TCS Continues Successful Shift to Virtual Coastal Career Workshops in 2021

By Jeff Flood, Tom Bigford, Adrian Laufer, & Lisa Kim

Following a successful series of Margaret A. Davidson (MAD) Coastal Career Workshops in 2020, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, TCS has refined its processes for planning and conducting virtual events while also broadening its approach to include more speakers from diverse backgrounds and tailoring workshop topics to the interests and regional characteristics of the hosting institutions. Workshop formats also varied to meet the needs of attendees and reflected the creative thinking of TCS MAD Coastal Career Development Committee (welcoming two new members). The result was five successful workshops, described in more detail below.

Atlantic Estuarine Research Society

On April 27, 2021, TCS partnered with the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS) to host a half-day workshop in conjunction with their joint spring meeting with the New England Estuarine Research Society (NERRS). This event marked the fourth consecutive virtual workshop during the pandemic and demonstrated continued success in recruiting speakers of diverse backgrounds and utilizing virtual breakout sessions to promote more interaction by attendees. MAD Committee co-chair Tom Bigford led the planning team effort with support from MAD Committee co-chair Jeff Flood and TCS Members Cassie Wilson and Trystan Sill.

University of Rhode Island

Current leadership and recent graduates of the University of Rhode Island’s TCS student chapter hosted a half-day event on May 18, 2021 focused on broad topics such as jobs in international ocean policy and marine industry opportunities and technical advice on virtual networking, applying for Federal agency jobs, and crafting diversity statements for job applications and organizations once you’re hired. Jeff led the planning team effort with support from Tom, Cassie, Trystan, and URI Chapter President Courtney Milley as well as recent URI graduates Joe Dwyer and Eric Kretsch.

Oregon Sea Grant

On June 29 and 30, 2021, former NOAA Coastal Management Fellow (and current TCS Board Member) Adrian Laufer collaborated with Oregon Sea Grant to sponsor and host a West Coast workshop for graduate-level fellows. Adrian worked directly with current Oregon Sea Grant graduate fellows, leveraging their Community of Practice to engage with other graduate fellows in Oregon, California, Washington, Alaska, Hawai’i, and Pacific Islands. Oregon graduate fellows played a role in determining the workshop topics, The workshop reached a total of 56 attendees: five from Alaska; eight from California; four from Hawai’i and the Pacific; 19 from Oregon; nine from Washington; and eight with no west coast Sea Grant affiliation. The planning team also coordinated an ocean and coastal themed trivia event, hosted by the Surfrider Foundation, to follow the last day of the workshop, as a means of facilitating community building across west coast fellows. The workshop was incredibly well-received, with 100% of attendees reporting that they are inclined to participate in more TCS events or become TCS members. In addition, the TCS planning team members made valuable regional connections, establishing a solid foundation to bring more resources to enhance student and young professionals’ experience in this area.

Michigan Sea Grant

TCS designed a hybrid in-person and virtual full-day MAD workshop on November 16, 2021 to meet the specific needs of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The event was sponsored by the College’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department, easing participation by 22 graduate students. The program featured plenary sessions on the shifting employment landscape and careers outside academia and offered content on six professional skills needed to launch a rewarding career, including mentors, networks, virtual and in-person interviews, working in public and private sectors, and work-life balance. This workshop was a return to the full-day program TCS has missed since switching to a virtual format. Tom led the workshop effort with assistance from Jeff and new MAD Committee Member Lisa Kim.

Duke University

Despite a busy semester, the Duke student chapter showed tremendous leadership and resolve in planning and hosting a workshop on December 3, 2021 that featured several Duke alumni and was characterized by a more free-flowing discussion between participants and speakers than in previous workshops. In addition to being an outstanding experience for all those involved, the new agenda format provided yet another example of how the TCS planning team can learn a great deal from the host institution. Duke Chapter Vice President Kara Nunnally led the planning team with assistance from Chapter officers and TCS MAD Committee Members Jeff, Tom, Lisa, and Kelly Dobroski.

At each of the 2021 workshops, skilled speakers representing many sectors and perspectives shared their personal stories and tips for how to be successful in a coastal career. Nearly all registrants (90% average) felt the workshops were a good use of their time and most (75%) thought the nominal registration fee was appropriate.

