Strategic Planning (and other academic tasks)

Last week I had a chance to attend a few days of meetings on strategic planning for a group I’m involved with. I will admit that I was not one of the more useful members sitting in the meetings, but I was probably one of the ones who learned the most.

It was super fascinating to listen to everyone discussing their ideas. And to realize what counts as a successful meeting (didn’t meet my criteria). It was also great to have a chance to hear from a variety of people with a variety of backgrounds. While the group was planning for an academic group, we were made up of students, faculty members, a university president, and industry members (some with 30+ years of experience). So a varied group of individuals.

But, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. As everyone brought a different perspective to the meeting. I was there to be the voice of the students and make sure that we weren’t making decisions that would be negatively affect them.

I still have vague hopes of possibly ending up in academia one day. Which means that I may end up doing more things like strategic planning in my future. And this is just as possible if I end up in industry. However, how to deal with the more administrative side of academia is rarely, if ever, talked about. And it’s very easy for students to make it through an entire grad and post-doc career to their first academic job without ever having to experience any admin work. There’s going to be enough other new things to learn about, that having a better understanding of these tasks and having experience with them is only going to help me later on.

Unfortunately, these experiences aren’t easy to come by. Generally, you need to be in the right place at the right time, and also be quick to volunteer. How quick depends on the position, sometimes just volunteering is enough if no one else does. To start, try to get on any grad committees, such as departmental student grad associations or university level. Talk to you supervisor about your interest in being involved and see what ideas they can offer. Make sure your supervisor and others (like the grad chair) know that you’re looking and interested. Sometimes committees aren’t advertised to students, but they still want/need students on them. And then, if you’re offered something, take it. Sure, it might not be perfect the first time out, but, once you start getting a reputation as for wanting to be on committees, and being useful on committees, you’ll have more options to choose from.

Do you sit on any committees? Do you enjoy it or hate it?


2 thoughts on “Strategic Planning (and other academic tasks)

  1. It’s not really an academic committee, but I serve as the webmaster for my local IEEE section’s Executive Committee, and we just had our last meeting last night. Even though I’m not a voting member, I still share my suggestions and concerns for the section when it comes to potential events and other matters of business. Not all of my ideas are consistent with the traditions of the section, but they do provide a fresh point of view from student’s perspective, which I would hope is helpful.

    Engineers aren’t necessarily the most creative people, so it takes a lot of us together brainstorming to come up with good ideas. It’s really enjoyable when a good idea hits the floor and people start rolling with it, so I make it a point to show up whenever I can.

    • I think it’s so helpful for students to speak up because we generally have a different point of view. And when a committee starts to consist of people who have been on it for a long time (or on similar committees) things often get stuck in a rut or done a certain way just because that’s how they’ve aways been done. So a fresh perspective can be a very valuable thing.

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