC Executive Board and It’s Members. Every month the APSSC disseminates on online bulletin called  E-News to keep students informed about the resources and programming provided by the APSSC. This year, we will implement a new design for E-News that will highlight a specific program each month. However, we will continue to include smaller announcements about all of our programs. We will also create a welcome packet for new Campus Representatives to assist them in their roles as liaisons between the APSSC and their campuses around the world.

The specific examples of enhancements included above are not exhaustive. These are just a few of the key examples of ways in which we hope to hope to augment the experience of all APSSC members.

Exploring New Initiatives
The Executive Board must also always ask “Why not?” because as we push forward in our diverse education experiences, at times we lament the lack of specific student resources. Once we notice an area in need of additional resources, a determination must be made as to whether or not the APSSC is able to provide these resources. Currently, there are three resource initiatives being explored by the APSSC Executive Board.

Online Funding Database. The first initiative is an online funding database that would provide information about funding opportunities to support student research in psychology. We hope to create a searchable and expandable resource with up-to-date information that will benefit Student Caucus members at all stages of their education.

Undergraduate Update. The second initiative is an online publication, entitled the Undergraduate Update, specifically focusing on information pertinent to our undergraduate members. It would be written by undergraduates for undergraduates and cover topics such as the graduate school application process, descriptions of what different fields of psychology entail, and highlight the research of exceptional undergraduates.

Web Chats With Textbook Authors. The third initiative is a series of web chats with textbook authors. These web chats would serve to connect textbook authors with students who read the authors’ books in class or use the authors’ books in the classes they teach. Because the chats will be conducted online, students from around the world will be able to participate in real time discussion with textbook authors and textbook authors will have the opportunity to converse with and receive feedback from students everywhere.

Although these initiatives are still in the developmental stages and the implementation of these initiatives is not a forgone conclusion, the Executive Board is working hard to make these a reality.

The improvements and new initiatives mentioned here comprise only the tip of the iceberg. The APSSC is an ever-expanding organization that is open to any and all ideas of ways to enhance the experiences of our members. If you have been or are currently involved with the APSSC, I would like to thank you for your support and for making us the dynamic organization that we are today. We could not function or continue to improve without you or your feedback. If you are a student and are not yet involved with the APSSC, I would like to invite you to take advantage of the many resources and opportunities that are available to you. If you have any feedback or questions regarding APSSC programming, please feel free to contact me or any of the other Executive Board members. I also encourage all students to ask themselves “Why?” and “Why not?” not only about what they want in their own personal, professional, educational experiences, but also about what they want in their national organizations.

Observer Vol.21, No.1 January, 2008

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