In This Issue

SASP chapter spotlight: University of Southern Florida

The story of how the USF SASP chapter was established

By Michael Frank, MA, and Sarah Fefer, MA

The inception of the University of South Florida SASP chapter may provide an interesting model for a program wishing to launch a chapter despite an already-existing student organization. The School Psychology Student Association (SPSA) is a student-led organization at USF that organizes volunteer events, runs a monthly newsletter, holds social events and pools resources for conference attendance. Our program also has regular colloquia in which local practitioners, researchers or faculty can present their work. In other words, there was already a funded organization that provided a large number of opportunities for our students to interact with their community.

Despite the high caliber of the events produced by SPSA and collaboration with our program’s NASP student leader, our presence in the national community was lacking. One member stated in a regular meeting: “Our organization is like a computer with good hardware, but no internet.” The USF students regularly attended national conferences, so it seemed natural that we should be interacting with the national student community in a consistent and meaningful way.

In order to fulfill the desire to interact, one member interviewed graduate students from other programs at a NASP conference to share their stories with USF students in the newsletter. As he explained the interview rationale to a few students he bumped into the SASP membership chair, Jacqueline Brown. After hearing about the project, Jacqueline suggested that USF create a chapter of SASP to foster more permanent connections with students from other programs. The faculty and students at USF unanimously supported the idea, with one caveat: we already had SPSA, and we did not know what would happen to that organization if we launched another or if we attempted to merge the two groups.

One previous attempt to link SPSA to SASP had been made during the 2005-2006 academic year with little success. A former SPSA president encountered questions, confusion, and some resistance in this initial effort. When she consulted the individuals who oversee funded student groups, they did not seem to fully understand the benefits of creating a SASP chapter. In particular, it was difficult to demonstrate how it would be different from the current student group. At this time we also learned of rules indicating that all funded USF student groups must be open to all students and that there could not be any “exclusion criteria” for membership. Furthermore, the existence of SPSA as a funded group barred any similar group from being approved through student government. Unfortunately, student concern about the potential for decreased funding for SPSA (and therefore decreased funding to attend conferences) led us to discontinue the effort to start a chapter. For the time being, we encouraged group members to join the SASP listserv and attend SASP events at the annual APA convention on an individual basis. Thankfully, an interest in starting a SASP chapter re-emerged during this past academic year with more individuals willing to advocate for the benefits of this affiliation.

The faculty adviser of SPSA suggested that merging the two organizations could prevent the bureaucratic nightmare that maintaining two organizations had the potential to create. When the time came to update the SPSA constitution and submit it to the USF student government, language was included that considered SASP and SPSA a single organization. It was written that any USF student could join our local chapter, but only school psychology students could fill out and mail their official membership form to SASP. In this way, the funding cut associated with excluding students of other majors was circumvented. Now, some of our research groups are preparing to submit their ideas to the SASP publication and present at the SASP forum at APA.

While the recent merge between APA and SASP has caused a temporary setback in registering members, nearly all of the school psychology students currently taking classes at USF express plans to participate regularly. Additionally, after our first meeting the appropriate Division 16 forms will be mailed all at once to ensure everyone can register. Despite the challenges in the creation of our chapter, our organization also held certain advantages. Since the chapter was launched from a group that already met regularly, creating meeting times and electing officers was convenient and readily coordinated. It is unclear how our organization will change over time now that it is connected to the SASP community, but we eagerly and gratefully look forward to our future in the SASP community.

About the Authors

Michael Frank, MA, is a second-year PhD 4 track graduate student at the University of South Florida who received his bachelor’s degree of psychology at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He is currently the president of USF SASP and serves as a volunteer for NASP’s Student Development Workgroup. Michael’s current research interests include ADHD, positive psychology, school climate and school-based mental health.

Sarah Fefer, MA, is currently a predoctoral intern at the May Institute and a fifth year student in the University of South Florida School Psychology doctoral program. Sarah is a former president of USF’s School Psychology Student Association (SPSA) and NASP Student Leader. Sarah’s research interests include behavioral interventions, family involvement in intervention planning and implementation, ADHD, and academic and social self-perceptions.