The Big Change
One of the true joys of being an SPIE officer is visiting with student chapters around the world. When traveling we often try to add an SPIE Student Chapter visit or two. The students we meet are always incredibly welcoming, excited, and proud to share their research and stories. You can't come away anything but impressed, reinvigorated, and certain that the future of our field is in good hands.
SPIE has often relied on our Student Chapters to provide much of our community outreach, especially for K-12 schools, and they do a wonderful job. In many cases, the Student Chapters also organize the social activities of the students. However, there is a realization that the SPIE Student Chapter program is not doing enough for the professional development of the students in the time leading up to the biggest professional transformation in their careers-leaving school and getting a job.
One of my goals is that SPIE develop materials or programs for students to help prepare for this transition while they are still in school. How can we help them hit the ground running? Can we help instill the values of what it means to be a professional and the associated work habits? Perhaps we need to help faculty with these tasks.
Once a student has graduated, their primary focus must be to establish successful careers. It is perhaps natural that they step away from the broader professional society, but it may not be wise. A new support network and resource group is needed. To this end, SPIE has established a reduced-rate voting membership for Early Career Professionals (ECP). It allows continued participation through this transition period and the interaction with potential mentors and collaborators.
Just as important for ECPs is to try to attend and present at conferences. Volunteering to serve on a conference committee can further expand your professional network and can possibly lead to future conference or committee leadership opportunities.
I believe that my career has greatly benefited by being a Society volunteer. I have met and become friends with people who I would never have met without being a participant. So, I give the following advice to anyone at any level, but especially to ECPs:
Get involved, be involved, stay involved!
John E. Greivenkamp
2020 SPIE President