Connecting by committee
Everyone hates committee meetings — the kind that we all say could have been an email, the kind that interrupt your flow of writing or working in the lab, the kind where someone repeats something you said five minutes ago and everyone forgets you said it first, the kind that run over and make you late to pick up your kids from daycare.
But committees and committee meetings are what have connected me to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology over many years and influenced my career as a scientist, educator and administrator.
I clearly remember my first encounter with an ASBMB committee. The phone call asking me to serve on the Committee for Equal Opportunities for Women made me feel validated (and valued) as a new faculty member. I even remember what I wore to that meeting.
We met in the little house behind the old ASBMB headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, and I was in awe of the group around the table — appropriately so, since many distinguished scientists and future presidents of the society were there. It was also the first time I met Barbara Gordon, the ASBMB’s former executive director, and made a connection and friendship that have endured.
Over the years, I have served on many ASBMB committees; some of them developed initiatives that have changed the annual meeting and the society overall — education satellite meetings, women’s networking sessions, undergraduate poster competition, better integration of education and professional development programming into the mainstream, undergraduate program accreditation.
It was the wisdom of the committee, not that of any individual, that allowed good ideas to come to fruition.
In the course of serving on these committees, I have met members whose research overlapped with mine and who gave me guidance about research and publication, those whose suggestions led to major changes in my teaching, and those who became collaborators in education and pedagogy scholarship. I also learned how to be a constructive committee member and, eventually, an effective committee chair.
Like any big organization, the ASBMB has a large, loosely affiliated membership. Members sample what they need or find interesting from the society’s publications, meetings and other offerings. But what I’d call the “back office” of those offerings is a network of committees populated with members and supported by extraordinary staff, and there is always a need for members to find their place and their way to contribute within that network.
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