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?