Revitalizing an Existing Sigma Xi Chapter

University of Michigan Chapter Science Cafe 2015

On occasion a chapter will become inactive.  It's OK, it happens.  A variety of factors can lead to chapter inactivity, but the good news is that getting your chapter active again is not difficult.  And we at Sigma Xi Headquarters are here to help.

Who Needs Revitalization?

Every chapter can benefit from a revitalization effort.  Many times you'll know inactivity coming when you see it.  A few red flags:

  • Only one or two (or no) officers  Swarthmore Chapter Event

  • No or very few activities

  • No new initiates

  • No annual report filed

  • No chapter delegates attend the Annual Meeting in over three years

However, even chapters with modest levels of activity can benefit greatly from a simple and thoughtful revitalization activity.  We'll refer to the following signs as yellow flags:

  • The same individuals have been the chapter officers "forever"

  • There are only one or two chapter activities, that have also been the same "forever"

  • Very few (or the same) people attend meetings

  • No one at your institution or in your area is aware that there IS a Sigma Xi chapter.

Louisville Chapter Event 2014 Inspired Science - Kepler

Revitalization: Step-By Step

Your chapter isn't the first to need additional help. The staff at Sigma Xi headquarters has worked with many chapters over the years to get them active again. Talk with them about programming ideas that are currently successful for other chapters. In addition to consulting with staff on the logistics of getting your chapter back in good standing, here are some additional steps chapters can take.

1. Find an active core. It takes only a few interested individuals to revitalize a chapter. Get others involved!

• Ask other people to work with you on the chapter!  It’s not as difficult as it might seem to get others involved.

• Get a list of members.  The staff can help you with this.  Review the names and personally talk with colleagues about your chapter.  They may be willing to help.  

• Often times, just connecting with an administrator from your institution about the role the chapter can play in your institution and/or community leads to program ideas. It creates awareness of your chapter, and is not unusual for administrators to have project and funding ideas that align with Sigma Xi's mission. Nominate qualified administrators for membership!

2. Develop a Plan of Action Together. Beginning a Plan of Action, even a simple one, will help guide the chapter through revitalization and help you share the workload.  A Sample Plan of Action is at the end of this section. Staff, other chapter officers, and regional and constituency directors can all help you develop this plan.

3. Survey Your Members. Using the list of members provided by the staff at headquarters, email a brief survey to your active and inactive members.  A survey is an easy, effective way to gather honest feedback, ideas, and support from members in your region. Remember that it may take several communications and reminders before individuals respond with help and ideas--think about the number of emails you receive and don't give up. 

4. Plan an Event! After reviewing your survey results, identify ideas for meaningful chapter activities.  The survey results should offer insight into what types of activities would spark interest and increase attendance and participation among chapter members and the local, science community. Remember to:

• Start small. Starting with too many activities can backfire and leave a revitalizing chapter in worse trouble than where it began. Select one or two activities, take your time implementing them, see how they go, then adjust your plan of action as necessary.  Your chapter will not revitalize overnight--taking the time to establish solid chapter activities will pay dividends in the long run.

• Be multidisciplinary. Think of your chapter and events as others will see it: a unique cross-section of scientists and engineers within a community. There are a lot of groups that would love the opportunity to interact with a group of researchers from fields that span science and engineering from Anthropology to Zoology. Connect with teachers, college and university administrators, community groups, legislators, students, media…etc.

• Invite non-members to your events.  These non-members are a likely pool of future, new members. 

Just because lectures, for example, may have worked in the past doesn’t mean that they will work today. Talking with a variety of people (including those not in science) may give you a whole new view of what your revitalized chapter could look like.

5. Update your plan of action and cut your losses. Consider your plan of action to be a dynamic document and revisit it often. Don’t be afraid to drop activities that don’t work. It’s better to invest your energy in meaningful ideas than ideas that are simply not working. 

6. Membership is important! In planning program activities to revitalize a chapter, many people forget to include recognizing students and faculty for their achievements by election to membership as part of the revitalization. In fact, program activities can be and have been organized around initiation of new members to Sigma Xi.

 Smith College Induction

7. Get to know Sigma Xi and Stay in Touch. 
Attend the Sigma Xi annual meeting! The annual meeting is full of energizing ideas for chapters. Also, call or e-mail staff whenever you need advice or resources.  Remember that other chapter officers, Sigma Xi committee members and members of the Board of Directors are always willing to talk and share ideas.