Colleen Hartel, current chair of the student development working group, provided important information to students about the purpose and structure of The Wildlife Society. This is important, especially since a survey conducted in 2017 showed that students aren’t completely aware of the way the Society is set up.
“Students were generally aware and satisfied with member benefits, but they weren’t in consensus about which benefits specifically there are,” Hartel said. “Students lack an understanding about the greater structure of organization.”
One question asked in the student survey: What is the primary benefit of TWS membership? The most common identified themes were intangible benefits like networking and feeling like part of a professional community, Hartel said.
However, students disagreed more with the statement that the society helps them with leadership opportunities. So what prevents student participation? Hartel said students feel less connected with the greater organization of TWS and are less satisfied with communication between the different levels of the society.
Many universities don’t yet have a TWS student chapter. But Mariah Simmons, unit services coordinator for The Wildlife Society has had experience setting up a student chapter herself. To develop a chapter, there must be 10 student signers, an adviser and TWS liaison. All must be current members of The Wildlife Society, she said.
The other key thing to know to develop a student chapter is bylaws.
“If you ever find yourself asking ‘How does our student chapter do this?’ The first place to look is your bylaws,” she said. If bylaws need to be modified, they must be approved by student chapter membership, TWS staff and TWS council.