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The Second 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 import step for Sigma Xi chapter vitality is the appointment of a functioning President's Advisory Council. The second most important step is to create, update and execute a Three-Year Plan.

Fashioning and executing a Three-Year Plan is surprisingly easy, and the results are wonderful: effective programs and events that occur on time with a reasonably sized audience and minimum anxiety for the event managers and chapter officers.

Proper prior planning produces positive programs. Too many Sigma Xi chapters—and other, similar organizations—are run on a one-year timeline with many activities planned on short notice, allowing little time for facility reservations, participant engagement, audience notification and response to unforeseen impediments.

Natural entries in a Three-Year Plan include all those normal Sigma Xi activities that are common, important, easily detailed and simple to supervise. These include the annual banquet and new-member induction ceremony, deadlines for new-member nominations and Grants-in-Aid of Research applications, quarterly meetings for the President's Advisory Council, spring open house for a selected laboratory, coordination meetings with an institution's Chancellor or President or Vice President for Research, selection and reporting of an Annual Meeting delegate, review and submission of a chapter annual report including descriptions of activities worthy of selection for a Chapter Award, conduct of chapter-officer elections and selection and announcement of local Certificates of Exemplary Service for science librarians, glass blowers, irreplaceable technicians. Annually scheduled sponsored events in which the chapter can participate, such as a laboratory research symposium or university research days or state finals for undergraduate science research posters, must also appear on the Three-Year Plan.

Although arguably two-year terms for chapter president are more efficient and effective than one-year terms, most Sigma Xi chapters still operate in the mode of electing a new president each year. Starting afresh to develop a meaningful program requires immediate thorough planning soon after assuming office and extensive detailed follow-up work. Chapter officers following a Three-Year Plan, however, can integrate any new officers smoothly into the refinement and execution process and continue on a reasoned non-anxious implementation.

Here is one example of the utility of a Three-Year Plan: Consider the arrival on campus, or in the research community, of an internationally recognized research scientist who can articulate precise and interesting presentations of research projects both to audiences of knowledgeable practitioners and to the general public. Try as all might, the new expert simply has no open date for the next two Sigma Xi chapter public lectures, nor even for the next banquet or induction ceremony. Using a Three-Year Plan, chapter officers negotiate with the new expert for a compatible date during the subsequent year or even the year after that. Thus, with flexibility but also tenacity and precision, the new expert can be committed to a Sigma Xi event of community significance with minimum future anxiety. Similarly, planning three years in advance means that changes for scheduled events can be communicated to the participating groups as changes occur, allowing for timely adjustments. Three-Year Plans really work!

Three-Year Plans covering major research and local community involvement as well as internal chapter activities, when updated on a quarterly basis, lead to well-planned, adequately advertised and effectively executed programs with events that constitute the useful and worthwhile activities of a vital Sigma Xi chapter.

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