I can vividly remember my first experience with the ESA Student Section. It was the 2011 meeting in Austin, Texas. The weather was scorching, and I was psyched to attend the Student Mixer to make some new friends. It was my first ESA conference, and I was eager to build a network.
The mixer was held in the convention center that year, and the catered dinner was lackluster (spaghetti, garlic bread and iceberg salad). No one seemed to mind, however, because the atmosphere was lively and students were up and mingling.
But the thing I remember most about that event occurred the moment the students realized that their entrance fee did not come with a drink ticket. Big mistake. Mixer attendees began to grumble, and their grumbles seemed to pool and coalesce until a roar started to build.
It was then that the Student Section Chair approached the mic, in an effort to quiet what had become a torch and pitchfork mob. In a grand proclamation, he declared that everyone in attendance could select a beverage from the bar and that the Student Section would pick up the tab. It was instant tension relief and attendees went immediately back to talking and laughing.
And that’s when I knew I had to join the Student Section. Not only to ensure that we never forgot to include drink tickets at the student mixer, but because I was inspired by the student membership. We rallied; we won; and I wanted to be a part of that type of organization.
So here I am today, 2014 Chair of the ESA Student Section, and it’s been a big year:
- We were awarded a Long-Range Planning Grant, which enabled us to afford this massive website overhaul (many thanks to Sasha at Outlaw Creative)
- We were invited to the ESA Governing Board Meeting for the first time in May and presented some fundraising ideas to the ESA Leadership, which will allow us to expand the opportunities we can offer young ecologists. Nearly all of our ideas were approved in some form and will be voted on by the ESA board in the next year.
- We boosted our online presence, with a revamp of our Twitter page, the formation of a Facebook page and our new blog. Our website also hosts an event calendar with student-oriented activities, now with Google and iCal capabilities.
- We are trying something new with the Travel Award program this year, requiring recipients to give back in some way during the meeting by attending selected events. We have plans of turning this into a sort of ambassador program, but that idea is still in its infancy.
- We also launched a newsletter (maybe you’ve received it?) that we hope will allow for better contact and engagement with the membership.
My hope for this post is to inspire you to get involved. The Student Section remains an organization dedicated to meeting the needs of young ecologists and providing the networking and professional development opportunities to help them succeed in their careers and continue advancing the field of ecological science. I encourage you to join in our efforts. Pick up the torch. Rally. And win.