Since December of 2018, TCS has hosted 16 MAD Coastal Career Workshops. TCS is currently planning the rest of its 2022 calendar and anticipates partnering with The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to host a workshop in conjunction with Capitol Hill Oceans Week in early June, working with west coast Sea Grant offices to host another west coast graduate fellow workshop in early summer, and continuing to coordinate with TCS student chapters to tailor events to fit their need. The MAD Committee continues to coordinate with the DEIJ Working Group to reach historically underserved communities while also looking to access new geographic regions such as the Gulf Coast and Florida. Learn more about this workshop series and check back for updates to the schedule as events are finalized at: https://thecoastalsociety.org/margaret-a-davidson-coastal-career-development-program/   

TCS and CERF Team Up for a Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Workshop

By: Tom Bigford

November 4, 2020, marked our second joint coastal career workshop with the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). This year we partnered with the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society and Southeast Estuarine Research Society, the CERF regional affiliates for the Atlantic and Southeast states and territories.

Our common interests made for lively keynote talks (one by TCS President Steve MacLeod on being a private consultant and a society officer) and six breakouts on personal and professional skills (one lead by TCS Board member, and former CERF Board member, Geno Olmi on federal service). Together, the program offered career insights and optimism to students and recent graduates. There are jobs out there for stellar applicants with polished personal skills! See more detail at TCS MAD Program.

This workshop was smaller than most but that did not dampen enthusiasm.  Ben Fertig, AERS President and a speaker, wrote “Great workshop, nice job!!” and offered to be a mentor to interested registrants. Mike DeLuca, a Senior Associate Director in the Rutgers University Office of Research and a speaker, said “I truly enjoyed chatting with the students . . . at the MAD event. Thanks for including me.” Sage Riddick, a Duke graduate student, got the student registration fee by joining TCS. Nicole Marks, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, said “I really appreciated the honesty of the presenters. I’ve heard about the perks of working in the different sectors before but a lot of people have a tendency to leave out the not as exciting details.”

As the workshop closed, Ben Fertig mentioned that AERS would welcome a workshop at its 2021 joint meeting with the New England Estuarine Research Society. I think we have an annual tradition!

Finally, HUGE thanks to East Carolina University’s Office of Continuing Education (Jolie Ann Busby and Ashley Cox) for their help on the Pathable platform, TCS Board members Tricia Hooper and Kim Grubert for their assistance, our CERF, AERS, and SEERS sponsors for accommodating TCS in their conference schedule, and East Carolina University professors Joe Luczkovich (past AERS President) and Enrique Reyes (current SEERS President) for their insights throughout the entire process.

TCS Hosts First Virtual Coastal Career Workshop

Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2020 virtual conference logo

By: Tom Bigford. Edited by, Cassie Wilson, Kim Grubert, Tricia Hooper

No virus was going to de-rail TCS’s young tradition of hosting a Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Workshop during Capitol Hill Ocean Week. This year we switched from a full day in person to four hours on a virtual platform. The response from students and early professionals was outstanding. Our cap of 36 registrants was reached 10 days before the event, and another 27 people are on a waiting list for a future event. Clearly, TCS is filling a need by the next generation of coastal professionals for informative and inspirational advice on career planning and mentoring.

Skilled speakers representing many sectors and perspectives shared their personal stories and tips for how to be successful in a coastal career. Despite some technical glitches, nearly all registrants felt the workshop was “definitely a good use of their time” (96%) and thought the nominal registration fee was appropriate (89%). As one speaker wrote on the evaluation form, “Great job organizing the workshop! Overall this is such a great network and I always enjoy supporting this group!” Registration included a 30-minute mentoring session with a speaker, workshop organizer, or member of the TCS board. Those mentoring sessions are being conducted now and were an exciting new addition to these career workshops. Early responses to this new virtual mentoring benefit are very positive.

Since December 2018 TCS has hosted ten Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Workshops. TCS is currently planning the rest of its 2020 calendar and anticipates hosting another  workshop in early September and several more this autumn. Learn more about this workshop series.