Thursday, July 10, 2014

President's Column: Quality, Mutual Mentoring, and the AAEA Culture of Engagement

I began my term as President thinking and writing about how we, as professionals and as a professional association, define and certify the quality of our work as agricultural and applied economists. I noted that in our work in academia, government, and the private and non-profit sectors, we face common questions about quality standards, certification to those standards, and communicating about quality among ourselves and with others. As my term as President draws to a close, I believe these issues continue to be at the heart of how AAEA serves you, our members, and society. The AAEA Board’s on-going strategic planning is focused on supporting high quality work through communicating our work out through multiple outlets; innovating with our annual meeting, stand-alone symposia, and other AAEA events; and supporting mentoring programs.

Our association is built on a foundation of mutual mentoring and a culture of engagement. At my home institution, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, our Center for Teaching and Faculty Development describes the Mutual Mentoring approach as recognizing that individuals will need and want mentorship from a network of mentors, each of whom has specific strengths to offer in terms of perspective and advice. The mutual mentoring approach also recognizes that mentoring is rarely one-way; the mentor learns from the mentee as well as vice versa, making for a mentoring partnership. Importantly, an individual’s mentoring network can be significantly strengthened through mutual mentoring relationships with others who are at a similar career stage be it, for example, undergraduate or graduate student, assistant professor, new researcher at a government agency, associate or full professor, or new chair or branch chief. Each of these career stages demands the development of new abilities by us as individuals. As your professional organization, AAEA through its members and staff provides platforms for effective mutual mentoring to take place, with a special emphasis on early career professionals. Strengthening and building opportunities for mutual mentoring is in my view a key direction for AAEA in the next years.

Mutual mentoring is also a major component of the AAEA’s Culture of Engagement. Our upcoming annual meeting in Minneapolis embodies this high level of engagement with plenary sessions, invited papers, symposia, presented papers, posters, Section Tracks, and undergraduate and graduate competitions where you and your colleagues will be presenting your work and receiving direct feedback that supports the quality of your work. And no doubt that mutual mentoring will extend to conversations during coffee breaks, receptions, and other opportunities to meet and exchange ideas. I look forward to meeting and talking with you in Minneapolis! I also look forward to welcoming Jill McCluskey as President-Elect taking office at this meeting and David Just and Holly Wang who will be taking office as Directors.

The Culture of Engagement is supported by the very high quality of involvement of AAEA members in all aspects of AAEA’s work. I thank the Committee Chairs and Members who agreed to take on important roles in guiding the association this year and the Leadership of the Sections, all of whom served so well. I also thank our AAEA staff Brian Mondragón Jones (Executive Director), Sarah Kenner, Kristen Wright, Anna Douangphachanh, and Angela Ludwig for their dedicated and very effective management of the AAEA.

And, finally, our association has benefitted greatly from the service of Richard Sexton (Past-President), Jayson Lusk (Director), and Dawn Thilmany McFadden (Director) over the last three years. Thank you for your commitment to the AAEA’s Culture of Engagement.

See you all in Minneapolis!

Julie Caswell
AAEA President

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