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Meet the Committee Working to Grow the Next Generation of Entomologists

2019 ESA Student Debates

The Student Debates at the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting are one of many yearly programs organized by the ESA Student Affairs Committee.

By Victoria Pickens

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.

Victoria Pickens

Victoria Pickens

After months of preparation, the moment was finally here. The faint thud of my footsteps on the stage drummed in my ears as I approached the podium. The stage lights blinded me from the sea of the audience while I presented my introduction for the 2021 Student Debates at the Entomological Society of America Annual Meeting, but I could sense the tension on either side of me from the student teams. I too was nervous, but for a different reason. I couldn’t help but wonder, What if our months of hard work planning the debates were all in vain? Did we choose the right topic? Is anyone even going to find it interesting?

At the conclusion of my presentation, I turned to wish each of the teams good luck in their competition and was immediately reassured by their smiles and the glint in their eyes—they were excited about this! I took my seat in the audience and watched as the teams eagerly began to debate. Not only were the students enjoying themselves, but I could hear audience members behind me excitedly whispering about the performance of the students and discussing the topic. I then felt my chest swell with pride. I helped make this happen.

By Students, For Students

As entomology students, we are all interested in building our skills and participating in extracurriculars that help us enjoy our field and prepare for our future endeavors. But to do this can require support at a higher level. That is why the Entomological Society of America (ESA) created the Student Affairs Committee (SAC). Student debates, online workshops, and student award symposia are just a few of the many activities that this committee helps organize. And don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it. I had already been a student member of ESA for five years before I heard about the SAC. I had even taken part in many of these activities, but I had just never realized that students were involved in making them happen!

How does the SAC do this?

The ESA SAC is made for and run by students so that ESA can support student needs. It is composed of student representatives from each of ESA’s Sections and Branches, as well as a staff liaison from ESA. (You can look up the current committee roster; ESA member login required.) The benefit of students running this committee is that we are members of the entomological community at our universities, as well as ESA. We often experience and witness problems entomology students have throughout their programs, even if they aren’t members of ESA. In fact, many students I interact with aren’t members of ESA. Many students wait to join ESA until closer to the end of their program, or they wait to renew their membership until they know they are presenting at a meeting.

But, because I interact with them at my university, over email, or on social media, I can still advise ESA on ways they can try to support entomology students throughout their program. I then reach out to students about these opportunities, members and non-members alike. That way students may feel that they are benefiting from their membership to ESA, especially once they decide to join. In fact, it may even encourage them to join sooner!

SAC Student Activities

Becoming a student member of a professional society can be overwhelming, especially when you’re primarily joining to present your research at a meeting. We’ve all been there! But the SAC attempts to help students gain more from their meeting attendance and membership since it’s often a financial investment for the student. That way you can experience a wide array of student professional development activities available to you.

For example, when you attend the ESA Annual Meeting, why not participate in the Student Debates to get published in an ESA journal and potentially win an award with a cash prize? Or, sit in in on the Student Awards Symposium where you can get inspired by students beginning the next phases of their career. Or, form a team and put your entomology expertise to the test in the Entomology Games. You could also meet students from other universities at the student social to hear about their research, experiences in entomology, or student position openings in their department. Consider volunteering with ESA to experience the behind-the-scenes of the Annual Meeting and earn back money for your registration.

SAC even provides students with activities outside of the Annual Meetings. Want to build your writing skills? Submit an idea for the “Student Stadia” section of American Entomologist. Too formal? Try a blog post here on Entomology Today! Interested in a student-centered webinar? Let us know!

Volunteer With SAC

While participating in ESA student activities can help you win awards and develop skills, I can’t stress enough the impact that serving as an SAC representative can have for a student. Personally, working with the other student members of our group and my ESA Section leaders has been more rewarding to me than participating in most other student activities.

In my first year as the Medical, Urban and Veterinary Entomology (MUVE) Section Student Representative, I’ve had the opportunity to write blog posts, present at the Annual Meeting, and get published in an ESA journal. I served on the student debates subcommittee where I helped decide the debate theme and topics, coordinated with the student teams, wrote a debate topic introduction, and presented the non-biased introduction for that topic at the ESA Annual Meeting debates. Another interesting responsibility was selecting and reviewing a student article for the “Student Stadia” section of American Entomologist, which gave me a different perspective on writing while also giving other students the opportunity to be published in an ESA publication. Additionally, writing blog posts for Entomology Today has enabled me to practice writing in a different format for a broad audience. Afterwards, I was even invited to be a featured speaker to K-12 teachers and students worldwide for my blog post.

The most enjoyable part of serving on SAC is that everyone gets a different experience out of it. There are core responsibilities of being a representative, which consist of serving as a liaison to other ESA committees or serving on various SAC subcommittees for student activities. However, different subcommittees involve different skills and opportunities, and you get to choose which subcommittees you serve on. You can even change subcommittees in your second year of term to get more experience.

But, because we are attempting to serve student needs, there might be some unconventional responsibilities too. For example, I worked with the MUVE leadership to incorporate a student section in MUVE newsletters. Now, “Clary Fly Corner” is an open space in the MUVE newsletter for informing students about SAC news and upcoming student awards or activities as well as addressing submitted questions, concerns, or comments related to student interests. As you move through your term, you tend to become more aware of how SAC can help other entomology students succeed. The most fulfilling part is when you get to see other students benefiting from your efforts to help them grow!

If you or a student you know may be interested in serving on the ESA SAC—or in any other student volunteer position available within ESA—read through the ESA SAC Statement of Purpose and Volunteer Description and submit a nomination for a Branch or Section representative position! Nominations for ESA Society-level and some Section-level positions typically open in April each year, due in early June, with elections in the summer. And many Branch-level positions seek nominations in the late fall, with elections in the winter. (Some positions are also appointed by Branches and Sections.) Learn more via ESA’s elections info page. Or, if you ever have student-related questions, comments or concerns, feel free to reach out to me or any members of the ESA SAC. We are here for you!

Victoria Pickens is a graduate research assistant in the Department of Entomology at Kansas State University and is the Medical, Urban and Veterinary Section Representative and Vice Chair to the Entomological Society of America’s Student Affairs Committee. Email: vlpicken@ksu.edu.

4 Comments »

  1. This post makes me envious. When young, in the fifties, I wanted to be a lepidopterist. I figured out, at some point, that I could not make a living that way. When I read this post, I wish there had been somebody around back then who could have shown me how to make a living as a lepidopterist. I am not unhappy about my life as an engineer and a neurochemist, but often think about “What if….?”

  2. I wish that the Entomological society of India also conduct similar student oriented programmes

  3. I am really encouraged by all the testimonies on the platform, this show that I will soon become a professional entomologist.
    I am very excited about this.

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