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Professional Service: What’s in It for Me?

1 June 2011 One Comment
Nancy Geller


I’ve heard recently that narcissism appears to be increasing. A New York Times article (April 26, p. D1) described an analysis of three decades of hit songs appearing on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The analysis revealed a statistically significant increased trend toward the use of the words “I” and “me” in popular song lyrics, along with a corresponding decrease of “we” and “us.” Some find this trend disturbing and would like to turn it around. So this column is about “we” and “us.”

In my February column, I mentioned that the president-elect’s primary responsibility is to make more than 150 committee appointments. President-elect Bob Rodriguez is in the process of doing that now. Finding 150 volunteers to contribute to the ASA community is no small feat! The appointments are made through a network of active ASA members, especially the vice chairs of the Leadership Support Council, which oversees the committees, and the committee chairs. By the time you read this, the next president-elect will have been announced. Have you ever thought about how you can become involved?

Why would anyone become involved in professional service, in particular service within the ASA? Some think in terms of “us” and believe we should be good citizens. We contribute to the community because it gives us a feeling of satisfaction, a feeling of “doing good.” That’s the altruistic reason. But there are other reasons, which should appeal to even those with a more personal motivation. Performing professional service can provide new challenges and expand one’s horizons.

There is reason to serve even if you are part of the “me” generation: You enhance your own professional network. When you perform professional service, you meet others who also are involved. Some might have jobs to offer. Some might have common research interests. Some might be famous statisticians who, it turns out, could become a reference for you. Someone might tell you about an interesting paper they read that just might open up a completely new research area for you. Some might become your colleagues, your friends, or even your life partner!

Another motivation mixes the “me” with the “us.” In performing professional service, you find role models (the “me”) and might become a role model (the “us”). You’re never too old or too experienced to look for new role models. And you’re never too young to be a role model for someone else. Professional service offers an opportunity to demonstrate your skills and teach them to others. It is also an opportunity to learn new skills. Watching from a distance (whether an especially effective speaker or the outstanding conductor of a meeting) is not as effective as learning from them how they became so effective.

Being active in the profession also will count in some ways toward career advancement. Some activities indicate you have standing in your profession, such as journal editorial board membership and membership on important committees.

Of course, you don’t start at the top. While 2012 committee appointments are well under way, you may volunteer to be on an ASA committee for 2013 by filling out a form on the ASA website. A list of committees can also be found on the ASA website. The ASA is eager to have “new blood” active in the organization.

Another way to get involved in the ASA is through sections, which deal with specific areas of statistics; chapters, which are regional groups; and outreach groups, which involve common activities and interests that don’t fit into the traditional chapter or section structures. Everyone is welcome to join a section, chapter, or outreach group and begin to contribute to the ASA that way.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the ASA’s core of active, altruistic, and wonderful volunteers, and I thank them for their many contributions. I hope those of you not yet involved will be stimulated to join them.

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One Comment »

  • John Gardenier said:

    Nancy, this column proves once again that great minds think alike. I have said pretty much the same thing, but somewhat expanded, in my book chapter, “Ethics in Quantitative Professional Practice” in Panter and Sterba (Eds.) Handbook of Ethics in Quantitative Methodology. Routledge, January 2011. The directly relevant material is in the final section of the chapter, “Ensuring Your Right to Professional Integrity.”

    That is indeed “something in it for me.”

    Regards, John Gardenier