The AOS Welcomes the Addition of Two Student Council Members

The AOS is pleased to announce that starting in August 2023, we will have two voting student representatives on the AOS Council! 

On 27 June 2022, the AOS Council and the AOS Fellows voted to approve amendments to the Society’s bylaws that formalize two student positions on the AOS Council. The AOS has long recognized the work students do to help support and advance the Society, and the addition of students to Council gives students a more direct voice in Society leadership. 

Formalizing student participation on Council is a great step: Students provide an important viewpoint as the AOS navigates the challenges we face today, including efforts to make the Society more welcoming and inclusive, and efforts to support avian science and conservation in our rapidly changing world. Additionally, positions for students on Council provide a significant pathway to longer-term Society involvement and leadership. Students make up approximately a third of the AOS’s membership and come from a broad variety of backgrounds and institutions and aspire to a broad variety of career goals. Involving this segment of AOS members in leadership roles early in their careers will help the Society serve the needs of professional ornithologists from a variety of backgrounds, both now and into the future.

What is Council and how were the student positions created?

The AOS Council is the main governing body of the AOS and consists of both voting and non-voting members and officers. Council is responsible for Society governance and oversight, including: 1) determining the Society’s mission and purpose, 2) establishing strategic priorities for the AOS, and 3) overseeing the Society’s finances and programs. Councilors have a responsibility to ensure legal compliance and ethical integrity. 

Until recently, students did not have the opportunity to serve on Council. However, as many AOS student members are very engaged in the AOS, and since having student voices on Council will help to ensure that the AOS remains relevant to future generations of professional ornithologists, AOS student members encouraged such a change.

Amelia Demery
Jenn Houtz
Jack Hruska
Shailee Shah

In April 2021, four former co-chairs of the AOS Student Affairs Committee (Amelia Demery, Jenn Houtz, Jack Hruska, and Shailee Shah) proposed adding a student as a voting member of the AOS Council. Creating an official voting position on Council for a student member required a Society Bylaws change. With the enthusiastic support of the AOS Executive Committee and Council, AOS President Mike Webster appointed an interim student Council member, Teresa Pegan, in the summer of 2021. Teresa participated in Council as a non-voting member, but her perspectives received a warm welcome and serious consideration from the voting members during Council discussions. In early 2022, Council voted to officially recommend the addition of two student Council member positions with full voting privileges. The AOS Bylaws Committee drafted proposed language changes to the Society Bylaws, and these received final, full approval during the 27 June 2022 meetings of the AOS Council and the AOS Fellows in Puerto Rico. Shortly afterwards, Olivia Wang joined the Council as a second interim student member after an election conducted by the AOS Student Affairs Committee (SAC). The first election for voting Student Council positions will be held during the AOS’s 2023 election cycle. In the meantime, Olivia Wang was elected to serve as a second, non-voting student member of Council until 2023, when she will be approved for full Council voting privileges for the second year of her term. 

Who are the current and future Student Council Members?

Teresa Pegan

Teresa Pegan is currently serving the second year of her two-year term. Teresa is a Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Ben Winger at the University of Michigan studying the interplay between seasonal migration and avian evolution. She has been a part of the AOS community since her first conference as an undergraduate in 2014, and she is motivated to serve the Society in part because of the opportunities the AOS brings for student professional development and mentorship. After benefiting from these opportunities throughout her career, she is excited to help pass them on to other students. Her other roles on the AOS SAC include helping to organize the SAC professional development webinar series and chairing the 2022 Quiz Bowl committee.

Olivia Wang

Olivia Wang is a M.Sc. candidate in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, studying the breeding ecology of Pueo (Hawaiian Short-eared Owls) in order to inform their conservation and best management practices. Olivia has been a member of the AOS since 2020, presenting at the virtual conference in 2021, as well as volunteering with the SAC and the Rainbow Lorikeets. She is looking forward to serving the Society and hopes to help other students across diverse backgrounds find opportunities for academic and career development in the Society. She will be approved for full Council voting privileges in the 2023 term. 

The next Student Council member could be you! Starting in early 2023, the election of a new student Council member with full voting privileges will be an annual AOS event, along with the election of other Councilors. Any Masters or Ph.D. student is eligible to run; candidates must be students at the time of their election, although they can graduate before the end of their term. Through this official process, nominated or self-nominated students will participate in an election run by the AOS SAC where only student members of the AOS will vote. The winner of that election will be placed on the Society-wide ballot to be formally approved by the general AOS membership election in the same year. The position carries a two-year term and is staggered such that there will always be one experienced student and one new student on Council in a given year. 

Teresa has had a very positive experience in her first year on the AOS Council, and she strongly encourages any interested student to run for the position! She has met wonderful colleagues, learned a lot about how the AOS works, and had the opportunity to share her views during discussions of consequential Society decisions. The time commitment for the position has been easily manageable in the course of her dissertation work and this service position has ultimately been very rewarding. If you are a student interested in running for the AOS Council and you have questions, please feel free to contact Teresa at tmpegan@umich.edu or Olivia at owang@hawaii.edu.

Teresa Pegan, Ph.D. candidate, University of Michigan, AOS Student Council Member
Olivia Wang, M.Sc. candidate, University of Hawai‘i, AOS Student Council Member

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