S/NP: Engaging Yourself in NCFR through Section Membership and Involvement
Alisha M. Hardman, CFLE, S/NP Representative of the Education & Enrichment Section
Being a member of NCFR is a public expression of your commitment to the field and to your continual professional development; however, there is a difference between being a member of a professional organization and being an engaged member. Engaged members are actively involved and are integral to the well-being of the organization.
Becoming more involved in a national organization can be a bit overwhelming at first. Fortunately NCFR contains sections (and focus groups) that "are a means of increasing communication and interaction among NCFR members of similar interests within the framework of the larger organization" (NCFR website). Take time to familiarize yourself with the various sections of NCFR by visiting http://www.ncfr.org/sections and consider joining those that resonate with your professional experiences, interests, and goals. Membership in the sections is free if you are a member of NCFR.
Below is a list of some strategies for membership and involvement in sections. The list has been compiled by current student and new professional section representatives and is based on their own involvement within sections.
Be selective. "When I first joined I thought that 'more is better' but I've since realized that I'd rather be a member of only a few sections that I can really invest time in than to be an 'in name only' member of all of them."
Take advantage of the section listserv. "Reading listserv messages, even when they don't appear to directly pertain to you, can be a great way to keep informed about leading-edge research, knowledge, and practice operating in the family field. It is also an ideal avenue for soliciting advice or assistance from experts (although be sure to do so appropriately)."
Attend section meetings. "It was not until I was elected as the S/NP representative for my section that I attended my first section business meeting. I've since discovered that attending the section meetings provides greater insight into the section and is a great way to meet new people who share some of your interests."
Volunteer to lead. "I jumped in as a student to co-chair a focus group called Men in Families. Serving helped me to meet and work with the amazing people in that area of the field. These connections have led us to learn from each other and write together from both the practitioner and the academic sides of the field. It has been some of the best times of my life."
Volunteer to be a conference proposal reviewer. "I have volunteered to review conference proposals for three years now and it's a really great opportunity to gain the perspective of a reviewer which can inform and improve your own proposals in the future. Look for a solicitation for reviewers through your sections' listserv announcements in January and February."
Utilize the S/NP section representatives. "Feel free to contact the S/NP representatives with questions, ideas, or interest in becoming more involved in the section or NCFR. We are here to represent and assist students and new professionals."
Become part of the traditions. "As a member of the ethnic minority section, I have felt that the traditions and experiences I have participated in during our meetings have deepened my commitment to NCFR and our work in this field. I wouldn't trade it for the world."
Reach out and network. "During my first year at NCFR, I was intimidated with some of the 'big names' in my field. My advisor suggested for me to just 'go talk to them. They won't bite.' That encouraged me to introduce myself to a 'big name' researcher before a section meeting. I had some of the best conversations about my work. Let your section officers know if you would like an introduction. They will be happy to do it."
Students and new professionals are often interested in becoming more involved in professional organizations but are sometimes unsure how to do so. Get involved in a section this year. We promise it will help you make a lasting difference and it will make a difference in your life as well!