Increasing Student Involvement at WPA

This year’s annual meeting of the Western Psychological Association marked the inaugural meeting of the WPA Student Council of Representatives.

The creation of the Student Council is the latest in a series of moves designed to foster student involvement in WPA. For example, WPA has recently established an endowment to provide students with scholarships and research support. WPA’s conference programs include material designed for graduate students, such as last year’s workshop on getting published and this year’s symposia on the ins and outs of getting a job in academia. Last year, WPA added a Graduate Student Representative position to their board of directors. The student who filled this position, George M. Slavich of the University of Oregon, is also serving as the chair of the newly assembled Student Council.

Although many national psychology organizations have student groups, such as the American Psychological Society’s Student Caucus, student organizations are rare among regional and specialized psychology organizations. Students have traditionally been involved in WPA through Psi Chi and Psi Beta, but WPA wanted to formalize student involvement. The new Student Council will develop services, products, and programming for WPA’s considerable student membership in addition to its professional membership. Some services will seek to develop and support a strong student network across the western region, providing students with connections that will be valuable as they enter the profession together. The Student Council hopes to build these bonds by increasing WPA visibility on campuses, increasing the student membership, and establishing year-round communication between student members through newsletters, Web sites, and electronic bulletin boards.

“The success of WPA, especially its tradition of exciting annual conventions, is due in part to the participation of students. They represent the future of WPA and the future of all psychology, and their energy and new perspectives must be a part of the planning for all that we do in the regional and national psychology organizations,” said Phil Zimbardo, two-time WPA president.

The Student Council will also provide benefits for the students appointed to it. Thirty-two graduate and undergraduate students representing 22 institutions were selected as representatives. These students are learning to develop and implement programs within an organization and are applying existing skills, such as Web development and survey design, and are developing new skills, such as convention planning and marketing. Through contact with WPA members from across the Western region, Student Council Representatives are making connections with fellow students as well as influential psychologists.

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