AAG Snapshot: How to Make the Most of your Student Membership
Over 40% of AAG members are students and it is this 40%+ that I want to speak to and encourage to make the most of your membership to the AAG. While I am currently an AAG employee, I started with the organization just like you, as a student member. It’s how I got started in the geography community beyond my university and it is from that personal experience as a student member (combined with additional AAG insider knowledge gained since then) that I want to talk to you.
If you become an AAG member just for the savings of attending the Annual Meeting, financially it’s already worth it for you. Joining saves you $70 for a student member versus a student non-member Annual Meeting registration. Given that the cost of membership itself is only $38 to $49 for undergrad or grad students, it’s a bit of a no-brainer! But don’t stop there in terms of benefiting from your membership. Use your membership to find financial and educational resources as well as social and professional connections to help you advance towards your goals.
The following are just a few ways to take advantage of your student membership:
1. ATTEND THE ANNUAL MEETING: If you do join the AAG in order to get the Annual Meeting discount, let’s start here in terms of making the most of your experience and membership.
- Talk to people. Sounds simple? Sure. Sounds scary? Yes, that’s true. Worth it? Definitely. Attend sessions with the ‘stars’ in your field, the people whose research you read and cite, whose lab facilities or activities you drool over. But don’t just observe their presentations, go up and talk to them! The meeting is a great atmosphere and opportunity to talk as colleagues. We all love geography and we love talking about it. Make a connection. Attach a real person, a voice to the research you are interested in. You never know when you’ll get a new idea, make a new connection, or encounter a new opportunity by simply making the effort to talk to people.
- Get your presentation mojo. There are a wide range of talks and presentations at any meeting. I promise you that at some point during the Annual Meeting you’re going to walk away from a session and think, “I can totally do that…”, or even “I think I can do BETTER than that”. So do it! Realize that you have the potential to present, you have the knowledge to present, and then do so the next chance you get! The Annual Meeting can make you feel like a little fish in a big pond, so if that is overwhelming, consider attending and presenting at AAG regional division meetings. These meetings are smaller and can be a great first dip into the pool of presenting your research.
- Scout out and apply to competition sessions. If you are going to present, why not present in a session where you would WIN something? Not only an award, but also sometimes money as well! Specialty groups sponsor various student competition sessions every year, and honestly, sometimes they don’t get a lot of applicants. That means better odds for you to win! It’s also a great setting to meet fellow students. I once walked away with $500 to offset my travel costs plus some great new contacts and research feedback! Check out the lengthy list of winners from specialty group accolades in previous years and note just how many ‘Student’ awards there are. Also, keep in mind that there are student award opportunities both in presentation competitions at the Annual Meeting and through application processes throughout the year. You often need to be a member of the Specialty or Affinity Group to participate in their competitions or win one of their other awards, which leads me to my next point…..
2. FIND YOUR PEOPLE. SHARE YOUR VOICE.
- Join AAG Specialty and Affinity Groups. The AAG has 70 specialty and affinity groups (SAGs) for different sub-disciplines and communities, including affinity groups for undergrad and grad students. I’m confident one or more will be in an interest area of yours or a community of kindred spirits and experiences. You can join many of these for a discounted student price. NONE of them cost more than $5 for you! It’s a low cost/high return opportunity because amidst our membership of nearly 12,000, you can find YOUR people, others who share your interests, your research approaches, and/or your career aspirations. Not only can you connect with others via the SAGs’ online Knowledge Communities, but you can get even more involved – be on boards, committees, assist with newsletters. Add some service to your CV while making more connections to help your career. Also, SAGs give out about $50,000 to students every year! Most often you need to be a member of the group to receive their award, but again, membership is $5 or less. In other words, the cost of your go-to coffee shop beverage order (I’m partial to London Fogs myself) gets you YEAR long access to YOUR people and the ability to win financial support.
- Be a part of AAG leadership. In addition to serving in positions for SAGs, a recent amendment to our AAG constitution means there will be a student member on our AAG Council, and a voting member at that! This is an opportunity to get really involved in the future direction of our organization and make connections with the leaders of the AAG.
3. UTILIZE STUDENT RESOURCES. There are so many resources available now that weren’t when I was a student. No, I’m not that terribly old; it’s that the AAG is constantly developing new things for you!
- Guide to Geography Programs. Researching geography programs? Check out the AAG’s Guide to Geography Programs – available online as an interactive PDF and web map. When I was researching graduate schools, I ordered this in bulky book form and tackled it with a highlighter, which was quite gratifying, but costly and cumbersome. In this now free digital resource, you can find lots of information to compare schools and programs for geography, rather than searching for geography amidst the full array of programs available at schools. The Guide includes most geography programs, but if you find your school isn’t listed, please encourage your department leadership to do so. The AAG does annual outreach to departments for inclusion in the Guide.
- Student Opportunities Site (SOS). At some point, you are probably going to be looking for a job. Consider the Student Opportunities Site (with the memorable and suitable acronym of SOS) as a specialized job board just for you, student geographers. It lists internships, grad assistantships, and post-doc opportunities pulled from postings from specialty groups, department chairs, organizations, etc. There is no cost for positions to be advertised on the SOS. If you are considering graduate school, seek out assistantships and get school paid for!
Honestly, it PAYS to be a Student Member of the AAG in many different ways. Be sure to take advantage of it and utilize your membership to reach your educational and professional aspirations.
Questions? Contact me (Candice) at cluebbering [at] aag [dot] org.
The AAG Snapshots series, first launched at the 2017 Annual Meeting, provides insight on and information about different aspects of the projects, programs, and resources of the association. Do you have suggestions for future Snapshots content from AAG staff? Email cluebbering [at] aag [dot] org.