My last two years as a Student and Early Career Representative (SECR) – first as the vice chair and then as the chair of the Student and Early Career Advisory Committee (SECAC) – have been many things at the same time: exciting, interesting, and sometimes challenging, but most of all fun! When I came to this office, I had a vague idea of what would be expected from me and what I would like to do as a SECR. However, I learned that what it actually means to be a SECR is completely different.
First of all, I was pleasantly surprised at how much freedom I had in fulfilling this role; how much of my own ideas I was able to bring into the discussion with my fellow SECR and the SECAC members; and how much support I received from the ICA staff and the Board of Directors.
Second, the office proved to include very diverse tasks that meant it was never boring. Just a couple of weeks ago I was asked about the tasks and duties of a SECR by someone interested in running for the office. While writing my reply I was surprised how many different facets the office covers: Ranging from writing monthly columns and raising funds through organizing receptions and other events such as a business meeting for student and early career members, Blue Sky workshops, or informal meetings for the SECAC members, to gaining insights into the organizational Herculean task of organizing such a big conference and attending the Board of Directors meetings.
Third, during my tenure I had the chance to gain unique insights into the politics and structure of the organization itself. Before, I was not really aware of exactly how the organization worked, what needs to be done to have a successful conference, what it takes to change the bylaws, or how many years a person who becomes elected to the presidency is actually on the Executive Committee (five, in case you didn’t know either). During the discussions in the Board of Director meetings I learned how many different positions and interests need to be considered even for seemingly small issues in order to make a sound decision that everyone can live with. To my surprise, most of the decisions made during these meetings were consensual decisions – if you keep in mind that there are around 50 people attending the Board of Directors meetings this is quite astonishing and shows that even though the organization is quite large there is a strong feeling of community.
And last but not least, the term would not have been half as much fun if it weren’t for the people who are highly committed to ICA and its values: I got the chance to work together with a bunch of dedicated student and early career members within the SECAC who made our monthly Skype meetings feel more like a discussion with friends than an actual meeting. They found time and resources besides finishing their PhDs or starting a family to support me, brought in their own ideas, and never failed to answer to one of my last-minute requests. Thank you all for this! Another amazing group of people who works more behind the scenes is the ICA staff (who you hopefully know more about since Tamar Lazar’s Student Column in the March Newsletter): However small or big my requests were, I got a prompt answer and help at every occasion. I also realized that all the “big names” that you see while looking at the list of board members (and that you might know from the literature and your research) are very nice people who are seriously interested in supporting student and early career members and who are very happy to talk to you and to give as well as to receive advice once you overcome your shyness and approach them.
Looking back at these two very interesting years as your SECR I can only warmly recommend the office to every student or early career member who wants to get engaged in the organization!
If you are wondering what’s in store for you this year in San Diego please check out our website. We have set up a particular page that lists all events that are organized by us or the different divisions and dedicated to student and early career scholars especially: https://icahdq.site-ym.com/members/group_content_view.asp?group=188197&id=650773
I wish you all a successful and inspiring conference!