A Message From The President

Valarie Akerson President

Valarie Akerson

Relationship Status: Involved in a Relationship with NARST Since 1989

I became a NARST member when I was a brand new doctoral student at Oregon State University. I went to my first NARST in my first year at OSU, and made a research presentation. I was so excited and also very nervous. However, it ended up being a great experience—I was really happy when people came up to talk to me about my work after my presentation. And I was in awe when I met people whose work I had read. It was like I was at a rock concert for science education research! Such a great experience—everyone was welcoming and the discussions about science education research were wonderful!

It wasn’t long after that when my advisor, Norm Lederman, was elected NARST President. I was in even more awe! The President of NARST! Meaning, in my mind, he was the ultimate rock star at the NARST rock concert. I remember thinking that someone who was the NARST President must be kind of amazing! I mean, seriously, to me NARST was (and still is) the most amazing science education research organization, and I wanted to be involved in it in any way I could. I continued presenting at NARST conferences throughout my career (always feeling so excited, and very nervous, year after year), and reviewed conference proposals. I began volunteering for several NARST committees, beginning as a doctoral student, eventually became a Journal of Research in Science Teaching Editorial Board member and later even served on the NARST Board as the Equity and Ethics Committee Co-Chair and then Chair. I vividly remember how overwhelmingly excited I was to get my first publication in JRST—in fact, I had two papers published in the same issue—the first article of the issue and the last. Sigh. I was in heaven that day! What was even more amazing—and actually shocking to me—was to find out that people actually read the articles! I was newly married at the time, and my husband took me out for a celebratory dinner. And I began referring to JRST in my mind (lovingly) as the “king of journals,” and I was always targeting some of my research for that journal.

So now I find myself elected to the NARST Presidency. And I know that I am not the ultimate rock star of NARST—I am just a regular, hard-working NARST member who wants to continue working hard for NARST and for science education. People have given me congratulations, but also “condolences” for my current role. I have been the recipient of wonderful emails from people who are excited to volunteer for NARST, and unfortunately of some that are not so nice (communication will be the topic of a future blog), and have been told by other former NARST Presidents that in this role it can be like having a target on your back. But honestly, the positives have far outweighed any negatives, and I am getting to work with great people on the board, and other NARST members who are volunteering their time. The work is exciting and busy, but really, who doesn’t like being busy with work they like?

As I reflect on work to be done on behalf of NARST, I find myself wondering “how did I get here?” I received an email from Bryan Brown (then the Chair of the NARST Membership and Elections Committee) a few years ago, stating that someone had put my name forward as a possible candidate for President-Elect (who I found out later was Norm Lederman—always an awesome advisor ), and asking whether I would consider running. Well, it sounded like a lot of work, but NARST is my academic home, and I have been a member for over twenty years, missing only one meeting when I was having my son. I am committed to volunteering and working for my organization, and so if someone is going to suggest my name, I wanted to seriously consider it… I thought about my time as a doctoral student when Norm was the NARST President, and how exciting it was, and how awesome, that I could run for the Presidency. And so I told Bryan Brown that he could include my name on the ballot. And he did. And then I was elected.

So I found myself excited, and frankly, a little scared! Very similar feelings to those I had at my first NARST presentation! What did I get myself into? What did I get NARST into? And then remembered that if other people had successfully done the job, than surely I could too. Gratefully I was able to work with Sharon Lynch and Lynn Bryan in my President-Elect year, and could follow a bit what they did so I could see what would be expected of me. And now that I am in “full swing” I find myself more excited about opportunities and work I can do for/with NARST than the nervousness I felt early on. Seriously, NARST is an amazing organization of excellent science education researchers, and I am glad to be a part of it, and to serve the organization.

So why am I telling you this story? For one, the Membership and Elections Committee is recruiting candidates to run for office as we speak— if you are contacted, it is a great time to say “yes,” or to nominate someone else as a candidate to run for office. We are so fortunate to have a lot of great talent in our members, which is one of the reasons NARST is so awesome! See http://www.narst.org/about/nominations.cfm for details!

Second, I really am a “people person” and enjoy working with people, communicating with others, etc. I appreciate the research focus of NARST immensely, but I also like the personal touch. I am planning to write a Presidential Blog, such as this one, at least monthly, during my Presidency, just to have more conversations with NARST members, and to help NARST become even more transparent. I welcome responses to this (and future blogs), being NARST friends on Facebook, and phone calls for more conversations (812-856-8140). Remember to say “Yes” to volunteering for NARST, and also submit a nomination for a candidate!

Valarie Akerson