President’s Column – January 2020

January 30, 2020

Rick Spinrad, President

When the Marine Technology Society teamed up with the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans to create our newest award (Walter Munk Scholar Award and Commemorative Lecture), we knew we had to ‘up our game’ with those early career professionals who are a critical faction in our community. Not surprisingly, so many of the icons in our community – many of whom are now represented with eponymous awards – recognized the critical role early career professionals play in supporting and directing the mission of our society. I remember Walter Munk, for example, on many occasions, spurning the opportunity to chat with his peers, and, instead, aggressively seeking out the students at professional conferences. I, myself, confess to having a bias for those conference presentations being made by graduate students and early career scientists/engineers, since they’re usually more passionate, innovative and well-prepared than their more experienced (dare I say ‘jaded’) colleagues.

Nobody will disagree that the future of any community is defined by the motives, missions, and momentum of the early career professionals. The challenge lies in how well any particular community facilitates and incentivizes the engagement of those individuals. Recognizing early career professionals with special programs and awards is laudable and should be embraced. But there’s an unintended consequence in so doing of often isolating and alienating that component of a community. Hence, the real challenge is to continue recognizing excellence among early career professionals while also fully integrating, in an equitable and inclusive manner, their participation in the management and strategic planning for the community.

In MTS we’re looking at a variety of options for being more engaging with early career professionals[1]. The Walter Munk Scholar Award and Commemorative Lecture, and the Ocean News and Technology Young Professional Award (footnote below notwithstanding) are a good start to recognizing early career professionals. But we must do more! There are a number of interesting ideas regarding participation by early career professionals in leadership positions in the Society, such as serving on the MTS Board. The Board will be considering at least one of these ideas, in conjunction with our engagement in the UN Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. What other opportunities are out there?

Remember, the early career professionals of today are the Society’s leadership for the future. Let’s spend more time engaging them and listening to their views.

More information about MTS Awards and Honors can be found here. Applications for the Walter Munk Scholar Award and Commemorative Lecture are being accepted until May 31, 2020. More information can be found here.


[1] As an aside, the reader should note that I’ve resisted using the characterization of “young” to define this sector of our community for two reasons: 1) not all early career professionals are young (I have several friends who, in their 40s decided to go back to school and reinvent themselves, thus becoming early career professionals when their own offspring were going to college!), and; 2) there’s something of a pejorative connotation to “young”, denoting someone of less than serious consideration (as in “my young friend”, or “young whippersnapper”).


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