8 April 2015

President's Column: Volunteer to Serve the Astronomical Community

C. Urry, Yale University

The American Astronomical Society is an organization of and for its community. Officers and Councilors of the Society are volunteers, elected by the membership, and many have served previously on AAS committees and working groups. The six AAS Divisions are also run by volunteer officers, as are our two boards.

To paraphrase Uncle Sam, The AAS Wants You! Our Society is at its best when talented, enthusiastic AAS members contribute to our mission “to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe."

So please consider volunteering for service to the AAS. It can be useful for you — in terms of furthering your own career (networking, adding to your CV) and your particular interests (working toward your priorities) — and it’s vital to the health of the AAS.

AAS committees and working groups address issues of broad concern to the astronomical community, such as diversity, employment, public policy, sustainability, light pollution, astronomical techniques and methods, and much more.

To give just a few examples: our Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) — led by former AAS President Debbie Elmegreen and guided by AAS Director of Public Policy Joel Parriott and the AAS John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow — gives us a voice in Washington. Our diversity committees — the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA, chaired by Adam Burgasser), Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA, chaired by Joan Schmelz), and Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (WGLE, chaired by Van Dixon) — help ensure that the astronomical profession provides a welcoming, safe, productive space for all. Our Committee on Employment (chaired by Kelle Cruz) organizes career-development seminars and a lively networking reception for early-career astronomers at national AAS meetings.

Except for the Executive Officer, all the members of the AAS Council are volunteers: nine Councilors and three Vice-Presidents serving staggered 3-year terms, two Presidents (the current one and the Past President or President Elect), Treasurer, Secretary, and the chairs of the Publications Board and Astronomy Education Board. The Council functions like a board of directors, making decisions on behalf of the astronomical community. The AAS Vice-Presidents also have the enormous task of planning plenary sessions at our semiannual meetings. A recent Vice-President, Christine Jones of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, will become the President Elect of the AAS following the Council’s meeting in August.

The Publications Board pays close attention to our journals, which are now being revamped to enable a deeper level of electronic content and a more efficient editorial process. The Astronomy Education Board advises the Society how best to support its members in teaching and education research.

These volunteers are some of the many who carry out the work of the Society. The full list consists of nearly 50 committees, boards, and working groups. Your interests probably align with at least a few of these.

The AAS Secretary's Office prepares the slate of nominees for most of these committees. If you would like to volunteer, send an email message to AAS Secretary Fritz Benedict explaining which committee is of interest and why. Note that only full, associate, and junior members are eligible to serve on Society committees.

And thank you! Your input — whether as a volunteer, a participant in our meetings, or a random source of advice — is what makes the AAS a responsive and effective professional society for the astronomical sciences.