Thursday, August 23, 2007

Organizing Students

Some readers are already familiar with my primary extra-curricular activity during graduate school. The Forum on Science Ethics and Policy (FOSEP) is a very active group of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows at the University of Washington who organize events on and off campus that increase dialogue about science and society in Seattle. I've been involved with FOSEP since I read a little article in Nature (needs subscription) in the fall of 2004, and since October '04 have been one of the group's directors. My involvement as a FOSEP leader is the primary reason I recently received a nice award from the UW Graduate School. FOSEP will very likely be the most career influencing element of my graduate school experience, although maybe the PhD will be nice, too.

Some of my FOSEP highlights include meeting Bill Clinton's Science Advisor Neal Lane, and picking his brain about science policy, organizing a symposium at the National AAAS meeting that included a presentation by Duncan Dallas, founder of the Cafe Scientifique movement, and planning a controversial presentation about the Kitzmiller v. Dover School District intelligent design case. None of these opportunities would have been possible without a well organized team of graduate students.

Tonight, I participated in the last leaders' meeting in my capacity as FOSEP director. In the course of the meeting, I realized that three years of leadership trial and error have resulted in a pretty comprehensive playbook for organizing and motivating a highly functional student group. Student organizations face many of the same tasks of other groups, but have added complexities of volunteerism, rapid member turnover, a lack of permanent space, funding needs and challenging schedules.

One of FOSEP's newer directors, Maris Lemba, suggested I catalogue my tips and tools on this blog. It just so happens that in the last week, three other people (at the UW and elsewhere) have inquired about recommendations I have about science outreach or student group organization. So thanks Maris! Over the next few weeks, I will be posting some of my tips. They will all be categorized under the label, "organizing students." I've put a special link on the right side panel, too. That way, if you want to periodically check back to see my latest additions, they will be easy for you to find.

What are the topics you can expect? They will range from practical to self-help.
  • Nurturing Membership
  • Raising Money
  • Personal Leadership Development
  • Networking on Behalf of Your Group
  • Planning a Good Event
  • Getting People to Attend Your Good Event
  • Going Out On A Limb
  • Using the Media
  • Protecting Leaders From Burnout
  • Outcomes Assessment
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Running a Meeting
  • Having Fun
Out of respect for everything FOSEP has taught me (and to try and get some of you interested in FOSEP) each of my posts will feature a little FOSEP logo to refer you to their web page. Don't hesitate to ask questions or post comments, either. Especially all you FOSEPers and FOSEP alumni out there.

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