By: Kate Gawel
The transition from student to professional is not always an easy one - the transition isn't just made in the workplace but within organizations as well. If you are like many student members, you may not be aware of how to fit into AIChE as a professional and what the benefit is for maintaining your involvement. One thing that's become obvious after speaking with many students (and even long-time professional members) is that often students don't realize just how large AIChE is or how the organization works as a whole. For a quick comprehensive rundown on the basic structure, please read the ChEnected article "A Road Map to AIChE: Overview of the Structure of AIChE." AIChE oversees all of the colleges with chemical engineering programs and represents a wide variety of different industries. Ultimately the goals of AIChE are to be:
- The Global Leader of the Chemical Engineering Profession
- The Lifetime Center for Professional and Personal Growth and Security of Chemical Engineers
- The Foremost Catalyst in Applying Chemical Engineering Expertise in Meeting Societal Needs
In order to achieve these goals, AIChE must depend upon volunteers like you and me to help service and support the chemical engineering community as a whole with programs, guidance, and leadership. Many members of AIChE have day jobs, however, so the organization is supported by a number of dedicated staff members to make sure the day-to-day operations run smoothly as well as assist volunteers with general logistics for some of the more involved programs. From National to Local, AIChE provides many opportunities for volunteers to contribute and participate in the chemical engineering community. For instance, divisions and forums provide practically all the content of AIChE's Annual and Spring Meetings on a wide variety of topics from process safety to the latest research in the field - all of which are run and presented by volunteers.
Addressing societal issues
If you're not interested in the technical aspects of the Institute, AIChE has other branches devoted to societal issues like K-12 outreach, minority and women's affairs in chemical engineering and governmental issues in engineering. Additionally, AIChE has many different committees committed to provide input and create programs to help AIChE better service its membership as a whole. The Young Professionals Advisory Board (YPAB) also does its own undergraduate student outreach every year by running sessions at both the Student National and Regional Conferences that range from presentations about life after graduation to panels on graduate school. Just recently, YPAB in cooperation with AIChE's Fellows have started a Mentorship Program in which young professionals right out of college can seek guidance and advice from some of AIChE's most experienced and respected members.
Building local chemical engineering communities
If you prefer to help your local chemical engineering community, AIChE has many local sections scattered across the United States as well as a few places internationally. Local Sections themselves provide many opportunities to get involved, from taking an executive board position to just helping out at various events like a local section meeting. Check to see if your local section has its own Young Professionals group, which typically plans events that range from fun after-hours networking socials to very focused technical sessions on topics that pertain to local industry. You can also help your local YP group with its own K-12 and undergraduate student outreach efforts at local schools. If your local section doesn't have a YP group and you and several of your friends would like to start one, then YPAB and the local section leadership have the tools and guidance to support your effort. If you're moving to a remote area or accept an international position, don't worry - there are still opportunities to get involved! AIChE has virtual and online opportunities to stay involved, such as AIChE's Virtual Local Section, which hosts meetings online on a variety of topics. You can also keep informed through AIChE's ChEnected Blog or its Facebook and Twitter accounts, which are always looking for new and fresh perspectives on all things chemical engineering. If you'd like to be involved with ChEnected, check out this link. As you can see AIChE provides its members countless opportunities to get involved but understands that our time is precious - especially for those members who are working over 40 hours a week. However, taking advantage of these opportunities will aid you in areas of networking and continuing education on new technologies and advancements in the field, as well as give you a chance to enhance your leadership and management skills as a volunteer leader. Practicing those skills in a volunteer environment like AIChE means that if you make a freshman faux pas, there won't be a risk to your career, and having the experience can set you apart from your peers. That in itself is definitely worth a few extra hours of time and effort. For more on the benefits of AIChE membership see the article "The Business Case for Being a YP in AIChE" by AIChE President David Rosenthal in this edition of the YP Newsletter. If you have questions about how to get more involved with AIChE please contact AIChE YPAB at firstname.lastname@example.org.