The Section of the Future

Annalisa Weigel, AIAA Vice President, Member Services

The role of associations has changed enormously in the 21st century, and AIAA is one of many societies that need to make sure that we continue to support our members in the most effective ways possible. Over the past 18 months, the Region and Section Activities Committee (RSAC), which governs Section activities, has worked with the AIAA’s Sections to define the Section of the Future. In this way, Sections will continue to support you, our members, right in your neighborhood

The work, which I presented to the Board of Directors in September, resulted in nine important attributes that all Sections should strive for, with actions to help in fulfilling each attribut

Sections enjoy support from local corporate members and industry

Support may involve providing financial support, use of facilities, publicity, and overhead hours for employees to support the Section’s operation. (Sample Actions: Map the Corporate Member locations to Regions and Sections; create a tip sheet of how companies can help Sections.)

Sections are closely linked to Student Branches in the same geographic area, with active involvement of university students in Section council and Section activities

The Section of the Future should offer channels of communication and means of collaboration to the students in their Section. (Sample Actions: Establish means of collaboration at Section activities as well as Student Branch events; visit students at their schools for a presentation/demonstration.)

Recognize and honor members for service and technical innovations, and put them forward for regional or national recognition

Sample Actions: Provide an easily accessible list of awards and see that the information is disseminated; provide a clear understanding of the awards.

Sections have a reliable set of IT tools for all Section activities

Tools should enable the Section complete management anytime, anywhere to help the Section function more efficiently. (Sample Actions: Survey Sections’ needs for IT tools, and create a functional requirements list; demonstrate the benefits of the IT tools for Sections.)

Members see clear value in AIAA membership and can state the value proposition

Different members perceive different types of value from their membership based on varying ways of engagement, and all are important. (Sample Actions: Mentor members active in the local Sections and Regions on the value of membership at the Institute level AND vice versa; continue to evolve the Institute-level activities to include events in which Section members will find value.)

Diverse, well-rounded, well-organized programs

Programs should allow for the entire membership to participate in Section events, including a variety of topics such as arts in aeronautics/aerospace, history, financial planning, and related technical areas in other industries. (Sample Actions: Survey Section members for their interests to make them part of the decision process; find energized leadership to organize activities and have a solid succession plan.)

Diverse, inclusive, growing membership

Aim for a diverse representation of technical fields, interests, businesses and affiliations, gender, generations and ethnicity. (Sample Actions: Enlist local aerospace companies to encourage employees to join AIAA; empower young members and students by including them in Section activities and leadership.)

Sections are financially stable

A financially stable Section has the majority of resources, financial and non-financial, needed to accomplish its activities and programs. (Sample Actions: Define criteria and guidelines for acceptable financially stable conditions; create and disseminate guidelines on financial best practices and positive financial controls.

Section leadership rotates frequently, giving new volunteers new leadership opportunities

Members should be aware of new leadership and volunteer opportunities; volunteers should reflect various experiences, skill sets, interests, ages, genders, and employers. (Sample Actions: Announce open volunteer and leadership positions to all Section members and provide a list of current filled and vacant positions monthly to the membership; make personal contact to identify and encourage candidates.)

Many Sections already are successful in these areas—among others—and their members and volunteer leaders have been crucial in suggesting actions. Incoming RSAC Chair Laura Richard and committee members will continue this important work with headquarters staff, Institute leadership, and within the new governance structure, to modify these attributes and actions as member and Section needs evolve. But most of all Sections need your support and participation! We encourage you to attend an event, network with colleagues, exchange ideas, hear a great lecture, or join a Student Branch. The Section of the Future depends on all of us! Participation is power! ★

The Section of the Future