Ah, September. For me, it’s now officially “back to school” time! I know that some of our institutions started back in August, but at my school, classes started again after Labour Day. Nearly all courses are online, but the term has launched. My high schooler has experienced a slower launch (don’t get me started!), but his first two online courses have finally begun.

To me, the start of school also signals that it’s time to re-launch activities that got put on hold over the summer. If you have kids, you’re likely familiar with the lessons for swimming, music, hockey, dance, art, etc. For ourselves, maybe it’s yoga, pottery, squash, or volunteer activities. It’s kind of like January—time to start a new activity, or perhaps restart something familiar. Might one activity you choose include the POD Network?

As you may know, our organization is nearly 100% volunteer-run. We have only three paid staff (Hoag, Gaye, and Keeghan) whose positions are invaluable. But all the rest is done by you, our members. We currently have 14 standing committees and 9 special interest groups (SIGs). The work done by the members of these committees and SIGs is integral to the POD experience and what we can provide as member benefits. However, my direct experience tells me that committee and SIG members also reap many benefits, such as learning new knowledge and skills, expanding their professional networks, and increasing their understanding of our organization. 

For those who are already involved, I’m not asking you to do more. Please know that your contributions make a significant difference to the POD Network! Opportunities like our conference, our peer-reviewed journal To Improve the Academy, SIGs, and awards wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers. Strategic planning, financial planning, and the development of various resources and events also wouldn’t happen without our volunteers. And the list goes on. Each one of us is an important part of the POD Network: together, we make it what it is. So, if you’re not involved in these kinds of POD activities but would like to be, what can you do?

Our annual conference has been a logical way to connect with a committee or SIG. Most of these groups have meetings during the conference that you can attend to learn more. This year, we’re making plans to replicate this experience as best we can near the time of our virtual conference. But some of our committees need your help now! Here are committees currently looking for members, and people to contact for more information or to volunteer:

  • The Finance Committee needs two at-large members who want to gain a greater understanding of POD’s finances, structure, and priorities: email chair Toni Weiss
  • The Strategic Plan Committee needs four at-large members who value strategic planning, intentional action, and/or outcomes assessment: email chair Greg Siering
  • The External Partnerships and Outreach Committee (EPOC) needs five at-large members who want to have influence on our connections with external organizations that help support our mission and strategic priorities: email co-chair Carl Moore 
  • The Membership Committee welcomes an unlimited number of interested members who want to ensure POD’s success by connecting to new and renewing members and working on multiple collaborations with other committees: email chair Jim Berger

Our Governance Manual outlines any limitations, such as a maximum number of members for our administrative committees (like Finance) or an election (Core), but for most committees, the only restriction is the minimum number of members! Our SIGs are also open to all members. If another committee or a SIG interests you, please reach out to the chair to learn more (you’ll find the general emails listed on our website).

As we head into this new season, I encourage you to consider whether any of your time can be spent helping your POD Network colleagues. I do recognize that many of us have full plates already between work and home obligations, so please don’t feel pressured. But maybe this is exactly the kind of opportunity you’re looking for? I also suggested last month that one way to feel less overloaded is to organize your time according to your priorities. If now is a time when you can make the POD Network one of your priority areas, we’d love to hear from you.

Best, Donna

Dr. Donna Ellis

POD Network President
Director, Centre for Teaching Excellence
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON Canada
donnae@uwaterloo.ca