August 07, 2015
When I think of Sigma Xi, I think of my chapter. I mean no disrespect to our outstanding national organization with its ever-expanding programs and opportunities and our terrific American Scientist magazine for the science savvy. But my first thought is of my chapter: our most recent field trips to Serpent Mound to collect 450-million-year-old fossils, our most recent banquet, or our local Grants-in-Aid of Research program.
My second thought is that we can do more to improve the health of the scientific enterprise. How can we connect with nonscientists to help them understand what we do, how we do it, why we do it, and why it’s important? How can we better encourage and support young scientists and engineers? How can we better encourage collaborations across disciplines?
These are the questions I will be exploring throughout my presidency, and I need your help. What program has your chapter developed that works well? How did you do it? I know from experience that successful programs are not born that way. They develop over years, with tweaking along the way to make them more attractive and successful. Just as important as a completely new program is a tried-and-true program with a twist that improves its effectiveness. How about this one: holding your chapter’s Science Café in a doughnut shop during a slow time late in the day? Or contacting a local science-based company for an industry open house? Imagine all the great things that could lead to.
My first goal is to collect your wisdom and provide it to all of our chapters in a form that is easy to adopt. I hereby challenge you or your chapter to submit a description of your most successful or unique program (or two or three) to me. We will coordinate and post your information in the Officer Resource Center on the national Sigma Xi website, www.sigmaxi.org, with credit to you, your chapter, and your institution. You can help another chapter avoid the pain and reap the gain of a successful program, and you can learn about other exciting chapter programs so that you can start or strengthen one.
We have developed a form for you to describe your program under “Sigma Xi Succeeds” in the Officer Resource Center at www.sigmaxi.org. Please complete it and email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find the Officer Resource Center, login at www.sigmaxi.org, hover your mouse over “Chapters” in the top navigation bar and select “Officer Resource Center” in the drop-down menu. I will also be initiating a discussion in Sigma Xi’s online member community, The Lab: Members to Members. Join the conversation at community.sigmaxi.org about the high points and problems of different programs, and decide what to try next.
We will be discussing many more of these inspiring ideas this year at our Annual Meeting October 22–25 in Kansas City, Missouri. I’m looking forward to your chapter’s participation!
Mark E. Peeples