Wednesday, September 4, 2019

AAS Board Reflections: Stuart Vogel

In order to familiarize the astronomy community with the AAS Board and encourage participation, the CSWA created a Reflection Survey for outgoing AAS Board members to complete after their terms ended in June. Over the coming weeks, we will feature the responses we've received on the Women in Astronomy blog. Enjoy!

Stuart Vogel, PhD is a radio astronomer studying star formation and the interstellar medium in nearby galaxies. He was the director of Maryland’s radio astronomy group for more than ten years when they merged the BIMA and OVRO millimeter-wave arrays and built CARMA. Following that, he was astronomy department chair at Maryland for ten years.

Name: Stuart Vogel
Current Position: Professor, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland
Degree, Year, Institution: PhD, 1983, UC Berkeley
AAS Board office, term: Councilor, then Trustee. 2017 - 2019




Why did you choose to serve on the AAS Board?

Serving on CSWA and presenting to the AAS Council/Board as original chair of the AAS new climate site visit committee, I came to appreciate the role of the Board in setting policy for AAS and the importance of advocacy on the Board. And I realized I did not know much about the AAS despite having been a member for over 30 years and figured serving on the Board would be a good way to learn (it was!).

What was one (or more!) Board accomplishment(s) that you are proud of/excited about from your time in office?

I’m quite happy about a number of actions taken by the Board during my time in office: Establishing the AAS Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion in Astronomy Graduate Education and approving the fantastic report developed by the task force; I think this has the potential to transform graduate education in astronomy and serve as a model for other fields. Developing the intersectional climate site visit program recommended by the 2015 Inclusive Astronomy conference, which I expect will launch in the Fall. Continuing to implement the Code of Ethics, for example by requiring disclosure for AAS prize winners and candidates for AAS volunteer leadership positions. In all these areas, I think astronomy (along with AGU) is helping to lead the STEM disciplines forward.

What was one (or more!) important thing(s) you saw come from the diversity committees during your term?

Most important was ongoing pressure on the Board to promote equity and inclusion. All the things mentioned above originated in the diversity committees.

Is there an initiative (or initiatives!) you hope that the AAS pursues or continues to pursue in the future?

We started to emphasize the importance of bystander intervention. I see bystander-intervention training workshops as helpful for providing the tools to actively stop harassment, indicating that everyone (especially those in senior positions) should step in to help, and modeling appropriate and inappropriate behavior. President Megan Donahue presented a great video on this in her opening remarks at the St Louis AAS meeting; I hope that there will be regular workshops offered and something to encourage participation, such as certification.

AAS needs a staff member such as a Chief Equity Officer charged with helping coordinate and implementing the many good things coming out of the diversity committees. For example, the Task Force on Diversity and Astronomy Graduate Education has many great recommendations, but many of these (such as the website where departments can share their practices and accomplishments in promoting equity) will require a dedicated AAS staff member to follow through.

I hope the recent acquisition of Sky & Telescope by AAS can be used to communicate the astronomical community vision for the future (e.g. the AAS 2020 decadal report) and encourage broader participation by underrepresented minorities in the astronomical profession.

What advice do you have for continuing and incoming AAS Board members?

Communicate with other Board members including between meetings to help build consensus.

What suggestions do you have for people who are considering serving on the AAS Board in the future?

It’s a great opportunity to make a difference, and more so as the AAS volunteer leadership transitions from a Council of nearly 20 members to a Board of just 11 members. Previously, there was an Executive Committee consisting of just the six officers of the AAS which conducted most of the business since the Council met only two times per year. Now there is no Executive Committee and instead the Board “meets” much more frequently, with four face to face meetings per year and monthly telecons. With a much smaller Board and no Executive Committee, Board members can have much more influence and impact than Councilors did.

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