Member Engagement is Key to Our Success: A Note From AGU’s New President Carol Finn

I joined the AGU Earth and space science community as a 22-year-old green-haired graduate student eager to experience excellent, societally relevant science, to network, and to find role models. At my first Fall Meeting, I was inspired by the community of scientists, ranging from fellow graduate students to luminaries, who were engrossed, excited, and motivated by their science. Imagine my surprise when I was singled out, not just for my green hair, but to join the Budget and Finance Committee!

This was the beginning of my volunteer service at AGU. My time on the Budget and Finance Committee was followed by assignments on the Statutes and Bylaws Committee. I served as General Secretary from 2006–2010, at which time I worked with many members on strategic planning, forming our new governance model and hiring our new chief executive Chris McEntee.

Three years ago, when I was asked to run for president of AGU, I saw an opportunity to continue to give back to the community that had supported and inspired me professionally and personally. Being elected president was a huge honor—a gift and the chance of a lifetime—and I was thrilled to continue working on the plans that had been made to shape AGU’s path forward.

During my time as president-elect/chair of AGU’s Council, we forged a new way of working, advancing AGU’s science in the areas of publishing, meetings, outreach, and honors and recognition. We developed an effective way to work together as a large and diverse group of scientists and to elicit new ideas, such as the interdisciplinary SWIRL sessions at the 2012 Fall Meeting. We also provided scientific input on critical decisions, such as our new publishing partnership with Wiley, and we enabled AGU to be more nimble and to act quickly and clearly on behalf of you, our members.

The next few years will be a thrilling time for AGU as we work toward our vision of galvanizing the Earth and space science community to collaboratively advance and communicate science and its power to ensure a sustainable future. I see us continuing our scientific excellence through robust strategic planning processes that support and foster innovation in our journals and meetings. I also see us expanding our efforts to encourage member engagement and, through training opportunities, mentoring programs and other resources to facilitate members’ efforts to communicate their science to broad audiences.

AGU is a broad and complex organization, and our leadership should represent and celebrate that diversity. I am fully committed to ensuring that our volunteer leadership is representative of the diversity of career stages, job types, and areas of science, geography, gender and ethnicity that comprise our membership. One of my proudest moments as president-elect was when we added six new positions to the Council specifically for student and early-career scientists.

In the same way that we are committed to ensuring broad diversity with the AGU governance structure, we are also committed to better weaving it into our honors program. As I was reminded by a group of students at the Fall Meeting, it is essential that every member—and every potential member—have a role model in the organization with whom to identify and connect.

I want to see us focus on ensuring diversity in the types of awards we give and the nominations we receive, as well as in the committees and task forces charged with selecting the winners. By doing this, we will not only improve our ability to adequately recognize the amazing work being done by AGU members, from luminaries to up-and-comers around the world, but we will also create a more inclusive pool of role models to inspire the next generation of Earth and space scientists.

I am also really excited about the Thriving Earth Exchange, which promises to be a vehicle to apply our excellent science to critical problems facing society. Through the Thriving Earth Exchange, AGU will become a driving force toward allowing scientists to more easily apply their expertise for specific and lasting societal benefit. It will do this by connecting communities seeking solutions to societal challenges with AGU members ready to design solutions and sponsors willing to provide the funds to achieve those solutions. You will be hearing much more about this project in the coming months.

A focus of my presidency for the next two years is to engage you, the members, with AGU programs, with one another to improve networking and collaboration, and with members of your community, policy leaders, and society at large to communicate the excitement, importance, and benefit of our science. I invite you to step forward and participate not only in the scientific enterprise of your specialty, but with other disciplines and the public. Only together, as a community of dedicated volunteer leaders, talented staff, and an engaged and energized membership, can we achieve our vision for AGU as an authoritative source for Earth and space science and a source of solutions for society’s pressing issues.

—Carol Finn, President, American Geophysical Union, E-mail:

Carol Finn has been a member of AGU since 1980. She currently serves as a Senior Research Geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and her major research interests include geological interpretation of potential field data, volcano hazards, and tectonics. Finn received her B.A. in Geology from Wellesley College, her M.S. in Geophysics from the University of Colorado, and her Ph.D. in Geophysics from the University of Colorado. She is a member of the Department of Geological Sciences Advisory Board for the University of Colorado, a fellow of the Geological Society of America, and has written 54 referred publications—half in AGU journals. Below are a few words from Finn as she starts her new position as AGU president.

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