A Chair’s perspective on committee roles
Have you ever considered joining a committee but hesitated about applying because you were unsure whether you were suitable?
Are you currently on a committee but unsure whether to apply for that additional role?
If your answer to either of those questions is yes, then look no further as this blog aims to describe my previous experience being part of a committee and my role as Chair of the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG). Secondly this blog aims to outline the many personal and professional reasons why you should go for it and apply! If you haven’t considered applying for a committee before – perhaps this blog will go some way to helping you to think about whether it’s right for you!
During my undergraduate degree at Nottingham Trent University, I got involved with the British Psychological Society’s student member committee. I sat on this committee as an ordinary member and then later became the PsychTalk Assistant editor. Whilst I was initially hesitant about applying to be on the BPS student committee (due to fears of not being good enough!), I decided to apply and never looked back. Following this, I was keen to get involved with a likeminded committee during my Masters and PhD – which is when I found PsyPAG.
I have recently submitted my PhD thesis and during the past four years of my postgraduate studies I have been fortunate enough to be involved in PsyPAG through two roles. At the end of my Master’s degree I applied to be the PsyPAG undergraduate liaison officer. I really enjoyed this role and during the second year of my tenure, Dr Emma Norris (previous PsyPAG chair) was stepping down and so I wondered whether I should apply to be the Chair of PsyPAG. After a bit of hesitation and discussion with Emma about what this role would entail, I decided to give it a go and applied. This was over a year ago now and I have loved every second of being Chair of PsyPAG. It is a huge privilege to be part of such an amazing committee.
For those of you who haven’t heard of PsyPAG – it is a committee run by postgraduates for postgraduates. There are approximately forty people on the committee (one linked to each BPS section and branch). The committee includes a core committee of a Chair, Vice chair (Catherine Talbot), Communications officer (Olly Robertson), Treasurer (Jammy Stacey) and Information Officer (Becky Scott). PsyPAG offers many opportunities for postgraduates including an annual conference, workshops, bursaries, the Quarterly publication and annual awards.
My role as Chair is a varied one. The role includes chairing committee meetings, answering general queries about PsyPAG, supporting reps and the core committee to undertake their roles, sitting on the BPS research board as the postgraduate representative, supporting the annual conference team to plan and run our brilliant annual conference and writing Quarterly columns. A large part of my role this past year has been working with Dr Ryc Aquino, Claire Melia and Cat Talbot (along with all the fantastic authors and reviewers) to manage the production of the PsyPAG guide 2. This past month I have been busy finalising the PsyPAG Guide 2 ready for proof-reading and production – very exciting times! Being Chair of PsyPAG is a fantastic role if you’re keen to get involved and work with many different people on many different projects and aspects of the committee.
If you answered yes to my first question at the start of this blog, my response would be to put your worries to one side and apply! Being on any committee is bound to have many personal and professional benefits and I may be bias, but I think this is especially true of the PsyPAG committee! Some of the professional benefits that I have experienced through being on a committee throughout my studies include: building new skills, sharing experience and networking with other colleagues who are all at a similar point in their career. Additionally, being on a committee can help you to gain vital experience undertaking activities relating to academic citizenship such as organising events, contributing new ideas, participating in meetings and learning more about academic processes such as peer review through helping to review quarterly articles bursary or award applications (as many of our reps do).
If you answered yes to my second question at the start of this blog, I would also strongly encourage you to consider applying for the next role that you are thinking of – whether this may be volunteering to take on some additional responsibility within a committee, or even applying to be chair or treasurer of a committee. The responsibility and workload may be increased for these sorts of positions, but in my experience the enjoyment and skills I have gained mean that I haven’t noticed this – despite my initial worries. Whilst these positions do indeed look great on the CV, they are more valuable in helping you to gain experience in skills that may not be developed throughout your course – such as leadership skills.
Although I have focused on the professional benefits gained from being on committees, I would also like to emphasise that the other benefits I have gained throughout my time on committees are personal. These include gaining confidence, making a lot of fantastic new friends and colleagues, and having a lot of fun whilst gaining this experience! Finally, I believe that being part of PsyPAG throughout my postgraduate studies, and having support and encouragement from other committee members and the wider PsyPAG community was invaluable in helping me to develop and maintain a work-life balance and submit my PhD!
To conclude, being part of a committee is a fun and exciting way to get involved in an academic community during your postgraduate studies. In my opinion, participation in such committees has many benefits. I hope that when you are next asking yourself the questions at the start of this blog, you will put initial nerves aside and give your application a go! Alternatively, if you’ve never thought about joining a committee, I hope that this blog has given you some information that may help you decide!
I wish you success with your studies and future committee applications!
Holly Walton is the PsyPAG Chair (2017-2019)