FROM THE PRESIDENT
The Single Most Important Step for Chapter Vitality
Sigma Xi fosters research excellence in many ways, not least
through local chapters. Astute readers, members or not, may
recognize ideas presented here that are transferable and
operational in their Sigma Xi chapters or any other organization
working for the greater good.
The single most important step for Sigma Xi chapter vitality is the
appointment of a functioning President's Advisory Council.
The President's Advisory Council is just that, a council of
variously experienced members that offers advice to the
president—and the other officers—on the myriad of topics
of importance to a healthy chapter. More than the group of officers,
or even a "cabinet" that implies officers and appointed
committee chairs, the President's Advisory Council has, explicitly, "advisors."
The president appoints (with advance consent) any member who
expresses interest in any aspect of the chapter. Significantly, the
president pledges that the advisor will not be expected or pressured
to participate in or supervise any activity or project suggested or
endorsed by the advisor. This pledge is vital as the act that
convinces the interested member that advice can indeed be given
without fear and trepidation that time and attention commitments
would necessarily follow. The atmosphere of appreciated contribution
without forced participation is the key to obtaining a cadre of
thinkers and protagonists for the chapter. Without the pressure to
perform, advisors frequently remain on the council for extended
periods of many years, which provides continuity and consistency to
chapter activities. Recently served presidents and other chapter
officers can be recruited to remain as advisors in a relaxed-duty capacity.
Some chapters employing the prototype President's Advisory Council
limit the planning meetings for the council to a modest number each
year, typically four. Such chapters typically report that attendance
and participation are enhanced when a sandwich and cookie or pizza
and drinks are provided from the chapter's funds.
Of course, the advisor who champions a particular project over
several relaxed planning sessions that show broad support for the
idea can frequently be persuaded to continue as the leader of the
project or chair of the overseeing committee. Thus, unforced
advisors can become chapter project leaders and ultimately form a
core of activists from which chapter officers are developed. Perhaps
the most important result of the council is that a member with a
multi-year tenure as an advisor who has absorbed and advanced the
history, philosophy and methods of running a vital chapter will
often move naturally into leadership as a chapter officer.
A significant minority of Sigma Xi chapters now operate with locally
adapted and named versions of the described President's Advisory
Council. Such chapters have vigorous, effective and sustained
programs of quality activities. Chapters that operate on the
"cabinet" system or that plan activities with only an
officer group would do well to seek, recruit and welcome an enhanced
group of advisors to ensure the extended health and life of the chapter.
Now that I've described the First Most Important Step, what follows?
—The Second Most Important Step for chapter vitality is to
create, update and execute a Three-Year Plan.
—The Most Fun Step for chapter vitality is to host an Open House.