Annual Meeting Reports

How Did I Get Here? Perspective of a Volunteer

In addition to death and taxes, one thing is certain: CSE would not exist without its volunteers. This session was presented by three long-time CSE volunteers who told their stories to inspire volunteerism within CSE and to encourage others, with an emphasis on mentoring.

Heather Goodell introduced the session with her own story of mentorship. Her involvement with CSE began when a mentor suggested that she attend the annual meeting. Goodell obliged—and before she knew it, she had joined a committee. Not long after that, she was chairing a committee, and she ultimately served a term as CSE president. Goodell reflected that her CSE involvement is “one of the best things” she has ever done and that none of it would have happened without a mentor.

Angela Cochran began by confessing that she has a “volunteering problem”. She first became involved with CSE while at the American Cancer Society (ACS), and her immediate goal was to raise the profile of ACS by attending the CSE annual meeting, believing that more exposure would yield more solutions for ACS. She soon joined the Education Committee, of which she became the chair; was eventually elected to the Board of Directors; and is now the president-elect. Cochran also helped to develop the CSE webinar series and is involved in the CSE certificate program, which has allowed her to act as a mentor for other CSE members.

Cochran, who is currently with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), listed several reasons for volunteering so extensively. First, she feels that her involvement with CSE has enriched her life at ASCE, particularly in that it has taught her how to manage by consensus. Second, she feels a sense of reward for her participation. Finally, she believes that her involvement with CSE holds weight with her colleagues and authors at ASCE by showing them that members of her organization are actively seeking other leadership roles.

Ken Heideman also began with a confession: that he is a meteorologist. He later placed this confession into context, saying that before his extensive involvement in CSE he considered himself a meteorologist who happened to be in publishing; years later, he considers himself a publishing professional who happens to be a meteorologist. Heideman said that his volunteer efforts in CSE have changed his perspective on the industry and broadened his professional world—and he gave much of the credit to his supervisor at the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

Heideman acknowledged that he was mentored by a supervisor who invested fully in his participation in CSE, noting that not everyone is so fortunate. He observed that some supervisors might adopt a shortsighted “What’s in it for me?” attitude rather than recognize an opportunity to have one of their charges reflect well on their organization within a broader community. Heideman suggested that having a supervisor who is also willing to act as a mentor is a rare and wonderful thing and that it should be viewed as a distinct advantage for people lucky enough to find themselves in that situation.

The session concluded with a spirited discussion that included several testimonials about favorable volunteer experiences in CSE. Michael Friedman, a colleague of Heideman’s at AMS who is now on the CSE Board of Directors, observed that AMS staff come away from CSE meetings having learned a common language of scientific publishers. Cochran expanded on that idea, saying that by sending multiple staff members to the CSE meeting, an organization increases its knowledge base exponentially simply by having those staff members report about the different sessions that they have attended.

This session is best summarized by Cochran’s observation that there are two types of people: those who join a cause but do not act, and those who join a cause to inspire action or to act. She encouraged the attendees to be the latter, assuring them that their involvement will yield great rewards.