Recognizing and Honoring Members is Everyone’s Responsibility

Having just finished presiding over my first AIAA Spotlight Awards Gala, I was reminded that one of the things I enjoy most about being AIAA President is presenting awards and celebrating our members’ achievements. Each AIAA award and honor that the members of our community earn involves years—sometimes entire careers—of dedication, determination, and drive. This individual and team research and work leads to the concepts, advancements, and breakthroughs that further integrate aeronautics and astronautics into the fabric of our global society. Awards recognize the outstanding efforts of our members and sometimes those outside our community who have positively influenced aerospace. And the recognition is especially significant because recipients’ peers nominate them; peers who have evaluated their work and found it worthy of recognition from the community – a lasting testament to the individual’s impact on the aerospace arts and sciences.

AIAA presents scores of awards each year that recognize the best and brightest achievements across the aerospace enterprise. Our premier awards are presented at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Gala each spring, while the technical excellence awards are presented at our forums. We also recognize excellence in education through awards to students and teachers. Student recognition through paper competition awards, scholarships, and grants encourages the future members and leaders of our Institute and may help them finish their education or even get their first job in the industry! There also are awards that allow distinguished lecturers to share their research, contributions, and technological insights with AIAA members.

As Sandy and I discussed in our Executive Report in the AIAA Annual Report, the Institute has a strong and abiding commitment to diversity and inclusion in its workforce, its membership, and the overall industry. Aerospace is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of men and women of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures. To that end, the Institute announced earlier this year that we have established a new annual award. Created by the Institute’s Diversity Working Group, the AIAA Diversity and Inclusion Award will recognize “an individual or group within AIAA who has devoted time and effort and made significant contributions to the advancement of diversity and inclusion within the Institute.” The Institute will present this new honor at our SciTech Forum each January. The award challenges each of us to do more to ensure our community remains diverse, thriving, and welcoming to all who want to improve the future.

Beyond certificates, lectureships, scholarships, grants, paper competition awards, and medals, AIAA also singles out individuals for membership honors through our Associate Fellows, Fellows, and Honorary Fellows programs. These membership ranks signal achievement in the aerospace arts and sciences that go beyond ordinary contributions to the field and honor those who have had long and highly contributory careers in our community. These advancements—which are peer nominated and peer selected—are recognition of a member of professional distinction who has made a difference to the Institute or industry. Each advancement in rank is a “badge of honor” that guides those just starting out in our community, showing them that the Institute will notice and reward their hard work and steadfast devotion to improving the aerospace arts and sciences. They are important career honors to aspire and work toward.

The Institute is always working to improve the Honors and Awards Program and we welcome your input and involvement. We also owe the dedicated women and men on the selection committees a debt of gratitude for all the time they spend doing the important work of reviewing nominations—they are a huge part of that process. But for the Institute to truly recognize the best of the best in the aerospace community, WE NEED YOU! Your active participation in the process is critical to ensuring that we identify those who deserve that recognition. All AIAA members can nominate an individual for an award and for Associate Fellow and Fellow. Honorary Fellows must be nominated by a Fellow or current Honorary Fellow. Each of you knows someone who is worthy of having their work honored by the Institute. I challenge you, in the next year, to commit to take the time to nominate a colleague, a mentor, a student for an AIAA honor or award. They, and you, will appreciate your efforts.

Taking the time to ensure that those who deserve our praise receive it is an important part of strengthening the spirit of the aerospace community and allows us to celebrate those who are making a difference in it. ★

Recognizing and Honoring Members is Everyone’s Responsibility