SETAC Global Director's Corner
Charlie Menzie, SETAC Global Executive Director
Our students are amazing! Over the past few months I've had the opportunity to attend SETAC meetings that have ranged in scale from a local chapter meeting (SETAC North America Hudson-Delaware Regional Chapter Meeting) to the SETAC Europe Barcelona meeting. In both cases, I was especially impressed by the energy and quality of work manifested by students. The Hudson-Delaware chapter meeting featured talks and posters by undergraduates as well as graduate students. It was clear to me that individuals such as Keith Cooper, Judy Weiss, and Don Nazario served essential mentoring roles and that the students have responded. Smaller, intimate chapter and regional meetings such as the one I participated in for Hudson-Delaware allow students to try things out, develop presentation skills, and learn how to network within professional circles. These are interaction skills that are a huge element of SETAC. This is where students develop leadership roles that will serve them within and outside of SETAC.
Shortly after the chapter meeting, I had the privilege of attending SETAC Barcelona, where once again, students were involved in leading many facets. This was the 25th anniversary of SETAC Europe and several of the founding members, such as Peter Callow, gave impassioned talks about the early days of SETAC. In the early days, the founding group was not far removed from being students themselves, and the energy and dedication they brought to SETAC has contributed to the great success we see within SETAC Europe today. Approximately 25% of SETAC Europe’s members are graduate students. They are represented by a very proactive Student Advisory Council (SAC), which was established in 2006 to improve communication among students within SETAC and to offer networking opportunities with senior members of SETAC Europe. This group was responsible for organizing the Young Environmental Scientists (YES) Meeting, a meeting for students by students. Gifted in the art of social media, these students reached around the world and attracted students from all over SETAC. The success of the YES meeting is such that it is now an annual event that moves about the globe. Next year it will be held in Gainesville, Florida.
The vibrant student life within SETAC can be seen in the activities of the North American Student Advisory Council (NASAC) which also networks with students from around the globe. And student representation within SETAC is strong in Africa (32%), Latin America (28%), and Asia-Pacific (29%). Last year I had the opportunity to meet many students at the Asia/Pacific meeting, and this year I am looking forward to meeting more at the SETAC Latin America Buenos Aires meeting in September and the SETAC Africa Langebaan meeting in October. I was pleased to see that both these meetings are featuring plenary speakers that are long-time SETAC members and who have had huge impacts on students. John Giesy and Steve Klaine will attend the Latin America and Africa meetings respectively. Both individuals have mentored many students who have then gone on to mentor many more. Like other meetings around the globe, the Latin America and Africa meetings will draw an international group of attendees, including many students. In North America this year, NASAC is organizing many special student events for the SETAC North America Salt Lake City meeting.
If you talk with long-term SETAC members, you will often hear them refer to SETAC as their professional home. That idea may sound corny but it works. That connection begins when you are a student or a young scientist beginning your career. SETAC offers an opportunity to experience a life of learning and professional development where colleagues become family. As was evident during the 25th year celebration of SETAC Europe, students and young scientists were catalysts and sources of energy and creativity 25 years ago and they are now. I am looking forward to attending the next YES meeting. I suspect there are many fulfilling SETAC experiences that will come through our students and I am excited about witnessing them and being a participant. SETAC will remain vibrant in large part because of the strong student membership, activities and leadership.
There is no question that SETAC students are amazing and that SETAC is an amazing place because of them, 25 years ago and today. Congratulations again to SETAC Europe and its strong student voice!
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