Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Listening to the Diverse Voices of AAEA

 Written by Kathleen Liang, Chair of the AAEA Mentoring Committee and Facilitator of the event ‘Listening to Diverse Voices of AAEA’, North Carolina A&T State University

The recording of this event is also available to view online, here.

The year 2020 has imposed unprecedented challenges on everyone. Our daily routine has been forever changed, and we are still learning to live a productive life in the ‘new normal.’ The Mentorship Committee of AAEA brainstormed innovative programs in supporting colleagues and students to find creative opportunities in career/personal development and work/life balance. One novel idea is to offer compassion through personal stories directly. Remembering how we interact with each other at AAEA conferences or workshops through person-to-person conversations, the Mentorship Committee created the event ‘Listening to the Diverse Voices of AAEA’ to bring the personal conversations to individual’s workspace without the boundaries and limitations of time, location, and travel conditions.

Five AAEA members took the stage on December 11, 2020, as we launched the inaugural event:

        Madhu Khanna, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
        Titus Awokuse, Michigan State University
        Jeffrey O’Hara, USDA—Agricultural Marketing Service
        Yoko Kusunose, University of Kentucky
        David Zilberman, University of California, Berkeley

We often ‘identify’ AAEA members through publications, news releases, reports, or services. It is rare to hear their stories about how they become involved in Agricultural and Applied Economics, their experiences in the school years, and other important events that have shaped their character and spirits. These presenters represent a broad range of scholarship in AAEA, from the President-elect to non-academic leader. The event turned out to be an enchanted afternoon where participants and presenters interacted vividly. Here is a summary of the stories, and you can access the recording for details:

  •  Several storytellers mentioned the challenges and barriers of transitioning between cultures, course works, and technology when they started as international students.
  • Balancing personal goals, career objectives, and family life seemed to be a common struggle.
  • Joining AAEA meetings to present papers seemed to be rewarding in meeting other peers and senior researchers.
  • Getting publications out of the door and being accepted took time as a junior scholar. Once you taste the success, your confidence will significantly improve over time. You will also learn from submitting to different journals about using creative strategies to write better articles or even grant applications.
  • Taking care of yourself is the most important thing. No matter how busy you are, you must set aside time to enjoy personal and family life with your loved ones. Finding time to generate or maintain the health of your body and mindset, it will pay off in the long run.
  • No matter what you decide to do, do it well and be the first person to take a risk to do something new. That is how you will establish your reputation and recognition in the field.
  • Showing appreciation for supports and advice comes from family, peers, mentors, students, and other people to prepare for a journey.
  • Where you started in life should not define where you will end up. The way we deal with obstacles often shape who we become and who we are through challenges. The key is to overcome the barriers and learn from the experiences.
  • Let life and opportunities take you to an adventure in your education, career, and listen to your inner voices about taking risks to try new things.  
  • Acquiring sufficient and advanced technical skills are necessary to succeed. Also, it would be critical to nurture and grow soft skills while working with others. Other essential skills for success include good writing and communication, appreciation of diversity, strong work ethic, and listening to broad stakeholders.
  • Failure is not the end of the road. We all fail many times, and the key is to try again and learn to fail better.
  • Do what you are interested in. Do not worry about the outcomes. Focus on what makes you happy and satisfied in both personal and professional environments. Explore and learn from different jobs.
  • Being able to add values to works or jobs seemed to be more rewarding. Each person needs to be true to our purposes and reasons while seeking research, teaching, or outreach programs.
  • Taking a chance to reach out to scholars in other institutions might generate positive interactions in developing collaborations. You can identify field leaders through publications and grant reports and contact these scholars for advice. Inviting top researchers to provide seminars seemed to work well and offer an opportunity to know these people better.  
  • It is ok to say ‘yes’ to participate in interdisciplinary teams even if you are not familiar with the topic, as long as you can contribute to the overall goals.
  • Be friendly to everyone and introduce yourself to everyone you meet at different events. Colleagues are generally nice and would provide support and guidance to support junior members.
  • Hard work pays off, and there is no other way to succeed. It is imperative to make your work count.
  • Do your best to support students and other colleagues. Offer credits to others, and maintain positive relationships with others.
  • Once you identify something you want to do, focus on the work and do not waste time.
  • All together, everyone has challenges and issues to concur. Do not be afraid of failure. Keep up with social networks and relationships. Socialize is essential, but not wasting time, and optimize the opportunity wherever it might lead you.

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