President’s Podium: Expanding Partnerships — Mentoring the Next Generation of Wildlife Professionals

I hope you have had a very productive year in all your endeavors working on our wildlife resources.   We all should feel fortunate to work in a profession where we can have such a huge impact on the future of wildlife.

The theme for my year as president of The Wildlife Society revolves around expanding partnerships. I’ve written about the external opportunity we have working with state, provincial, and federal agencies to expand the collaborations which will benefit all involved. Future articles will delve more into the details for expanding partnerships not only with government agencies, but also with other wildlife organizations, companies, and professional organizations.

I would now like to discuss a great opportunity for TWS to Expand Partnerships by looking internally. We conducted a survey of the membership in 2014 which provided TWS Council and staff much useful information. We have made great strides to improve member benefits – our member value proposition. But those are things your organization is doing for you. Now it is your turn to help, as I’m asking each member to play a pivotal role by paying back to your profession through mentorship.  As a professional society, our biggest loss of membership annually is from students and early-career wildlifers. Thus, we have a real need for wildlifers to step up and help mentor the next generation of wildlife professionals. One finding of our survey which was not surprising is that many members are members only at certain levels (i.e. either the student/state/provincial/section/parent society levels). Thus, we each should discuss with mentees the value of joining TWS at various levels. Inasmuch as our membership is the key to the future of TWS, mentorship provides a commitment to the future of our profession.

One of the most gratifying rewards of being an officer of TWS is the time I get to spend mentoring students and early-career professionals. According to Merriam-Webster, a mentor is defined as “a trusted counselor or guide.” A mentor can have a profound impact on your life and career. First, a couple of quotes on mentoring:

“What you want in a mentor is someone who truly cares for you and who will look after your interests and not just their own. When you do come across the right person to mentor you, start by showing them that the time they spend with you is worthwhile.” –Vivek Wakhwa.

“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” – John C. Maxwell

I was lucky enough to have great mentors both in my personal and professional life. Please take a moment and think of the mentor(s) who have influenced you in your life and career.

The mentoring issue is not new; it can occur formally but often is conducted informally. Mentoring is a valuable component of professional development. We all know of many people who mentor students, early-career professionals and colleagues. However, for numerous reasons, I want to challenge every member to get involved with mentoring. You may have heard the adage from the business world, “Grow your employees and your company will grow overnight.” Similarly, when we mentor students and early-career professionals, TWS grows as an organization.

A great opportunity for growth of TWS lies ahead during upcoming TWS meetings. TWS has over 130 student chapters that meet monthly or several times a semester/quarter. Additionally, many state, provincial, and section chapter meetings will be held in the near future. In fact, according to Mariah Simmons, TWS Membership Coordinator, there will be at least 35 of these meetings held over the next four months alone! What an opportunity we have to expand our partnerships via mentoring of students, early-career professionals and colleagues. Thus, I am asking TWS chapter officers to consider my “Mentorship Challenge” — making a concerted effort to ask every member to meet someone new during networking events. Maybe even ask for volunteers from chapters to speak to a student chapter. If we each do our part in paying back to our profession, then mentors, mentees and TWS benefits as a result!

One thing TWS Chief Operating Officer Ed Thompson is changing at our annual conference is the name of “evening socials” to “networking events.” It may be simple semantics, but the words really do reflect on our goal to provide additional time at meetings to not only socialize with fellow conference attendees, but to spend valuable time mentoring and collaborating with colleagues.

Why is all this important? Because as I noted in my remarks when taking on the role of President at the Annual Conference in Winnipeg, Canada, every member of TWS is important – because “We are The Wildlife Society.”

I wish you all a great 2016 and don’t forget my mentoring challenge!


Gary E. Potts
The Wildlife Society