SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
13 March 2014
Volume 15 Issue 3
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The Buddy System—An Opportunity to Connect in Nashville

Alison Fraser, Incoming Vice Chair of the Membership Committee, Wendy Hillwalker and Lisa Marshall, Career Development Committee

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Soledad Solis Angeles, a student and first-time meeting attendee from Mexico City, and Randy Wentsel, Exponent, Senior Resource Group Member. Randy said, “It was rewarding to work with Soledad and help her enjoy her first large science meeting.”

The SETAC North America Membership Committee and Career Development Committee collaborated to implement the Buddy System at the SETAC North America 34th Annual Meeting held in Nashville, Tenn., in 2013. This was the second annual event of the Buddy System. SETAC annual meetings are a great resource for scientific discourse and increasing knowledge and networking, but getting the most out of it can be a challenge for first-time and international attendees. The Buddy System pairs first time and international meeting attendees with active SETAC members to provide personal attention and support. The wealth of knowledge that active SETAC members possess helps new attendees navigate the SETAC North America meeting, thereby enhancing their meeting experience.

The Buddy System has grown substantially from 20 matched buddy pairs during its launch in 2012 to approximately 60 mentors and 100 mentees in Nashville, matching participants from Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America SETAC geographic units. Efforts were made to pair mentors and mentees with similar interests and fields of study. Paired meeting participants were provided with contact information prior to the meeting, giving buddies a chance to connect before arriving in Nashville. Buddies met at the poster sessions, over lunch, during the welcome reception, at exhibit booths as well as the room set aside for the Buddy System program.

Response to the Buddy System via a post-meeting survey was overwhelmingly positive. First-time and international meeting attendees responded that the event provided valuable help with navigating the meeting, career mentoring and guidance about research, it presented opportunities for social networking and finding a friendly face in the crowd, it helped international attendees in a foreign country, and it contributed to an overall better meeting experience.

Mentors participated in the Buddy System event for many reasons, including giving back to SETAC, a desire to share their experiences, helping the next generation of SETAC members because they understand how challenging the first SETAC North America meeting can be, and because it would be fun to meet new people. Several mentors and mentees have maintained a post-meeting relationship outside of the Buddy System.

Here is a sample of comments about the Buddy System from the post-meeting survey:

“It was awesome!”

“It was a valuable experience. There was even follow up after the meeting, offering continued support.”

“My mentor made a point of coming to hear my platform presentation, which made me feel awesome!”

“Meeting a colleague from another country was the best part of the Buddy System experience.”

“I was able to introduce my buddy to prominent scientists that are doing research in her field.”

“My buddy was very generous in always introducing me whenever we ran into each other.”

“My mentor connected me with a contact for graduate school.”

The Buddy System is a collaborative effort with the Senior Resource Group (SRG) initiative spearheaded by Wendy Hillwalker, Lisa Marshall and Alison Fraser. The SRG is a self-identified group of senior, charter, emeritus, retired or other long-term members with an interest in being called upon as needed to fill mentoring opportunities. The Buddy System has been identified as a valuable program that provides a service to SETAC members who benefit from sharing experiences relating to research, careers, networking and getting the most from the SETAC North America meeting experience. In response, the Membership Committee, the Career Development Committee and the SETAC North America office will continue this exciting program in Vancouver. We would like thank all who participated in the Buddy System in Long Beach and Nashville. We hope to see you in Vancouver!

Authors' contact information: branders.uncw@gmail.com, scott.hecht@noaa.govand kkuivila@usgs.gov

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