Young Professionals Eager to See Simplification

A crucial part of the AAPG Young Professionals Committee’s mission statement includes “building an understanding of the value of a lasting relationship between AAPG and young professional members.”

Therefore, we felt it important to voice our views on the proposal to eliminate the sponsorship requirement to become a full member of AAPG.

To the point: The committee is strongly in favor of dropping the sponsorship requirement, for a number of reasons.

The current sponsorship requirement drains our already limited pool of volunteers in two ways: first by limiting our membership intake, and then by drawing delegates away from other priorities.

For aspiring members, obtaining all the necessary sponsorship materials can be a daunting task. Many may not know any AAPG members to approach. Still more may feel uncomfortable asking a member for sponsorship.

This is especially true for some international applicants for whom such a request may be demeaning or outright taboo. According to AAPG Secretary Richard Ball and House of Delegates Chair Larry Wickstrom, fully 41 percent of the current membership – over 15,000 individuals – are international. However, of that number, only 4,000 are full members.

To truly become an international organization, we must address this problem. Removing the sponsorship requirement is one admirable step toward that goal.

Moreover, the present system requires delegates to spend a considerable amount of time reviewing applications, contacting the sponsors and performing other tasks. This time would be much better spent recruiting members or volunteering for the Association.

If we truly want all geoscientists who qualify for AAPG Member status to move into that category, we need to focus on increasing and advertising the differentiation between the value of full membership relative to that of associate membership. Without a substantial incentive to pursue full membership, it’s unlikely that an Associate will ever advance to Member, regardless of any sponsorship requirements.

Lowering the administrative barriers and emphasizing the benefits of full membership will play an important role in making the process of transitioning from Associate to Member less of a hurdle.

As Ball said:

“Many have expressed their concerns that this change will cheapen our membership process, or make the AAPG less exclusive. I respect these opinions, especially since they come from people I hold in high esteem. However, I believe we are hindering ourselves – and the future of the Association – by making the application process difficult for a number of passionate Associate members.

“I have received enough feedback to understand there are people who feel that the sponsorship requirement is keeping good people out of our organization while simultaneously doing very little to keep nefarious people from getting in. If the sponsorship requirement is removed, the checks completed by the AAPG headquarters staff will continue to be part of the application process and all members will still be bound by the AAPG Code of Ethics, the tenets of which will remain unchanged.”

Although possibly more applicable to the Young Professional members, we think it is also worth pointing out that we live in a time of instant gratification. People now access most services with the click of a button – or even the swipe of a finger. In an ever-faster moving society where equal access for all is becoming the norm, we are not doing ourselves any favors by adhering to requirements and restrictions.

We are not saying that the organization needs to cater to today’s cultural norms, but acknowledging the manner in which modern society communicates and exchanges information is essential to the organization’s longevity.

As a demographic, YPs want to feel like equal partners in the Association. Investing in that attitude by making full membership available to all qualified geoscientists will help make AAPG sustainable in the future and more accessible globally.

We respect that the sponsorship requirement served an important purpose in the early days of the Association, but we also believe that the membership process must evolve to remain relevant.

u There also is an element of competiveness. When compared to our sister societies around the world, we have by far the most complicated membership application process. It certainly does not help make the Association feel more welcoming.

At the grassroots level, every minute we spend talking about our different membership categories and sponsorship requirements is a minute not spent talking about the benefits that membership offers and the services that AAPG provides.

In the end, surely that cannot be how we prefer to allocate our time.

The Young Professionals Committee, therefore, sincerely hopes that the House of Delegates will vote in favor of eliminating the sponsorship requirement for membership at its meeting during the upcoming Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston.

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Richard Ball, AAPG secretary 2013-15.


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