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AGU Launches Program to Support Early-Career Scientists

By / Sep 6, 2018 (AJ_Watt/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The program is designed to serve both mentees and the American Geophysical Union’s most successful members, who were looking for ways to give back.

The American Geophysical Union has launched a mentoring program that’s designed to give early-career scientists some guidance in their careers. It’s also meant to help give long-tenured AGU members a more valuable supporting role in the association.

The AGU Mentoring Network program is one product of AGU’s College of Fellows, which was created late last year to strengthen the support role played by the association’s most-decorated members. “[The Mentoring Network] is really a meaningful and valuable way for those that are early in their career,” said AGU CEO Chris McEntee, FASAE, CAE. “But maybe more importantly, for the more senior members of the organization who might start to feel disconnected, it’s a way to feel reengaged and find value in something that aligns with their own personal interest.”

For the more senior members of the organization who might start to feel disconnected, it’s a way to feel reengaged.

Indeed, the mentoring program was one of the first ideas to come out of conversations within the College of Fellows. AGU has two other mentoring programs, one dedicated to meeting attendees and another virtual program for members at all stages. But the group saw a need to focus on scientists who are just starting out; AGU research has shown that many budding scientists in graduate programs have hard time even connecting with their own faculty advisors.

“The program is a kind of marriage,” McEntee said. “We have a gap in what we’re doing. There’s a program out there that’s helped. We have a cohort of senior scientists who really want to work with us. So let’s bring them all together.”

The program’s inaugural cohort comprises 36 mentees and 12 mentors split into six groups, who convene over video conference once a month to discuss trends and concerns. The group setting allows participants to learn not just from senior scientists but from each other. “It’s not just the senior scientist mentoring,” she said. “They pick up a lot of peer support from their cohort.”

The mentoring pool isn’t exclusive to the College of Fellows, but AGU has focused on that group in the program’s first year to better seize on the enthusiasm expressed by it, McEntee said. Half of AGU’s fellows, whose ranks grow by 70 to 80 members every year, said they would be willing to serve as mentors, and overall the organization has established a culture where experienced scientists have been willing to critique and support the work of students and young scientists. “Over time I can anticipate us opening it up to other members of our community [beyond the College of Fellows],” she said.  “But at this point, this is a good place to start.”

The first cohort began its work in June, and McEntee said it will be keeping a close eye on how it’s working. “We’ll be doing periodic surveys of both the mentors and the mentees to find out, based on what you were expecting, did your needs get met?” she said. “What kind of things worked particularly well? What kinds of things need to be improved upon?”

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. More »

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