SPS Zone Meeting
April 15, 2017
Orono, MEMeeting host: By:
Nick DePorzioSPS Chapter:
Ensuring that a Zone 1 meeting is hosted is my responsibility as the Zone 1 Associate Zone Councilor. Additionally, planning the zone meeting provides a great opportunity to involve chapters and members throughout the zone to get involved in an activity that expands beyond their own club. Planning this meeting is an invaluable opportunity for building a sense of community in the zone and connection to the national organization. Early on in the planning process, I decided that while I would be the one to facilitate the zone meeting, I would ask other zone members to be a part of the planning committee, including recruiting a chapter to host the meeting. At PhysCon, I had the opportunity to meet members in my zone who were interested in becoming more involved within the organization. As of result of meeting these individuals, I reached out Sam Borer and the University of Maine to help coordinate the Zone 1 meeting. Sam effectively became the chair of the meeting, while my role was to introduce resources from the National Office and to provide insight on the national SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma organizations. The members of the University of Maine chapter not only agreed to host the meeting, but also formed a committee to set the agenda and schedule activities.
Nearly a month prior to the meeting, I began the process of information chapters about the event and then sent a formal registration out via a Google form. Registration closed 10 days before the zone meeting with members from six different chapters registered. We coordinated group transportation for the Boston area chapters for getting to the event and the agenda was finalized about a week prior to the meeting. We strove for a diverse agenda, including having speakers from the science-advocacy organization 314Action. We allocated most of our budget towards having lunch and dinner catered and this was a very good decision, in retrospect. The only issues we encountered were last minute cancellations of speakers, which we then replaced with discussion, planning, and presentations on specific topics of SPS. The final agenda for the event is as follows: a catered lunch between 11-12 pm; Session 1 (How to Plan a Successful Event, How to Have Professional Development in your Chapter, How to Market and Recruit Undergraduate Students) from 12-1pm; Session 2 (Presentation from Associate Zone Councilor, Nick DePorzio, Discuss How to Bring the Zone Together) from 1-2pm; Tours (UM Campus and LASST) from 2-3:50 pm; Emera Astronomy Center Break Keynote Speaker from 4-5pm; Dinner with faculty and with Director of SPS, Brad Conrad via Skype from 5-6pm; Closing Remarks/ Farewell 6pm.
Although there were six chapters registered for the event and confirm their attendance, there were only four chapters represented at the meeting. However, a rich, social, and educational meeting occurred nonetheless! By beginning the meeting with pizza for everyone, we created a welcoming, social environment and also, people arriving late wouldn’t miss any of the events. This environment helped to spark interaction and familiarity between members of different chapters before the main events.
After this, Sam and I took turns providing a quick welcome and explaining the purpose for the meeting. This was followed by a round of introductions with fun, personal facts before breaking up into three groups for the first breakout session. In the breakout session, each group had a different topic regarding the dos and don’ts of running a chapter and allowed everyone to brainstorm ideas for improvement. Each group then presented their work at the end of the session. Working in small groups allowed everyone to be more comfortable with sharing their contributions.
After each group presented their discussion, I spent time reviewing the resources offered by the SPS national organization. We covered topics such as PhysCon, scholarships, membership benefits, chapter resources, officers, and national elections. We spent time exploring the different pages on the website and demonstrated how to vote in the upcoming national elections. After this, we also spent time discussing how to foster greater collaboration within the zone. A few ideas that emerged included building a zone 1 website and creating a periodic Boston-area chapter event.
After this discussion we toured the LASST center and the Astronomy center at the University of Maine. Some people decided to explore and relax at the IMAX planetarium while we took a tour of the cosmos. Once we finished our tours, we returned to our meeting room for a presentation from Brad Conrad via video chat. In this presentation, Brad reiterated many of the resources and activities taking place at the national level. He also opened the discussion up to planning the next PhysCon and overall ways to improve the society. Finally, everyone enjoyed a plentiful dinner from Chipotle alongside some of the University of Maine faculty. With leftovers packed, all the chapters gathered for a group photo together before taking off.
One of the most obvious impediments toward achieving a larger crowd at the meeting was the location. The University of Maine is very near the edge of the zone and about 200 miles from the center of Zone 1, which is just north of Boston. As we anticipated this as an obstacle, we originally planned a free shuttle van to transport Boston-area chapters to the event. However, not enough chapters expressed interest in the group transportation to the make it worthwhile. Ultimately, we resorted to having a few drivers shuttle people from the Boston area to the meeting. Regardless of these obstacles, we had a great turnout for the first zone meeting in several years.