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Self-discovery and where to next?

By ESC President Rosemarie DeClerck-Floate

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I’m new to blogging, so when asked by our Blog Administrators to provide a first installment as President, I was at a bit of a loss on how to proceed with this. Do I simply distill what I have already shared more formally in the Up-front article from the December 2012, ESC Bulletin?  After some thought, I have decided to try something a bit different, but still related to my article.

One of my personal goals as President is to increase not only membership in the ESC, but the level of “active membership”. To my understanding, an active member is in action and contributing to our Society in any of a myriad of manners; e.g. serving on one of our many committees as either member or Chair, letting their name stand for executive office as Second Vice President or the next Director-at-large, applying to be a Society Trustee (e.g., Secretary, Treasurer, Bulletin Editor, Webmaster) as positions become vacant, collaborating to nominate a deserving fellow member for one of our achievement awards, helping organize a symposium or workshop for the next JAM, giving requested expert advice on issues that crop up within the society, etc. Without the mostly volunteer service of our active members, we cease to exist.

In thinking about what must be a perennial issue for every volunteer group out there…how to get new blood pumped into an organization to sustain it and also allow it to grow, and then how to encourage new involvement in the running of the organization, it occurred to me that one way to do so is to pull back the veil on what active service means, thereby allowing people to envision themselves in a particular active role. Do most of our members really know what projects our 17 regular committees are up to? Do they have a grasp of what is entailed in serving within any of the positions of the society.  Although any one of us can get onto the membership pages of our website and read our By-laws, Standing Rules and Committee Guidelines to find out the nuts and bolts of how our society runs, how many actually do so unless they are serving on a committee?  Honestly, that has been the case for me.  However, by sharing what we do and why, it gives a more human face to the intermeshed components of our organization, and may even inspire someone to step forth to serve.

So to get the ball rolling, let’s start with my experience so far and what is currently keeping me preoccupied on behalf of the society.  I have been in my role as President now for nearly 21 weeks and quickly am getting my legs in the job. Initially the position presented a somewhat daunting view of what lay ahead for me in terms of work load and challenges, and my legs were shaky. I was wondering how in heck I was going to juggle this major responsibility along with my research program and other activities. However, the experience has recently morphed into one of enjoyment that has actually given me energy overall and an eagerness to meet the challenges head-on with the help of others.  A large part of the enjoyment is coming from working with some excellent active members from across the country that are very dedicated and brimming with their own visions of us and how to move our society in new directions. There is such vibrancy to the ESC!

As President, I am ex officio on each of the regular committees, plus two newly-struck ad hoc committees, which means I get a bird’s eye view of what is happening within each as Committee Chairs cc me on their activity and discussions. Not all of them are active at the same time, but it is kind of like watching fireworks go off in different sectors of the sky, and then gauging how it all fits into the progression and synchronization of the whole show. Sometimes I may participate in the activity (either by invitation or when I clearly see where I need to get into action), but more often I find myself just watching, learning, or deciding where to nudge if needed. I also am encouraging new projects by either planting ideas with others, or enabling someone else’s idea by getting the appropriate people together. I must say that it is very gratifying watching projects take hold and grow to potential Board presentation stage, even without any involvement from me at all. Some of the projects that are in the early stages of discussion involve our student membership; for instance, we are sussing out new opportunities for career and leadership development. Overall, the role is a great way to develop improved management/people and leadership skills…..and even some French language skills because of the patience and encouragement of our francophone members.

But to present the full picture, it isn’t rosy all the time, as there are some serious matters to deal with which could have an impact on the future of our society. That’s where I have to screw up some courage and jump into the thick of things. A current example is making sure the ESC makes a successful legal transition according to the new Canadian Not-for-profit Corporations Act, which will mean the re-writing of our by-laws this year among other paperwork. Right now, I’m just so thankful to have the help and experience of our active membership as we navigate these new waters.

Regardless of how serious the challenge though, I have faith that we will survive as a society. We have existed for 150 years, so no time to give up now! So for anyone interested, we will be looking for new people to fill the Chairs of the Annual Meeting, Finance and Publications Committees beginning at our next JAM in Guelph, October 2013, and of course, welcome anyone who wishes to serve as members on any of our 17 committees. Think of it as an opportunity for personal and/or career growth and adventure.

This post is also available in: Français

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