Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
Student involvement in affiliate organizations
Are your students feeling a bit lost when it comes to professional EE? Are you unsure of how to get your students more involved with your NAAEE regional affiliate? Are you a regional affiliate who wants students to come to your conferences and events but are unsure of where to start? If so, placing a student board member position in your regional affiliate or getting your students to join a regional affiliate and ask for that sort of a role might be a great place to start!
My name is Joey, and in addition to being a junior in Environmental Education and Interpretation here at UW-Stevens Point, I am also one of the two student board members for the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Education. Now, I admit, when I first took this position, I thought it was more of a ceremonial position, a role where I just gave a bit of input, but the other board members make all the decisions. What I did not expect was being in this role, and having my words carry weight. I realized how much of a need there is for a student connection and perception with these state associations. I did not realize how out of depth the WAEE was when it came to students. They wanted to engage young professionals/college students, but had no idea on how to reach them, how to appeal to them. I realized that I had a real opportunity to help bridge that gap, that disconnect between professionals and students, and so I set to work. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have a great start in this endeavor with NAAEE having their national conference in Madison, my home state. WAEE allowed me and the other student board member to have a student meeting as part of the conference to gather information on what our fellow students wanted and knew about WAEE. And what we found surprised WAEE. They had no idea how much we want to connect with professionals at conferences, and not just for jobs, but to talk about getting into EE, about what to expect, what to look for. We, as students, wanted a place to get advice and share in the wisdom of those professionals that came before, the tips and tricks of the younger professionals who had just gotten out of college 5 years ago and have now gotten into their career, and of the seasoned professionals who did the hiring, and have “made it” in the EE world. So, at the WAEE Winter Workshop, we held a panel for students called “Land the Job You Want”. We added a speed networking event, where students and professionals got to meet and interact in a one-on-one basis. I, personally, loved meeting the mid to late 20’s professionals, who had just recently gone through the post-graduation phase, and learning what mistakes they made, what tips and tricks made their lives easier, so that when I graduate in a year or a year and a half, I won’t make the same mistakes. Another thing we added to that conference was a Job Board for employers to find student interns and for students to find internships. I think that WAEE underestimated how much students really wanted a way to find jobs at events, and it sounded to me like the WAEE member organizations really loved being able to display their internships and try and get some of those positions filled. But, I think what surprised WAEE the most was that social aspect. They didn’t realize how much we wanted to get to know those professionals that had already dealt with everything that we fear post-graduation. We were looking for…maybe not mentors, but certainly people that had been in our shoes, in our position, and survived. We want all that knowledge of getting hired, and surviving in the real world, and we wanted those connections to those that came before us, that already did what we were now facing.
But, now that we have figured out what we can add to draw students to conferences, the task of unifying EE students still remains. Most colleges in the state do not send any students to conferences, and UW-Stevens Point is often the only college with any students at WAEE events. So, my fellow student board member and I are going to fix that. We want to unite the EE students of Wisconsin, and hope to build a plan so that other states can follow suit, and maybe even have it eventually grow into something greater that we can ever hope for. We want to have a WAEE sponsored student meeting, and directly contact faculty and students to send delegates and have a discussion, about the individual problems that each university is facing, whether it is a need for organizing a student club, or they have a lack of resources, whether it be curricula or otherwise, and find ways to utilize other clubs and student organizations to help them fill the gaps, and hopefully use this group as a framework to create a sense of an EE student community, a “we’re all in this together” feeling, if you will. We want this group to eventually form the core of a student committee for WAEE, and use that committee to connect local WAEE members with student organizations, and to plan and host workshops and meetings for all EE students to learn, grow, and develop. And, I admit, this stresses me out, and I’m still trying to figure how to do it right, and how to go about it and how to balance it with my schoolwork, student organization, and the rest of my life. This venture both excites and terrifies me in equal measure. Sometimes, in all honesty, I have no idea if this is even going to work, if students will come to a meeting, if they will be interested in what we want to do. But, when I think about why I’m doing this, and how much of an impact this can have, and that I’m not in this alone, I feel a little bit better. To leave you with a parting thought, especially for those of you that felt this was a “too long, didn’t read kind of post,” Regional Affiliates can benefit from a united student voice and involvement at the state level, and students can benefit from associating with regional affiliates, and I hope that, as a student board member, I provide that connection, that bridge, for both parties to connect, unite, and strengthen EE.