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The Ultimate Student Volunteering Cheat Sheet for Entomology 2017

Denver Blue Bear

Ashley Kennedy, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Delaware, volunteered at the International Congress of Entomology in 2016 to don the Denver Blue Bear suit to help promote Entomology 2017 in Denver. Here, she poses with her favorite conference buddy, fellow ESA student volunteer Justin Bredlau. As Kennedy says, “You never know what kind of volunteer opportunities will come up!”

By Ashley Kennedy

Editor’s Note: With now less than two months until Entomology 2017, today we begin with the first in a five-part “Students at #EntSoc17” series on Entomology Today, in which members of ESA’s Student Affairs Committee share what fellow student members need to know to be prepared to ignite, inspire, and innovate at Entomology 2017.

Entomology 2017 is just around the corner, and students should be on the lookout for an email from ESA on September 18 about signing up to volunteer at the Denver meeting. (You can also bookmark and keep an eye on the “Annual Meeting Volunteer Opportunities” page on the ESA website.) You’ll want to be ready for it when it comes, because volunteer spots fill up quickly! Here’s why:

Ashley Kennedy

Ashley Kennedy

For starters, there is an enticing financial incentive. Conference travel can be prohibitively costly for students, student transition members, and early career professionals, so members in these categories have the opportunity to volunteer in exchange for a registration reimbursement to offset travel costs. This reimbursement can make all the difference to those trying to participate on a shoestring budget. Any volunteer who commits to six hours of work is eligible to receive a reimbursement after the meeting. You can sign up for a single six-hour volunteer position or multiple smaller time slots throughout the conference. (Note: If you have already had your registration fee waived for any reason, you would not be eligible for an additionalreimbursement.)

Moreover, volunteering at ESA meetings is an amazing way to network. Manning the registration booth in past years helped me put faces to the names of my academic idols and strike up conversations with them. What better way to make a first impression than by being the friendly, helpful assistant who gives them their badge and points them in the direction of their first talk?

Another perk worth considering is that volunteering can be incorporated into your resume under “service.” Giving back to your professional organizations reflects that you are a dedicated and engaged member. Let’s just say it can’t hurt.

Aside from those practical considerations, though, I have to admit that the real reason I keep coming back to volunteer is more along sentimental lines: I’ve made some of my best fellow-entomologist friends while stationed alongside them at past meetings’ volunteer gigs. My favorite “conference buddy” is someone I likely would never have met if we hadn’t been working the same table for four hours at a branch meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, more than four years ago. In the tumult of a national meeting, when you meet dozens of people in short bursts in the hallways throughout the day, it can be refreshing to get to know someone over a solid two to six hours during a volunteer shift.

Here’s an overview of volunteer roles for your consideration:

  • Presentation Preview Room and Speaker Ready Room. This job requires only modest technological skills (you’ll learn everything you need to know in a five-minute training), but a dash of interpersonal communication skills would be helpful, as you’ll interact with presenters who might be frazzled as they prepare for their talks.
  • Registration. Volunteers in this role get the most interaction with the most people, so it would be ideal for extraverted students. You’ll assist ESA staff with signing attendees in as they arrive and answering any initial questions they have. Naturally, registration is busiest at the beginning of the meeting.
  • ESA Booth in the Exhibit Hall. This is a fun site at which to volunteer because it’s in the middle of everything. You’ll assist ESA staff with various activities and answer any general questions attendees may have.
  • Linnaean Games. If you want a front-row seat at the most exciting competition of the meeting, this role is for you! Volunteers are needed to keep score and keep the competition moving along by assisting the moderator and judges as needed.
  • Poster Hall. Volunteers will assist with poster setup and takedown, providing directional assistance to poster viewers, and answering general questions, as well as keeping the Virtual Posters station running smoothly.
  • Student Awards and Student Reception. Volunteers for the Student Awards Ceremony help set up and stage the awards and transition to ushering when attendees begin to arrive in the auditorium. During the awards, help with queuing up awards is appreciated.

Those roles described above are the usual positions available at each national meeting, but when volunteer registration opens, keep an eye out for any non-traditional volunteer opportunities that might be included—you never know what you’ll see. Last year, I was one of the lucky few who registered to dress up as the Denver “Blue Bear” in the exhibit hall—truly a memorable experience.

And, to address a few questions you might have:

  • Worried about what volunteering entails? Don’t be! Volunteers receive on-the-job training, so prior experience is not necessary, but a friendly and enthusiastic demeanor will make the experience go more smoothly!
  • Did all the volunteer positions fill up before you got a chance to sign up?Keep checking! It’s worth revisiting the link frequently, especially as the meeting draws closer. As other volunteers realize they have schedule conflicts, some will have to cancel their volunteer commitments.
  • Don’t see any assignments that will work for you—or don’t know yet what your schedule will be like at the meeting? You can sign up for the on-call volunteer list. Typically, some last-minute volunteer opportunities arise during the meeting. In registering, simply provide your contact information so you can be reached if a slot opens up. Of course, it’s not a sure thing, so don’t count on the reimbursement in your travel plans if you’re on the on-call list.

Don’t forget that early-bird registration closes September 13. The cost of student registration will jump from $195 to $350 at that time, so make sure you register now. Now is also a great time to make sure that your membership is up- to- date.

Remember, all volunteer positions are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you’ll want to be ready to pounce when volunteer registration opens, especially if you’re eyeing a particular assignment. But, for what it’s worth, I haven’t yet had an ESA volunteer experience I didn’t like.

See you in Denver in two months!

Ashley Kennedy is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Delaware Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in Newark, Delaware, where she investigates bird-insect food webs in the Tallamy Lab. She is the ESA Eastern Branch representative to the ESA Student Affairs Committee, chair of the Eastern Branch Student Affairs Committee, and a member of the 2017 class of ESA Science Policy Fellows. At Entomology 2017 in Denver, Kennedy is looking forward to getting more involved than ever before: helping to plan a Lunch and Learn session (“Science Policy 101 for the Entomologist”), assisting with the Diversity & Inclusion reception, competing in the Linnaean Games, presenting her research, and—of course—volunteering! Twitter: @WhatDoBirdsEat. Email:

Blog post edited by Student Affairs Committee members Casey Parker and Adekunle Adesanya.


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