Well over a hundred alumni fellows of the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) program gathered online on November 9 for the first-ever town hall meeting with STPF Director Rashada Alexander (2009-11 fellow at the National Institutes of Health).
She kicked off the meeting with a brief overview of her priorities for the next year: program improvement (e.g., optimizing staff workloads and professional development); informing the growth and evolution of the fellowship (including future fellowship classes); introducing a formal alumni engagement program; and, the sustainability of the program over the long haul.
One of the goals of the event was “to close the gap between what you want from us and how we can get there,” Alexander said. To that end, she then reviewed findings from a 2020 survey of STPF alumni.
As expected, alumni fellows had a wealth of ideas and opinions. For instance, some alumni want to know about ways to engage with AAAS; others would like to hear more about what other fellows are doing; and still others are interested in charitable giving such as through donations or bequests. Some of those on the call said that they want to hear more from the program and have a formal alumni network infrastructure. One recent alum noted that some fellows felt “abandoned” by the program last year in the midst of pandemic, and that they would have appreciated opportunities to connect and socialize with each other. “Duly noted. I want to give people space to express themselves. Sometimes all we can do is listen and learn,” responded Alexander.
AAAS Local and State Advocacy Director Dan Barry introduced the Local Science Engagement Network (LSEN) as one way alumni can use their knowledge and expertise and engage with another AAAS program. LSEN provides professional guidance in elevating the voice of science and helps bring people “to the next level of activism” via such activities as connecting scientists with their own elected representatives at all levels of government. He believes in the power of the STPF alumni experience and said that “early career scientists need to hear your stories” and that he “would love to give STPF fellows the opportunity to serve.”
After the call, Alexander said, “I'm so excited to get to do, lead and support what comes next!”
STPF alumni should watch their email and the STPF newsletter Fellowship Focus for updates on alumni engagement.