President’s Podium: Meeting with the membership

By Gary E. Potts, President of The Wildlife Society

President Gary Potts with the University of Nebraska at Lincoln Student Chapter at the NE Chapter of TWS meeting.

A key part of The Wildlife Society’s Strategic Plan is a commitment to support and encourage Council and staff to visit and interact with student and state/provincial chapters and sections. This year to date, thirteen Council and four staff members have attended 34 chapter and/or section meetings. In particular, our intention is to have either a Council or staff member present at each of the Section meetings, to interact with the numerous student, state/provincial chapters attending the Section meeting. This year we are on track to attend most of the section meetings.

We also have visited chapters in numerous states and provinces. These include Alaska, Arizona, California (6 chapters), Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Manitoba, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New England, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

Presentation of the 50th Anniversary Certificate to the South Dakota State Chapter of TWS.  L – R Central Mountains and Plains Section Representative Bob Lanka, TWS President Gary Potts, SD Chapter President Nathan Baker and Past President John Kanta.

Presentation of the 50th Anniversary Certificate to the South Dakota State Chapter of TWS. L – R Central Mountains and Plains Section Representative Bob Lanka, TWS President Gary Potts, SD Chapter President Nathan Baker and Past President John Kanta.

In addition to Section and Chapter meetings, Council and staff also attended student conclaves in the North Central, Northeast and Western Sections where numerous student chapters were represented. Council and staff have given presentations to student chapters at California Polytechnic State University, New Mexico State University, University of WA, and University of WY.

This level of engagement represents a new emphasis in the Society on enhancing communications and interactions among its organizational Units. This is in keeping with development of the Conservation Affairs Network, enhanced integration of the Society’s web presence across Chapters and working groups, and a much more robust e-communications capacity for sharing information about activities among our organizational units and members.

The benefits of a stepped-up engagement in these meetings are numerous:

  • The face-to-face meetings allow everyone to get to know each other better which builds camaraderie.
  • They provide an opportunity for Council and staff to discuss member concerns, ideas, issues, and projects at the local and regional levels.
  • They allow Council and staff the chance to share information about parent society activities, including the annual conference, awards, membership benefits, Government Affairs and Partnerships and the Conservation Affairs Network, and publications.

I have benefitted a great deal from my visits to the North Central Section meeting, the NCS Student Conclave hosted by the University of WI Stevens Point, and chapter meetings in Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. I was excited about attending the NE and SD chapter meetings because both chapters were celebrating their 50th anniversary. I asked Mariah Simmons, Wildlife Programs Coordinator for TWS about how many chapters were having a 50th anniversary meeting this year, and she determined that nearly a dozen chapters were celebrating their 50th meeting! I asked Mariah to develop 50th anniversary certificates for the chapters. It was great to personally present two of the certificates to the NE and SD chapters, respectively. At both chapter meetings, talks were given on the history of the chapters. During the evening networking events, it was especially gratifying to see many long-term chapter members and officers discuss many of the past challenges and accomplishments of their chapter.

I know the students and early career professionals at these meetings benefitted significantly from discussions with and mentoring by older chapter members. Through these and other engagement opportunities, they learned about the importance of being involved in something bigger than themselves because “We are The Wildlife Society.”