Monday Motivation #109 (6/27/22)
I’m at a conference, in person, for the first time in three years. It’s very people-y, and loud, and crowded, and in a HUGE convention center with a confusing layout. It’s been two and a half years since I’ve traveled for work, and I’m a little out of practice. My luggage was pretty dusty, and I had to google to remember the rules for getting through airport security and how to call a Lyft.
But I made it, and settled in to the hotel, and found the registration desk, and my laptop connected to the projector the very first time! I facilitated a fun workshop on communication skills yesterday morning, and then moderated a session on graduate student well-being, and then shared a meal with a friend who’s in grad school in Ohio, and then represented the Graduate Studies Division at the ASEE conference welcoming mixer. I’ve still got a couple of papers to present and a few meetings to attend before I can fly home again.
I’ve been on the board of the Graduate Studies Division for the last nine years, and will officially end my term as past-chairperson at the business meeting tomorrow afternoon. I went to that same business meeting for the first time almost a decade ago, at the advice of my mentor at MSU. They’d suggested that I consider getting more involved in a professional society, and the American Society for Engineering Education was where I’d been publishing my research about undergraduate research experiences and graduate student success. I thought maybe I could help with the newsletter or website, but what they needed was an interim program chair — the person responsible for organizing the authors and reviewers and moderators and sessions at the next annual conference.
It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t realize how much work was involved in being the program chair, because I probably would not have agreed to accept that role! But I said yes, naively, and then got a crash course in how big conferences are organized. I had to ask for help — a lot — and that gave me the opportunity to get to know the other volunteers on the executive board, and a good excuse to introduce myself to other folks working at the national level for ASEE. The next year I was elected as secretary-treasurer for the division, then served as program chair (again!), chairperson, and past-chairperson.
Volunteering for ASEE the last nine years has allowed me to develop professional friendships with faculty and administrators across the country, and that network has proven its value far beyond the annual conference. I have people to call when I have questions or need to talk through an idea; I have colleagues who will write letters of support for my grant proposals; I have friends who share my passion for improving the engineering graduate student experience, and who will talk honestly about what works on their campuses and what could be improved.
Graduate school is a great time to get (more) involved with your own professional society. Most have awards and scholarships and programs just for students, and it’s usually pretty easy to find a volunteer role at a conference or meeting, as a paper reviewer, or even as an officer or committee member. Most societies are eager to engage with students, so don’t wait to start building your own network!
Three Things to Try This Week
Learn More — there are lots of great reasons to get involved with a professional society in your discipline; check out this list to learn about some of the common benefits of getting involved.
Find Your Fit — there are dozens of professional organizations to choose from, some highly specialized and others celebrating the broad diversity of our profession. Check out this list to start — but you might also want to google!
Become a Reviewer — graduate students are often tapped as reviewers for conference papers and poster sessions, and even for journal articles as their skills increase. Learning to write a high-quality review is an important skill that benefits the authors — but also can help you improve your own writing!
- Engineering graduate students can apply for travel funding when they present their research at a conference or meeting: https://www.egr.msu.edu/graduate/travel-funding
- Curious about conference-organizing, but not ready to volunteer nationally? Consider reaching out to COGS to find out what opportunities may be available for next year’s Graduate Academic Conference on campus: https://cogs.msu.edu/gac/
- The Graduate School is offering the popular “Navigating” series to help graduate students plan for and complete their MS and/or PhD. Check out the events on July 8 for more information and to register: https://grad.msu.edu/calendar