How Entomology Students Can Make Their Mark in Graduate Student Council
By Katherine Arnold
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.
Student council organizations have been established in schools for approximately 100 years, ranging from elementary to graduate levels, across our nation. These student bodies of government help advocate for students as a whole. Topics can range from better cafeteria food (my favorite in elementary school) to graduate tuition relief, currently a hot topic at the college I attend. Student council organizations allow students to work with the school administration officials to achieve goals they set for the entire student body.
The type of responses received from other students when they learn that students from the entomology department are involved in student council is interesting, to say the least. How does that look for an entomologist, and how can a bug lover impact and be a productive member in a student government organization?
Student council involves a healthy amount of communication and exchange of ideas. One of the most common topics discussed among graduate students is, “What is your field of study?” With a response like “entomology,” you tend to get numerous funny faces and questions: “Is that, like, bugs?” “You study roaches?” “So, you love creepy crawlers?”—just to name a few. Of course, as many entomology students know, entomology is a complex and intricate field that is seriously misunderstood.
A quick laugh or shrug typically breaks the tension created by these rhetorical questions, but an uneasy feeling still lingers. How can entomology, a field that is critical and crucial in our world, be so underappreciated and misunderstood? Insects span the entire world and every human has had at least one encounter with a “creepy crawler,” yet they go ignored much like the field of study. What is the solution to increase interest and awareness about this significant field? Step out, entomologist!
Opening New Doors
Opportunities for entomologists in graduate student council can build a foundation and skillset for a wide variety of career opportunities, including private or governmental collaboration, reformation of funding, improvements in graduate health systems, healthcare opportunities, and much more. Participating in organizations like student council helps introduce these various avenues to students and provide them with “foot in the door” opportunities.
Participating in graduate level student council also provides networking across a wide range of colleges that can provide opportunities that do not otherwise exist. And working in student council at the graduate level allows a voice for the subset of ideas that entomologists possess to be heard. Entomologists are scientists who think analytically and methodically, which is instrumental in helping the council achieve succinct goals. Many of the projects tasked to the council require a creative approach while still adhering to strict administrative guidelines. Entomologists are tasked with critical thinking and analysis on a daily basis, thus it is a natural progression for entomologists, who bring valuable ideas to the table.
As a member in graduate student council, I have had the privilege of working on tuition relief for graduate students. This task force was first initiated by the dean of graduate students as a need arose, and interested members of the graduate student council could volunteer to participate. Then the real battle began: ongoing meetings and strategizing with top administrators within the college and the state to allocate funding and establish eligibility. While this effort still continues, tuition relief for graduate students is near!
Take the Step
There are many excellent reasons for already busy graduate students to take that step and join their student council. Organizations similar to student council create opportunities for individuals to network and spread the word of entomology. It opens many new doors and allows you to meet people you otherwise may have never come in contact with. It introduces other intriguing topics within the college and provides opportunities to make a difference. This difference could mean reforming policies (such as tuition costs) so that students are better supported during times of challenge.
Moreover, joining a governmental organization helps students become well-rounded individuals and better prepared for a career in our ever-changing world. Student council builds one up to better prepare for the challenges of working within an organization. It provides the communication and mediation skills for someone to effectively articulate and communicate their ideas, which will ultimately help and better prepare students for the work force.
Katherine Arnold is a graduate research assistant and a master’s student in agricultural biology at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.