Student networking galore at upcoming conference

By Julia John

TWS student members networking at last year's Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. ©TWS

The Wildlife Society’s 24th Annual Conference in Albuquerque, N.M., is just two weeks away, and students especially should be excited for all the networking opportunities it will provide.

“This year, students are being put in the main light,” said Kristi Confortin, chair of the Student Development Working Group and student liaison to Council. “My hope is that they take full advantage of the conference, break out of their shell, network with professionals and other students and enjoy everything.”

Students can expect plenty of time to mingle with aspiring and established wildlife professionals at special events scheduled throughout the conference. At Sunday’s Outdoors Dinner and Networking Event at the Civic Plaza, students can rub shoulders with professionals who piqued their interest at the student professional development symposium that afternoon.

Academic organizations, federal and state agencies and TWS subunits have planned receptions where students can connect with potential colleagues and employers. The Southwest Sendoff Networking Event on the conference’s last day “will be fun but also a great way to make last impressions, to touch base one more time with people you’d like to collaborate with,” said Lara Pacifici, chairwoman of the Student Activities Subcommittee.

Over the week, students can attend 19 open meetings of working group focused on an array of wildlife topics, from the Climate Change and Wildlife Working Group meeting Monday to the Native Peoples Wildlife Management Working Group meeting Wednesday.

“A lot of students don’t even know about working groups, but these groups want students to bring their ideas and motivation,” Confortin said. “We’re hoping we can get a lot of students to start joining.”

As default members, students should sit in on the Student Development Working Group meeting Sunday afternoon. Confortin also recommends students preparing to enter the workforce attend the Early Career Professional Working Group meeting Tuesday afternoon.

At the Members Activity Center, Student Research in Progress posters will be presented every day alongside professionals’ posters, giving students plenty of chances to interact with wildlifers who share their research interests and could become graduate advisors or employers. It also gives students time to learn about peers’ work.

“Meeting students who might be thinking about going into the same career or direction in graduate school is as important as networking with professionals, so you have a community you can tap into as you develop into your career,” Pacifici said.

The Members Activity Center, where attendees can socialize over refreshments between sessions and grab some fresh air on the outdoor patio, is “a great place to connect with people you’ve seen present,” she said. Students and new professionals can get their resumes reviewed there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday by professionals from across the wildlife field who will offer one-on-one suggestions. Working group representatives will be available nearby to inform students about their groups’ activities.

To ease networking stress and help students decide whom to approach, conference participants for the first time will wear badge ribbons indicating their employers and working group affiliations.

“Having those things identified will make it easier to find someone you might be interested in talking to and break the ice,” Pacifici said. “I hope students get to know a lot of people from different places doing different things. You might have some transformative experience meeting someone doing something you didn’t know was possible. It could be a game changer.”

Julia John is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at jjohn@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article.

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